7 Arte is excited to partner with YEE (Youth and Environment Europe) in the “Showcasing the Unheard” project, part of which are the motivational articles of young women in Kosovo that emphasize local movements on climate and environmental issues. We will start with the story of the Narta Voca and her sister & partner Hana.

Narta Voca is a food engineer specialized in sustainable agriculture. She works with global supply chains at production (farm) and processing (industry) level to verify sustainable sourcing practices. Narta provides consultancy services to international companies to help them transition towards sustainability, while her sister Hana Voca is an agronomist with extensive experience in research and project management.

In 2016/17, Narta was working on her master’s research in Bari, Italy on quality and authenticity of honeys from different Western Balkan countries. Meanwhile Hana was doing her PhD. The research results were very exciting and promising for further development of the beekeeping sector in Kosovo. “I remember by the end of the research, I had brought the remaining of my honey samples home and together with Hana we were tasting, analyzing and commenting. There came the idea of local honey valorization. But later, as we were working on shaping our startup idea, we could not go further without integrating principles of sustainability”, explains Narta. Thus, Narta and Hana founded a startup named “traceabeelity” which aims at building a local & sustainable honey value chain in Kosovo.

“We use honey, which is a sweet product, attracting and very demanding from people in Kosovo to raise awareness on social and environmental aspects of its production. Unfolding the truth and raising our voice on sensitive issues such as gender equality, workers rights, fair treatment and fair trading, biodiversity conservation, animal wellbeing, etc. is what we are doing with our project.”

Narta cannot pinpoint the specific date she started to deal with climate and environmental issues, but she states that as she gets more informed with environmental problems, the more she prioritizes those issues in her professional and personal life. “I have a career in the food and agriculture sector; To me climate and environmental issues are not something that I can ignore. As a professional, you become well informed with straight forward scientific facts without sugar-coating, dramatizing, or politicizing them. I am observing negative impacts of climate change, discussing those issues at an intellectual level with my colleagues, and always looking towards ways to do better.”

Next, Narta together with Hana are working with a women beekeeper’s association to build capacities and train them on sustainable beekeeping practices and honey quality, but also use this opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of bees in the ecosystem, biodiversity and other environmental aspects.

Women inclusion in the agriculture of Kosovo

Narta explains that they have taken “traceabeelity” to the next level, by putting women empowerment as a central part of their work. “Agriculture in Kosovo is a sector that depends on smallholder farmers. It is a sector predominantly led by male producers. From our field experience, we are aware that women participation in decision making process is much lower compared to men, while women’s share of the agricultural labour force is much higher. Meanwhile, their work is increasingly affected by environmental degradation, climate change impacts, and out-migration. It is often unrecognized, unqualified, and unpaid.”

“There are already many known social and environmental challenges and barriers for women producers to which we are aiming to tackle in our honey supply chain. We have chosen to work with a group of women beekeepers to empower them and integrate to our sustainable supply chain. It has been shown that empowering women has wider benefits as well. When women prosper, they tend to invest more in their homes and families, giving their children more nutritious food, keeping them healthy, ensuring education, etc”, states Narta.

Regarding the impacts of the climate crisis in her local area, Narta rightfully affirms that the negative impact of climate change is being felt not only in Kosovo, but all around the world. “Water shortages, heat waves, droughts and floods are some examples we see in our daily lives. In my personal experience with beekeeping, I struggle to produce enough honey for my bees, let alone to produce a surplus to sell. Beekeeping is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain as a profession. Sadly, this is not the only sector affected by the climate crisis, nor this problem appears to be going away any time soon.”

Narta (traceabeelity), Venera Kelmendi (beekeeper) and Arlinda Kastrati (beekeeper and founder of “Bletat e Pejës” Women Beekeepers’ Association)

“I think I have found something that I care about, and I am just doing my part in that area.”

The situation in Kosovo is not as bright as one would hope. Sustainable development requires progress across a range of development domains. The environmental issues are not prioritizing as they should be. “However, in my opinion Kosovo is a unique country, for instance it is a small country, as an individual can easily get in touch and mobilize with key people and make a difference. Our team at traceabeelity benefited from it by getting in touch with people who are still supporting and guiding us with the project.”

When asked how she manages to go forward after demotivating experiences Narta claims that there will always be tough periods, this is how life is supposed to be. “But I’d suggest to everyone to look for something that excites them and find things that you care about, and dedicate your energy there. When you are working in the field or issues you care about, you will find the strength to overcome any difficulty.“

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