The biggest association representing family farmers in Croatia.
Key words Family farming, Knowledge exchange
Name of the initiative? Association of the Croatian Family Farmers’ Life
Country Croatia (Hrvatska)
What kind of initiative Farming/production, Marketing, Environmental, Landscape, Biodiversity, Educational/training, Policy making, Community
About a third of all agricultural land is state owned. Over the last 25 years the land policy has changed from centralised to decentralised – agricultural land law has changed 18 times in the last 25 years – so farmers don’t know what changes will come and when. It’s risky to invest money when you don’t have the long-term contract for that land. In some regions we are seeing big companies taking land from small family farmers, causing depopulation of those areas. In the last six or seven years we lost over fifty thousand family farmers. When we tried to speak to the government and influence the rural development programme for Croatia, we found the bigger companies who do industrial farming always prevail.
“…we are seeing big companies taking land from small family farmers, causing depopulation of those areas.”
Croatian farmers faced a lot of problems when we entered the European Union in 2013: we had a lot of small farmers with average land parcels of 5.6 hectares. (Now it’s about 7.5).
In 2014 we founded an association to fight for the family farmers in Croatia, to strengthen the position of family farms.
Our association connects all the sectors; livestock, fruit growing, wine growing, crop production and so on. Most people were already connected in some way through other existing alliances or associations but there was not a group that combined all the family farms. Having all family farmers in a single association makes their questions more present in the public and in the media. Right away we had 450 members.
We organised workshops and meetings to bring people together and set up a Facebook group.
We have developed really good contacts with the media – they like us because we are always speaking about the problems from the ground. Our experienced producers are able to ask knowledgeable questions.
In 2019 we became a member of Via Campesina and at the end of the year we organised one of the conferences at the Agricultural Fayre in Zagreb. Our topic was Family Farming and Sustainable Development Goals. We had speakers from the European Commission, Via Campesina, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), as well as some Croatian speakers highlighting the hidden environmental and social costs in Agriculture and the current position of family farming in Croatia.
We have a small membership fee. This funds what we do. A lot of new members find us through Facebook. Each month we are growing.
Croatia is a small country of four million inhabitants. Family farmers share many of the same questions and challenges even if they come from different sectors.
“Family farmers share many of the same questions and challenges even if they come from different sectors.”
We always try to be very active when a new law is made around the land, speaking to our government and other agriculturally responsible institutions, trying to inform the rural development programme for Croatia, but we didn’t have a lot of success. As our association grows in numbers and stature, we are having more influence.
“In Croatia we have the problems of the past around cooperatives. People automatically think of the socialist, communist model.”
In Croatia we have the problems of the past around cooperatives. People automatically think of the socialist, communist model. They can be unwilling to work together because of this, and the government doesn’t push them to cooperate. There needs to be more education. Things are changing after five years in the European Union – if we don’t have cooperation between the farmers, we’ll have nothing. Our association is working to teach the people the importance of networking with others. We have good relationships with other farming associations.
Our open market means many imports from other European countries. Croatia has a lot of advantages we don’t use – we are ecologically clean, and have a lot of possibilities. Although we are a small country, we can produce everything from the Mediterranean culture to continental, even mountainous farming. This is an opportunity but can make it hard to decide which agricultural strategy is best.
Our membership fees are our main source of income. Sometimes we get a little from our region. We need to find a way to build our financial capacities. It would help us to join some projects in Europe (such as the BOND project) to build our visibility and image on the Croatian agricultural scene.
Networking and learning from other associations both inside and outside Croatia has enabled us to present to our responsible authorities what is going on in other countries.Working with other associations strengthens our organisation. Exchange of knowledge has been the most powerful thing.
“Working with other associations strengthens our organisation. Exchange of knowledge has been the most powerful thing.”
A lot of things are getting better. We are now a partner in the Croatian Strategy of Agriculture of 2030 and recognised as reliable partners in the process of adopting laws and regulations. Also, we are very active in the Croatian Agricultural Chamber in the debate on the new CAP. Our members are present in most Chambers Committees.
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Agriculture/Udruga-OPG-a-Hrvatske-%C5%BDivot-672231586147156/
Repository compiled January 2020 by: Robert Hadzic
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