Russ Zick (left) and Gezim Mecktec of Kosovo exchange design ideas to improve the dryer system used to dry herbs such as chamomile and mint.
This article was originally written and posted by Engineers Without Borders-USA.
In the summer of 2016, EWB-USA launched a new partnership with USAID in support of our Farmer-to-Farmer: Improving the Sustainability of Kosovo Agriculture program. This one-year program provides technical assistance from U.S. volunteers to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries with the goal of promoting sustainable improvements in food security and agricultural processing, production and marketing. As we pass the program midpoint, project volunteer Russ Zick gives us an update on his time in Kosovo and our achievements to date.
I was one of the first EWB-USA volunteers assigned to the new partnership with the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) and USAID in support of their Farmer-to-Farmer program in Kosovo. In this role, I provided mechanical engineering services to strategic partners engaged with the Tetra Tech team at the Agriculture Growth and Rural Opportunities (AGRO) office in Pristina, the capital and largest city in Kosovo. I also assisted in project and talent identification, and supplier identification and assessment.
The Chief of Party, Mark Woods, introduced the first set of EWB-USA volunteers to his team at the AGRO office, encouraging us to utilize the new engineering service capability in the plans and operations of their food processing clients. Mark recognized the need for specialized engineering services to continue building sustainable capacity in Kosovo’s agriculture supply chain.
Kosovo is fortunate to have productive land and a capable farming culture. As a country, it also recognizes the need to upgrade its food and food product processing capacity to expand export opportunities to the European Union and, ultimately, improve Kosovo’s economic viability.
Because of this recognition, Mark’s team of agricultural economists identified and developed engineering opportunities among their client base. The engineering service projects ranged from assessments and evaluations to equipment upgrades and integration, and beyond.
Throughout EWB-USA’s time in Kosovo, we have accomplished some amazing things. While the effects of some of these achievements was felt immediately, others will be felt at a future date. Some accomplishments include:
- EWB-USA participated in implementing a facility to rapidly cool table grapes prior to cold storage for local Kosovar business I Seferi. This extends the fruit’s shelf life and better enables the supply of fresh table grapes months after harvest. We provided load calculation, cooling equipment sizing, equipment selection performance specs and consultation on system implementation. I Seferi was able to diversify its already established business by offering the nation’s first table grape pre-cooler to their more than 50 growers.
- EWB-USA helped dairy processor EuroLona define a pasteurizing process improvement, identify the engineering talent needs, locate a capable service provider and dispatch a volunteer engineer to finish the design and implementation of the upgraded process control system. This system pasteurizes all milk products for Eurolona and its 20 small local dairy farms.
- EWB-USA provided consultation on dust collection systems for Produkt Natyrale, a pumpkin seed processing facility. With EWB-USA’s support, the facility processed its first seed harvest. By the end of September 2016, workers had processed 20 metric tons of new seed supply to ship to processors in Austria.
- An assessment of energy sources and loads by EWB-USA was used in implementing an integrated energy recovery design to help Fruitomania, a rural natural juicing facility, reduce its high energy costs.
These program achievements highlight some of the amazing work EWB-USA, USAID and VEGA are doing to upgrade the longevity of Kosovo’s agribusiness industry, improving the lives of Kosovars across the country. For me personally, my time in Kosovo provided an opportunity to be further engaged with the international development sector. It’s exciting to watch the evolution of EWB-USA’s continued partnership with USAID, VEGA and Tetra Tech, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for the Farmer-to-Farmer program!