The International Fund for Agricultural Development‘s (IFAD) Livestock and Rural Finance Development Project has helped transition rural businesses in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the initial stages of post-conflict recovery to long-term sustainable development. The program has financed rural infrastructure redevelopment and provided credit and training to small business owners. This program has particularly focused on reengaging women in the workforce.
On a macro-level, the program has helped to improve producer access to markets. At the local level, the program has encouraged the formation of producers’ associations and helped provide individuals with machinery and technical support services. For example, members of the Nevesinje’s Producers’ Association have received credit and trainings on food safety, handling, and storage of their product from the program.
The program has also helped open up a discriminatory workforce to women. In the decade following the Bosnian War, there was a marked decrease in women in the workforce and a resurgence of traditional attitudes about gender roles. Women were unable to make decisions about and access the basic resources they needed to manage their financial and business affairs, even as a quarter of households were headed by women. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that women represent 32.5 percent of all employed individuals in Bosnia and Herzegovina; women even surpass the number of men in the agricultural sector. Despite this, women consistently face wage and other forms of labor discrimination.
Many women have taken an active role in the projects supported by IFAD grants, such as raising livestock and dairy processing. For example, Flores, a seasonal business that exports medicinal herbs and mushrooms, was launched by a woman and now employs about 2,000 individuals, most of whom are women who are able to supplement their incomes with their earnings.
Many of the women who were able to start businesses through the support of the program are now community leaders who encourage and guide other women as they start their own businesses. These women also advocate for women’s involvement in the larger community.
“There are numerous examples of women who are running successful small- and medium-sized enterprises, many of which have been supported by IFAD’s Livestock and Rural Finance Development Project,” says Lenyara Khayasedinova, coordinator of IFAD’s Gender Mainstreaming Programme for Central and Eastern Europe and Newly Independent States. “They have become a driving force for change and are making solid and lasting contributions to the development of their communities.”