OUR STORIES: Divac Funds - support for agriculture and young farmers

Through the projects of local agricultural funds and the empowerment of young farmers, the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation helped 296 beneficiaries from 20 municipalities in Serbia to start or improve their agricultural production and farms, with funds worth 68 million dinars.

With the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), since 2020 the Foundation has established 17 local funds for the development of agriculture in cooperation with municipalities and regional development agencies throughout Serbia.

In 2024, the Foundation’s support program for farmers continues with the support of the Project “Big Small Business” funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA.

Mirko Pendić is one of the beneficiaries of the local agricultural fund that the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation established in collaboration with Novi Pazar. With the help of the funds from the project, Mirko acquired a hay baling machine: “I applied and received these funds, I believe that I will pay off this investment from the sale of hay next year, in order to be entitled to 10% of the grant and apply again for new funds from the Fund in the following year.” Mirko is trying to provide a better living and working conditions for himself and his family, in order to create the possibility to stay in the countryside, engaged in production that would provide them with continuous income throughout the year.

Local funds for the development of agriculture aim to create new opportunities for financing farmers and provide incentive funds through the joint investments of local self-governments and the Foundation. The fund offers interest-free incentive funds for farmers, which users are obliged to return to the fund withing a period of three years, so that they can be utilized later by other producers. In this way, farmers and small traditional producers, who normally have a hard time getting the money necessary to expand production, can finally secure the necessary funds in a traansparent and simple way.

There are few women in agriculture, and it is particularly rare that young girls decide to stay or return to the countryside and continue this family tradition. Milica Markov from Srpska Crnja is one of those rare ones, and she is currently a beneficiary of our local fund for the promotion of agricultural development. Milica is a student at the Faculty of Agriculture in Novi Sad and she received funds from the Fund in Nova Crnja, for which she applied through a public call, in May 2023: “I have had a love for agriculture since I was seven years old, when I did all the work together with my father. When my father fell ill I decided to return from Novi Sad and take over the maintenance and improvement of our agricultural and livestock production. There is work from morning to night, and the mineral fertilizer spreader that I applied for, and purchased, will make my job easier, all of this is only possible with mechanized production.”

Beneficiaries in Nova Crnja, who were selected through an open call for funds for the promotion of agriculture, were awarded a total of 3,000,000 dinars for the year 2023. A total of 10 famers from the territory of this municipality received interest-free loans for the purchase of equipment, machines, or livestock.

Since 2020, funds for stimulating the development of agriculture and food production in cooperation with local governments and regional development agencies have been launched in; Čajetina, Vranje, Prijepolje, Svrljig, Ražnje, Užice, Dimitrovgrad, Brus, Veliko Gradište, Novi Pazar, Vlasotince, Nova Crnja, Velika Plana, Sjeninca, Tutin, the municipalities of Lebane and Aranđelovac. In the next three years, the plan is to establish 6 more such funds throughout Serbia.

Through agricultural funds in the municipality of Vlasotince, in the amount of 3 million dinars, as many as 12 beneficiaries, who were selected via an open call, were supported in 2023. These are the holders of agricultural holdings engaged in animal husbandry and used the funds to purchase quality breeding cows.

Stefan Jovanović and Ivan Stefanović decided to apply for the Fund in the municipality of Vlasotince. After 10 years of living in the city, Stefan decided to return to the village of Konopnica with his family because he wants his children to grow up in a healthy environment. "We decided to use the money from the Fund to improve the breed of cows, and we hope that in this way we will improve the quality and increase the amount of milk they give." We are going with the goal of processing and producing several types of cheese and possibly no dried meat products that would leave our farm."

Ivan from the village of Donje Gare with his wife and children, another beneficiary of the Fund from Vlasotinac, also saw the advantages of rural life. After living in Novi Sad, he and his wife and children decided to come to his wife's estate, where they started with modest means, and today, with the help of funds from the Fund, they have created the possibility for themselves to be self-sustaining: "Whatever comes to mind, we do, we are not limited by space, we eat healthy. There is a forest, spring water, beautiful air - beautiful!"

The Stefanovic family believes that children are happier in nature than in city parks and that it is important that parents can spend more time with them because everything they need is on the property. With the funds, they increased the herd, and now, in addition to sheep, they also have goats, chickens, and bees. They also have a greenhouse from where they get healthy food. "We have everything we need, right now we only buy flour." We are planning to sow wheat in the coming period, so that we will be completely self-sustaining".

The Divac Foundation additionally recognized the need to especially support and motivate young people to see their perspective in the countryside and to be successful farmers. For this reason, since 2018, a project designed to support young farmers, students in the final grades of secondary agricultural schools, has been implemented. The project, which is supported by the American Agency for International Development (USAID), is implemented in partnership by the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation with local self-governments and local agricultural schools. Until now, students from agricultural schools, who come from Užice, Požega, Gornji Milanovac, Čajetina, Arilje, Prijepolje and Svilajnec, have been supported. Over 100 young people underwent training, 32 of them received donations in funds for work in the total value of over 5.85 million dinars.

In the previous two years, with the support of the "Big Small Economy" Project, the Divac Foundation, in cooperation with the municipalities of Svilajnac and Požega, established joint funds that serve to give donations to young farmers, students of the final grades of secondary agricultural schools in these local governments.

The goal of these Funds is to support final grade students who want to continue farming and improve their family farm. In addition to financial support, all candidates attend lectures, receive support from mentors and develop an individual business plan, which will be useful later when applying for other competitions. Also, through the program, all users receive advice for production development and economy, as well as suggestions for establishing more profitable productions.

Vojin Vujisić from Svilajnac is one of the students who received funds for the improvement of his farm through the competition for young farmers at the Agricultural and Veterinary School in Svilajnac. Vojin decided to invest in a fruit orchard, given that in his business plan, which he drew up with the help of a teacher-mentor, he stated the necessity of this mechanization for faster and better work, and therefore the possibility of expanding production: "I found out about this competition through class teacher. The machine I got chops the grass, grinds branches and other things that then goes into the ground and feeds it. I am also planning an additional education in agriculture where, together with my brother who is already a student, I will be able to organize the farm and combine the knowledge and experience I have in production". With the knowledge he acquires in school, the practice he has on his farm and with the support he has received, he has a bright future ahead of him.

With the support of USAID, the Divac Foundation continues its cooperation with local governments and schools in the coming years, as well as the establishment of new Funds for the promotion of agricultural development and assistance to young farmers. In addition to improving the position of those who want to engage in agriculture, this way continues to encourage the development of underdeveloped areas and municipalities, with the idea of ​​contributing to the reduction of the negative trend of migration to larger cities and the uneven development of parts of Serbia.

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