Raspberry farming offers a way forward for Suada

Suada Obradović picking raspberries on her property in the village of Kravica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo by Senad Pirić.
Suada Obradović picking raspberries on her property in the village of Kravica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo by Senad Pirić.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of Europe’s most rural countries and over sixty percent of the country’s citizens live in the rural areas. The people in the countryside mainly live off the land, growing fruits and vegetables or raising cattle. One of them is Suada Obradović, the farmer who found that raspberry growing is her recipe for success.

“I advocated for us to start planting raspberries. My husband Rade worked in a company, but I wanted to have something of my own. After few years Rade lost his job and then we started spreading the business,” Suada explains how she started her raspberry venture.

She now has 4000 summer raspberry plants and 1200-1300 of those that grow in autumn. Recently she started growing blackberries and now also has 400 blackberry plants.

“Raspberries are unpredictable, like many other fruits. You never know what will happen with the purchase and the buy-out price. Despite all of this, it was the safest to work with raspberries. Nowadays almost every family here has raspberries, but we started the work back in 2001,” says Suada,

She lives in the village of Kravica in Bosnia and Herzegovina with her two adult sons and has a daughter who is married and lives with her own family. But as Suada explains, when it’s time to dig the fields, cut the grass and pick the raspberries everyone is there and ready to help out. Still, most of the day-to-day work is done by her and her husband.

“My work starts around 5 o’clock and lasts all day, depending on the workload. During the winter months, it is easier, we have some time to rest, catch up on sleep since we do not work that much. Summer months are exhausting. At the peak of picking season, I spend almost my entire day working with raspberries,” says Suada.

This year they have registered their raspberry farm as a commercial business but claim that the corona pandemic has affected their work a lot.

“We had a network of people who bought our raspberries but during the lockdowns, suddenly everything stopped. It resembled the time like in the war. We were unsure if we are going to have enough food for ourselves. Everything was really limited. We could not go anywhere, and no one was coming to us. Regarding the work, it is still affecting us. People love eating healthy, but many are afraid to come here because of the fear of infection,” says Suada.

She is grateful for the support received from We Effect’s partner organisation Vive Zene to see them through this difficult period. As a response to the corona crisis, Vive Zene distributed vegetable seedlings and mineral fertilizers to 65 rural women from all ethnicities living in the country. Suada was one of them.

“We are thankful for the food that we got out of the seedling, luckily everything grew nicely. We have enough vegetables for ourselves, it will be enough for winter, and we will even be able to sell a bit,” says Suada.

Accessing markets is another area that they receive support from We Effect’s partner Vive Zene, through trainings and fairs. “Year after year my biggest worry is the market. The price is always fluctuating no matter what you produce. It is the same for people who sell tomatoes and other produce. Prices are set from the top and we are not being asked,” says Suada.

But sometimes there are some surprising outcomes from it, demonstrating the resourcefulness and resilience of the farmers. Suada recalls that one year the price of the blackberries was so low that she decided not to sell them. Of course, she didn’t want everything to go to waste, so she come up with an idea – making wine out of it!

“We gifted away few bottles to our friends. Then they wanted to buy the wine and started giving it to their friends and one thing led to another. We started making larger quantities. Everything we make now sells quickly,” Suada says proudly.

She is hopeful for the future and wants to further improve her work in the field. “There is still a lot of work in perfecting it. I want to build irrigation systems and put over shading nets,” she says.

But Suada feels that her efforts will be futile if there is no one to continue the work. Like in other European countries, Bosnia too is facing strong trends of rural migration into towns, coupled with an aging population and a low birth rate. Demographically, the share of the population living in rural areas is approximately falling by about 10% every generation.

“I hope that at least one of my sons will stay here. It is pointless to work on all of this if there is no one to continue the work. I want him to have a foundation on this work so he can progress,” she says.