Albania, women in agriculture journey through difficulties

In Albania, the role of women in agriculture remains high, since about 40% of women employed in the country work in this sector. But despite this weight, they remain in the minority when it comes to ownership and management of agricultural activities. Men own over 80% of farms, forestry and fishing enterprises. The authorities say that women farmers are being supported financially, both by the IPARD program, a co-financing of the EU and the Albanian government, and by national schemes. Voice of America’s correspondent in Tirana, Mimoza Picari, spoke with several women entrepreneurs in agriculture, and brings the following material.

In Albania, about 41 percent of employed women work in the agricultural sector, which has an impact of 19% on the gross domestic product, and employs half of the country’s workforce. Women own and manage 31% of all enterprises, and in the agricultural and forestry sector, 17% are owners and administrators. The difficulties for them, according to experts, are many. They are related both to the general weaknesses of the agricultural sector, its haphazard and unorganized development, as well as to gender biases. But among the women who try every day to survive in agriculture, there are also success stories that have managed to overcome obstacles. One of them is Neta Arapi, exporter of agricultural products in the area of ​​Lushnja, for more than 20 years. Her company exports 20 thousand tons of agricultural products per year, about 3 times more than two decades ago when she started this activity. The beginnings were like walking in a foreign land, she says for the Voice of America.

“In the Lushnja market, I met some merchants from Montenegro. Talking to them, I understood what they were looking for and started to cooperate. They told me they wanted me to export, when I didn’t even know what export was. We started to do the work, the work progressing

he taught us himself. When we first started, there was a lot of bureaucracy, because you look at me as a woman, you look at me crookedly. When I got on the truck in Divjakë, they said: “this woman does everything”. The reality was to work. Work puts a person in his own place” – Neta Arapi, administrator of the company “Elian export” shpk. told the Voice of America.

In Mrs. Arapi’s enterprise, two to three trucks arrive a day from different companies in Europe, to receive agricultural products, mainly vegetables, as well as foreign investors who sign contracts. Everything has been built based on the work of women, and today there are 40 to 50 women in the area employed. Her company exports to almost all of Europe, agricultural products that are collected in different areas of the country. It is also a beneficiary of the financing of the IPARD program, a co-financing of the EU with the Albanian government, which has given 245.8 million euros in grants in support of agriculture. (IPARD like in 2012 and IPARD II in 2018 and IPARD III in 2023. But experts note that state policies for companies newly created by women are not sufficient and their motivation remains low.

“When they design the policies of the national support schemes, they should have a greater focus on women. Support should also be given to the projects of women who have just started their activity and in general to support women in business” – Ilir Pilku, an expert in the field of agriculture, told the Voice of America.

One of these new businesses in the field of bookkeeping was created by Midjana Hoçja three years ago. In an area between Lezha and F-Kruja in the village of Gramëz, she, supported by her family, has built a stable for breeding cows. 3 years ago there were only 11 heads and today there are 50. She says that she practices this profession alongside that of a doctor, and that she tries to do it with dedication, thanks to the help of her relatives. The beginning is difficult, says Mrs. Hočja, a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of doors to knock on, in the process of applications for agricultural support schemes.

“We had some problems in the beginning, either with the support from the local government or from the relevant structures. We need help so that access is immediate. The farm doesn’t wait until we go there and knock on all the doors. But we hope that in the future we will be able to get help and have a financing, to enable the goal we have, to make a modern, contemporary farm, for the breeding of 300 cows” – said Midjana Hocja, Administrator for the Voice of America of the “HERMAN 2020” farm.

The beginning of work on the construction of a larger facility also serves this purpose. The lack of manpower is another obstacle that Ms. Hocja has encountered and explains that she found it in Pakistan. For a year, several workers from this country have been employed on her farm, who perform various jobs.

The authorities say that the financial support for agriculture, through IPARD programs, has increased significantly from 5.2 million euros that was the first IPARD like program in 2012 to 146 million that it offers for 2023. Women are the beneficiaries of 40% of these grants. These programs give you an advantage over them through the points system. The government has responded to the concerns about the red tapes and obstacles faced by farmers in applying for agricultural support schemes by drafting a new application form with the aim of making the process faster.

“Soon we will announce the applications which will be made through E Albania without documents, i.e. with zero documents. It is enough for them to have their farms registered in the farm register with the farmer’s nephew and they receive financing. It’s about all the applicants who meet the criteria, therefore also women” – Eranda Selmanaj, General Director of the Agency for Agricultural and Rural Development, said to the Voice of America.

According to Mrs. Selmanaj, to help farmers, special offices serve in 20 cities of the country. While there is an increase in the number of women winning EU grants, from 4% in the first Ipard program to 40% in the second, in the national support schemes, the situation is different. The percentage of women winners has remained almost the same since 2016. Despite the increase in the number of beneficiaries overall, by 50 and 60% since this year, men are still the winners of around 83% of these schemes, each year.

According to experts, these statistics continue to place female farmers in a still weak position compared to men in agriculture and why less than half of the employed women in the country work in this sector. Their empowerment is progressing slowly, and in agriculture they continue to remain overwhelmingly merely employed.

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