Minnesota Extension Answers Need For Agricultural Development In Kosovo
International collaboration improves quality of education and existing business in Kosovo agriculture sector.
Last week, representatives from TLP-partner University of Minnesota (UMN) met with University of Prishtina Faculty of Agriculture (UP-FA) and other relevant institutions and organizations to continue collaborative development of Kosovo’s agricultural sector.
The visiting team was made up of Aimee Hunt, a doctor of veterinary medicine and current resident of veterinary public health and preventative medicine at UMN’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety as well as Dr. John Vreyens, Director of Global Initiatives at UMN Extension.
“The intent coming here was really to give them ideas,” said Vreyens, who conducted the first workshop in a series on extensions services. Hunt presented appreciative inquiry and active learning techniques during the series, and the team also met with the Ministry of Agriculture Rural Advisory Service, Kosovo agricultural parliamentary committee, and USAID AGRO project.
Hunt and Vreyens toured several local agricultural establishments, including Koral, a meat processing and dairy product company, and Pestova, a vertically integrated potato products company that manufactures popular VIPA-brand snack products.
While the team saw numerous efforts at modernization and measures taken to meet food safety measures, they agree Kosovo still has significant headway to make.
“I think it’s starting to get organized,” said Hunt, but she noted the benefits Kosovo could reap by better structuring the system in general and by creating partnerships.
As Vreyens pointed out, ”there’s not free reign to establish policy because Kosovo has the goal to join the European Union…they have to fit into the current policies and expectations in order to ascend, and those restrictions in some areas tie their hands in being flexible to set a new course specific to Kosovo.”
”There’s not free reign to establish policy because Kosovo has the goal to join the European Union…they have to fit into the current policies and expectations in order to ascend," said Veyrens.
However, Hunt and Vreyens saw Koral and Pestova as potential examples of improved agriculture in Kosovo. Pestova, which has partnered with Dutch company Agrico, gains resources and knowledge about risk management plans and export requirements through international collaboration, and Koral sends workers to a similar company in Albania to learn best practice methods before they’re placed on the line.
The companies, and others like them, could also serve as future graduate and internship opportunities for UMN – UP partnership participants.
“There’s currently quite a gap between the relationship and workings of the Faculty of Agriculture along with private business,” said Vreyens. “If you really truly are preparing the next generation for what’s coming down the road or for the job market, there isn’t the trusting relationship to do that.”
The partnerships aims to bridge such gaps, but for now, said Vreyens, “Kosovo is trying to assess currently what’s in place and then looking at different models.” He discussed the difference between demand- and market-driven approaches, noting that global extension services are often privatized.
“It’s for Kosovo to assess and analyze and decide which path to take,” said Vreyens. But the reality, he pointed out, is “no country has a single path because there are so many different players.”
It’s Veyrens’ hope—and Kosovo’s—to “create a structure that, in the end, everyone’s heart is toward assisting the farmer.”
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