Russ Zick (left) and Gezim Mecktec of Kosovo exchange ideas to improve system used to dry herbs such as chamomile and mint.
Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) recently completed its Farmer-to-Farmer program, Improving the Sustainability of Kosovo Agriculture, exceeding many of its targets during its one-year grant under Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA)’s Special Program Support Project (SPSP). From June 2016 to June 2017, EWB-USA fielded 22 F2F volunteers—well above the average for a one-year program. Twenty of the volunteers were new to the Farmer-to-Farmer program. These technical experts provided engineering solutions and training that improved a range of agricultural value chains and increased business opportunities for 24 Kosovar host organizations—from table grapes to dairy producers, wine production to dried herbs.
Kosovo’s citizens are some of the poorest in Europe, with most of the population living in rural towns outside of the capital. Economic opportunity is limited by common reliance on inefficient farming practices. Primary factors that hinder production are limited farm mechanization and lack of technical expertise. EWB-USA partnered with the USAID Kosovo Agricultural Growth and Rural Opportunities (AGRO) program to identify engineering challenges and hosts within the agricultural sector. Volunteers supported Kosovar agribusiness under 36 different scopes of work. Volunteer assignments lasted from two weeks to 100 days in Kosovo.
A sample of volunteer accomplishments include:
- Conducted energy efficiency audits at three dairies to reduce facility costs;
- Provided recommendations for quality control and production at wineries;
- Designed a biogas heating system that will use the byproduct waste from chickens;
- Created concept designs for expanding food processing facilities; and
- Assessed and designed a track bridge and scale system for a vegetable facility.
Volunteers often worked in teams to carry out assignments. A longer term volunteer conducted site assessments and project identification as a “Project Manager” with AGRO. EWB-USA then sent Technical Specialist engineers to work with the Project Manager and complete the scope of work. But the engineers’ assistance did not stop there; volunteers demonstrated their dedication to the program by providing 151 days of remote volunteer days in the U.S. Through donated volunteer time, Improving the Sustainability of Kosovo Agriculture leveraged a total of $481,280, over three times the award value.