Kosovo's Budding Blueberry Sector Offers Hands-On Agricultural Internships

Friday, June 19, 2020
Interns in the field
TetraTech for USAIDKosovo

Sante Fruit, a relatively new and successful berry company, decided to give 20 young Kosovo graduates an opportunity for hands-on learning.  The idea to involve students at the USAID-supported berry farm originated with recent graduate, Verina Krasniqi, who had just joined the company a few months ago as a young agronomist.  She observed that many growers need help with daily or seasonal farm work.  Meanwhile, she knew that agriculture students are always seeking an opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge from their studies into practice. 

"Agriculture happens in the field, and this is what our educational system lacks.  As a working agronomist now, I wanted to give my colleagues the kind of opportunity that I dreamt of during my student years -- learning about agriculture out in the field," explained Verina.

Supported by Sante Fruit's co-owner, she got the Dean of the Agriculture Department at Pristina University on board with her idea, and soon found herself organizing 20 interns into four groups of five students.  Throughout the month of March, as Kosovo was beginning to shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this vibrant berry farm worked dynamically to train interns on pruning and planting blueberries, weed management, and irrigation practices while maintaining social distancing. 

Hana Boshnjaku, a 24-year-old intern on the farm, explains how she heard that blueberries were not an interesting crop for local farmers to grow.  That changed, however, when she arrived at the orchard.  She took a keen interest in blueberries after seeing all the varieties grown on the farm.  Both the farm and its owner left a lasting impression on her.  "I was fascinated with the farm, the crop, and the ambitious owner.  You could tell that he had researched everything there was to know about blueberries.  Seeing him persevere in his work every day really motivated us interns.  It made me believe that I too can achieve my dreams if I work hard," said Hana.

Sante Fruit’s co-owner Yll Hoxha, age 36, a young and aspiring agriculture entrepreneur, saw the value of offering internships to students.  "By bringing in young graduates we created a win-win situation, bridging the gap between graduates and agribusinesses," said Yll.

Until 2016, Kosovo farmers were growing commercial blueberries on a modest 20 hectares, involving only 15 growers.  Today, with the assistance of USAID, that planting area has increased more than two-fold to 50 hectares in total, with over six production zones involving 20 growers.  With Verina’s initiative, a modern berry farm in Kosovo is not only producing blueberries, but also Kosovo’s next generation of agronomists

Last updated: July 07, 2020

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