Cows for Kosovo

When Kosovar farmers and their families returned to their field after the recent conflict ended in summer 1999, they were shocked at the devastation they found. Many people lost everything: their houses were demolished and their farm animals killed. The conflict reduced Kosovo's cattle population from 400,000 to 200,000.

Plane arriving with cows for poor Kosovar farmers. To view FAO video news release, click on the image
Kosovo/E. Northoff

Cattle aboard a DC-8 airplane to Pristina in Kosovo
Kosovo/E. Northoff

A beneficiary farmer in Kosovo signing a contract before he receives his cow
Kosovo/A. Friend

A Kosovar family with a cow obtained from the FAO/World Bank Emergency Project
Kosovo/E. Northoff

One of those who lost his animals was Gani Kadriu, who lives with his family of 12 in Likovic, in northern Kosovo, where heavy fighting took place. "I produce mainly for me and my family," he says. "I'm planting wheat, maize and vegetables. Before the war, I had 3 cows and there was enough to eat for everybody. During the war I lost everything. They damaged my house, and killed or stole my cows and chicken."

Pristina Airport, on a sunny afternoon in November: the DC-8 arriving from Bratislava carries a special freight: around 65 cattle, pregnant heifers from Austria and southern Germany. FAO and the World Bank have flown a total of 2,500 cows into Kosovo to help poor farmers and to re-stock the provincial cattle herd. Between September and November 2000, the cattle arrived on a total of 40 flights.

The breeds, Simmental Fleckvieh and Brown Swiss, are very hardy and particularly well adapted to the climate and small-scale farming in Kosovo. Each cows is expected to produce 3 500 liters of milk on average per year. FAO also distributed 45 breeding bulls to farmers in the most remote areas who lack access to artificial insemination services.

Bringing back milk production

"The only way to bring poor farmers back to milk production was to give them a cow," says Andrew Friend, the livestock specialist of the FAO/World Bank Emergency Farm Reconstruction Project. "These people have suffered dramatic losses, and none of them would have had the money to buy a cow. Now they can start again to produce milk, yogurt, cheese and meat. They will be able to feed their families. The project will also stimulate the local dairy production and should reduce Kosovo's dependence on imports."

The project aims to assist those households least able to recover from the war and to ensure at least a minimum of income and food security.

International experts and veterinarians from Kosovo went to Austria and Germany to select the animals. They were finally distributed to the three municipalities of Srbica/Skenderaj, Glogovac/Gllogovc and Decani/Decan, where agriculture suffered the greatest damage from the conflict.

Helping women-headed households

Non-governmental organizations such as Action Against Hunger and Mercy Corps International selected the recipient families in the villages. "The village councils came up with a list of poor families, which we double-checked," says Veton Hajdini of Action Against Hunger. "Many of these households are run by women, with 6 to 15 children. They are poor, they lost all their animals and have no other opportunities to earn a living."

In order to qualify for a cow, each family must have experience in livestock production and have access to at least one hectare of pasture for grazing. The farmers get to keep the first-born calf, but they are obliged to give the second-born calf to other needy family or village members. If they sell or slaughter their animals they have to pay a fine.

Working with local veterinarians and NGOs, FAO will make sure that the recipients receive whatever help they need to care for their animals, and they are encouraged to breed the imported heifers, for which veterinarians are providing advice. In addition, families will be trained in feeding and fodder conservation. "Many more people attended our training courses than we expected" says Mr Friend. "It is a very encouraging sign and shows that people are eager to get back to work again."

Support to veterinarians

The FAO/World Bank project will also support private veterinarians, because many of them lack equipment and instruments. They will receive veterinary kits with drugs and equipment for artificial insemination, which they will pay for by donating their services. A central veterinary laboratory will be equipped for animal disease surveillance.

FAO and the World Bank will also repair and replace farm machinery. Before the war Kosovo had a fleet of 45,000 tractors, of which half remain intact. Working with NGOs, the project will repair 1,600 tractors and provide 120 new tractors to plough the land of 3,600 families.

The first phase of the FAO/World Bank project has a budget of $12.36 million, of which the World Bank provided $10.56 million and the Netherlands $1.8 million. A special team in FAO's Pristina office is running the project. If additional funds become available, the cattle restocking and farm mechanization will be expanded.

FAO video news release showing images from the project in Kosovo and an interview with Andrew Friend (1,5mb)

 24 November 2000

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