The challenge of a Gherkin

"When it came time to build a greenhouse, we realised we needed to get serious about investing. This was a real busniess now. We needed capital."

Ramiz Dzafic | Farmer | Farm, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina was on the road to recovery from the conflicts that had torn through the Balkan states, and new beginnings were in the air. Džafić, too, was recovering from that turbulent time, but he felt too young to be pensioned already. He needed to stay active for both his physical and mental health. That was when his entrepreneurial mind saw opportunity in the cow that his family had always kept to supplement their income with occasional breeding.

“My wife and I started selling the milk,” explains Džafić. “And then we began using it to make other dairy products like cream and cheese, which are even higher in value. After a while, we had a tidy little business going. That led to the addition of another cow. And another one after that.”

Soon, the couple were driving from their small homestead in Visoko to sell their dairy products at the market in Sarajevo. The other vendors inspired them to turn their attention to the land beneath the feet of their small herd. Could they also grow vegetables to sell? “We decided to give it a try,” Džafić reacts. “We planted tomatoes, gherkins, you name it. But when it came time to build a greenhouse, we realised we needed to get serious about investing. This was a real business now. We needed capital.”

The Džafić family found their match in EKI Microcredit Company, a microfinance institution strongly committed to serving rural small enterprises. It is also one of EFSE’s staunchest partners, having distributed EFSE funding to entrepreneurs in rural Bosnia and Herzegovina for nearly fifteen years. The organisation’s commitment and expertise quickly came to be appreciated by Džafić. “EKI staff were very personable and really seem to care,” he says. “Getting a loan is always a very quick process, too. They simply understand me and my job.”

It is this trusting relationship that has led Džafić to confidently expand his business with a new loan each year since 2017. The financing has helped the family build a modern barn and greenhouse, with entirely organic production processes – from feeding the cows to planting and harvesting the vegetables. “We sell everything we produce,” Džafić says proudly. “It’s a very satisfying feeling to create something of value. When I pick a ripe tomato, and know that this healthy fruit is the result of our hard work from start to finish – well, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Today, the couple’s two grown sons are agricultural experts, with plans to expand to additional farms of their own. What started as an idea for a little extra money has developed into a thriving business supporting two generations. “It takes courage to start something new,” says Džafić. He raises his eyebrows knowingly. “Do not underestimate the challenge of a gherkin! Whoever succeeds with those finicky vegetables can do anything.”

 

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