Budapest Telegraph

Enterprising rural Roma embark on organic truck farming

Wednesday Jul 8, 2015

Erika Gulyás | Source: Népszava

The micro-region of Cserehát, NE Hungary, has been synonymous with poverty. But Melinda Kassai and her associates have been employing the principles of Social Business as defined by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus and rally local Roma and non-Roma villagers to grow organic vegetables for the market. Initial results are promising.

Aptly called Pro Ratatouille Program, it includes growing zucchini, squash, carrots and potatoes and has been underway for the fourth year. The pioneering villages are Hejőszalonta, Bükkaranyos and Hejőkeresztúr and this Social Business scheme has been attracting increasing attention from other parts of Hungary.

The uniqueness of this initiative is that Roma and non-Roma villagers cooperate effectively in it. They have no other option. Cserehát, Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, is so underdeveloped and cash-strapped that self-help is imperative. Unemployment is almost universal in that part of Hungary and the monthly welfare relief is the equivalent of USD 81.



Assistance – in cash and expertise – comes, among other sources, from the Norwegian NGO Fund and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture. Problems abound: the local (Roma) villagers need to be trained farming from scratch; organic, that is, chemical-free produce is more expensive in the shops than that grown on factory farms and the Hungarian customers need time to learn to appreciate the difference.

But Melinda Kassai is optimistic: if they succeed in evolving sales channels and win recognition for a uniform brand name and logo for the Pro Ratatouille produce, with time the Hungarian homemakers will hopefully decide to pay the extra dime for the organic. (Excerpts)

Source: és

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