Organic Juices and Jams
Bratunac is a town located on the east border of Bosnia, close to the town Gorazde, in the southwest of the Drina river and in the north of Srebrenica.It is administratively part of the Serbian Republic. According to the 1991 census, its population was of 33.375 inhabitants composed by Bosnians (64.2%), Serbs (34.2%), others (1.6%).
During the war everything associated to Bosnians and other non-Serbian ethnic groups was destroyed. The ethnic cleansing campaign was successful and has resulted in an almost exclusively Serbian town of Bratunac, since the town was settled with the Serbian refugees from Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, the town and the surrounding villages are believed to be a stronghold for nationalism and extremism and the area is believed to have harboured several war crimes suspects.
During the war in Bratunac 4.221 houses over a total of 5.205 were destroyed or damaged. In 2002 an esteem shown around 22.000 inhabitants, more than 60% of which were women. The population of Bratunac is currently composed as follow: 12.000 Serbs from Bratunac, 2.000 Serbian refugees from other towns and 7.000 Bosnian Muslims who have recently returned. Only since 2001, when the local authority changed and policies in favour of the return of the refugees and evacuees started, the reconstruction has begun.
Projects to sustain these policies were financed with European funds and with the contribution of European and North-American NGOs; the United Nations started a programme to encourage the refugees to go back home by delivering the necessary materials to reconstruct their houses.
Reconstructing the houses is not enough though. People need the essential things, primarily financial aid in order to start working their land again, so to be able to live with dignity and independence. The economy is based on agriculture, some cows for the milk and the domestic production of cheese. Thanks to the climate and to particular environmental conditions, Bratunac has become an area specialized in the cultivation of fruits of the forest: until 1991 over 1.500 tons of raspberries and a similar quantity for what concerns bilberries, blackberries and strawberries were produced per year.
Since 2003 the Zemljoradnicka Zadruga "Insieme" Bratunac puts together Serbian and Muslim producers with the aim to encourage the economic growth of Bratunac and its surroundings as the pre-condition to start the dialogue between the resident communities again, since it had been violently interrupted in 1992 by the war. Local people are aware that the only way to live together is to rebuild together the socio-economic tissue. And this is the only solution to local problems.
RASPBERRIES OF PEACE was born to sustain the existence and the work of the Farm Cooperative "Insieme" of Bratunac, in order to give a concrete aid to the returned refugees. The idea of the project has been developed from the experience of Radmila Žarković and Skender Hot (two active pacifists with a long experience, who worked for several peace associations and that also during the war continued in their activity for re- establishing peace conditions) together with some Italian NGOs and Associations. The experience "Carovana di Pace", having as one of the main aims a responsible tourism, in order to understand and to dialogue with population of the former Yugoslavia, was fundamental.
The stop and the conference were organized in collaboration with Forum Źena of Bratunac. More than 100 women from Bratunac participated. It was during the dialogue with them that the direction and the idea of the future project "Raspberries of peace" was conceived.
Women at the conference told about their experience before, during and after the war. The majority of them had in common the refugee camp experience. After the beginning of the international programmes for the reconstruction of the houses, they were able to go back home and to have their properties back. But after a while they understood it was not enough.
There were a lot of socio-economical problems due to friction between the different ethnic groups and to unemployment.
At the time in the country, there was no dialogue between Muslims and Serb Orthodox, there was no concrete opportunity to remain for the returned refugees, it was very difficult to find funds to create and to continue an activity. It is not easy to come back and to live in a climate of diffidence and fear, with no money to buy food or to pay for the heating in winter because there were no jobs.
For these reasons a lot of women returned to the refugee camp, where it was possible to have food to live. Most Muslim women who had been evacuated from Central Podrinje already lived in the surroundings of Sarajevo and Tuzla, with no possibility to have a job, to get micro credits, to go back home, where the situation was critical and with no chance to get financial independence.
The majority of the refugees returned just to sell their properties. In seeing the situation Radmila Žarković, Skender Hot and some Italian Associations decided to do something to give an opportunity to the dialogue and to help these women to find a job. When the pacifist movement Forum Źena of Bratunac was contacted, they agreed to cooperate in a project with the aim to sustain and facilitate the refugees’ return and the multiethnic cohabitation. The first steps towards the right direction were moved. It was difficult to understand what exactly to do and how: it was necessary to give the traditions and the pre-war economy a closer look in order to identify the most suitable activities for the area. A problem was that the majority of the population was composed by women with children, old people and people with physical problems caused by war. Furthermore, people were and are poor, and most of the houses in Bratunac had all been destroyed or damaged. This meant finding a suitable opportunity for these people, granting continuity and sustainability to the families. This is how the idea about organic juices and jams came to life!