Ševarlije – Success of a Returnee Village

Located in Doboj municipality in northern Bosnia, Ševarlije village has around 2,000 post-war (1992-95) returnee inhabitants, most of whom are Muslim. After being expelled from their homes in 1992, some inhabitants of Ševarlije and the surrounding villages returned in 1998 to their devastated homes as part of a large scale returnee process. Most of the returnees were previously employed in companies in the city of Doboj, as well as a lime factory in Ševarlije.

Agriculture: Developing new sources of income

Although agriculture, as a source of income and employment, has little history in the area, it has become a new source of revenue and employment for returnees. Nusret Delić, an entrepreneur returnee from Ševarlije and the president of the Agricultural Association, points out that “Before the war, most of the households considered agriculture a hobby.” However, today Ševarlije has a high proportion of returnees and is economically dominated by small scale agriculture. The Ševarlije Agricultural Association has over 200 members, most of whom are dairy producers. Some members produce cornichon-cucumbers as well.

A need for aid: Financial, legal, planning and strategy

Despite a clear vision and having a reputation as an example of a successful, sustainable returnee village, entrepreneurs face many difficulties. “Financial help is necessary for SMEs. One in three or four entrepreneurs that ask for our services ask for legal advice, and the rest want purely financial aid”, said Enesa Jokić, a lawyer with the Municipal Agency for SME development.

A few villagers/entrepreneurs from Ševarlije and the neighbouring village of Grapska took advantage of the Business Bus pilot project’s mobile consulting services. It was learned that one of the major problems they encounter is a general lack of strategy for long-term placement of their products on the market. Most of the entrepreneurs also pointed out that the main problem for them is “a lack of initial capital” to help them grow their agricultural businesses.

Agricultural Association plays key role in sustaining hope

In the face of these challenges, Nusret emphasised that the Agricultural Association continues to successfully bring together villagers, while providing support through its various services. In doing so the Association provides its members with hope that, over time, they can build sustainable businesses.