FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Serbian agriculture getting back on track

Eighteen months after floods washed away the livelihoods of thousands of farm households, Serbian agriculture is getting back on track – thanks to help from the European Union and FAO.

A second phase of assistance for central and western Serbia started in the summer and is now close to completion. More than 7 400 smallholder families were targeted with multiple forms of support, enabling them to get back on their feet and resume production. The programme as a whole has reached almost 34 000 families.

After receiving crop seed and fertilizer packages, some 5 000 farming families in 29 municipalities were able to plant their fields this fall with winter barley and wheat.

Distribution of fruit tree seedlings has continued, too. Approximately two million newly planted plum, cherry and sour cherry trees – not to mention raspberries – should be in blossom come spring.

In total, 856 greenhouses complete with drip irrigation systems have been provided and installed, about one third of these in the past six months. Greenhouses are important for vegetable growing because they give farmers greater control over the growing environment. Some crops, such as lettuces, can be cultivated in greenhouses well beyond their natural growing season.

“Greenhouse support is one of the program’s most challenging operations,” said Alexander Mentov, FAO emergency coordinator in Serbia. “Farmers prepare the ground beforehand, and FAO ensures quality construction and correct installation. Our experts have been on the ground to listen to the farmers’ feedback and, if needed, to provide advice on greenhouse vegetable production.” Well organized production in these greenhouses, apart from securing fresh vegetable to the beneficiaries’ families throughout the year, allow farmers to generate income by selling surplus to the local market.

The new greenhouses – financed by the European Union and procured and installed under the technical supervision of FAO – are expected to last for years.

“These greenhouses are of better overall quality than what we had before,” said Dragan Tadić of Sovljak village. “Now we will be able to produce vegetable seedlings. We also plan to install a heating system in the greenhouse, to create even better conditions for growth. We are grateful to all who helped us in this way to overcome a difficult time and give hope for a better time for our family."

Given the importance of the livestock sector in Serbia, animal production is another aspect of the EU-FAO flood recovery effort. More than 100 livestock producers already have piglets or pregnant gilts in their barns, and more are on the way.

Apart from these European Union-supported activities, FAO provided 7 431 vulnerable households in western, central and eastern Serbia with 2 378 tonnes of animal feed concentrate.

Some 135 small-scale beekeepers can look forward to receiving beehives – seven hives each – in the coming weeks.

Activities will not close down at the end of this calendar year. An additional eleven municipalities will receive assistance in early 2016: Bogatić, Vladimirci, Mionica, Despotovac, Zaječar, Kladovo, Svrljig, Boljevac, Knjaževac, Negotin and Majdanpek.

The above mentioned activities are part of a bigger effort, the European Union assistance to flood relief in Serbia program, worth 30 million euros, which is funded by the European Union under the pre-accession funds IPA 2012. The funds are used for construction of new houses, rehabilitation of public buildings, private houses and roads and recovery of economy and agriculture in 24 municipalities most affected with floods. All activities in the field are implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), organisations HELP and ABS and Danish Refugee Council (DRC) – in coordination with Government of Serbia Office for Reconstruction and Flood Relief. Under the EU program of support to flooded areas in Serbia IPA 2012, FAO will continue to provide assistance to Smederevo, Petrovac na Mlavi, Cuprija, Ljig, Lucani and Gornji Milanovac municipalities, and will begin assistance to Bogatic, Despotovac, Mionica and Vladimirci. Additionally, FAO has received 1.5 million euros from the European Union’s IPA 2014 fund to deliver assistance packages to agricultural producers in seven municipalities in Eastern Serbia (Zajecar, Kladovo, Majdanpek, Negotin, Svrljig, Knjazevac and Boljevac).

The information and views set out in this document are those of the FAO and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

16 December 2015, Belgrade, Serbia