BELGRADE – Serbia is covered with medicinal plants. They are to be found everywhere. However, as there is no organized collection, much it goes to waste. In the spring the plants sprout and grow, and are gone by the autumn, and the time is right for all this to charge and for our country and its people to have both work and income from herbs.
“Millions go to waste, and in this work profits are pure because you don’t have to sow medicinal plants, fertilize them or treat with pesticide. A huge wealth resides in our forests, besides roads, canals and rivers and it is enough simply to collect plants and sell them,” Ljubica Stojanović, the president of the Kragujevac-based Association of Producers and Processors of Pot and Medicinal Herbs Lincura told the House of Good News when asked about the problem of the non-existence of organized collection of medicinal plants on the territory of Serbia. The Association was founded with the aim assembling as many possible of those involved in the collection and production of medicinal herbs.
Ljubica has an excellent business idea she would like to share with our readers and the competent authorities, because she needs support, logistical rather than financial. If the state can secure for her logistics, she will together with people willing to join in the project secure finances for the state, profits from exports, and, most importantly, employment for a number of people.
Ljubica says she is being approached by numerous agricultural engineers with interest in the work, which means that the notion that people are unwilling to work in the agriculture is not correct.
“These natural resources can be used profitably. We have much unemployed labor, many people who have no work. Some say people are unwilling to work in the agriculture, but that is not true, many people call me with a desire to work in the agriculture. Various engineers, people with university degrees who have lost their jobs and have families and children they are supporting. They have realized that cultivation of medicinal herbs brings a good profit”, says Ljubica, who has within the Association conceived a project which would employ experts, unemployed persons from the labor market, as well as unemployed people from rural areas.
Ljubica has talked to competent ministries about her idea, but a problem arose because of constant changes of the teams she talked with. She has invited the competent authorities to contact her so they could agree how to put the idea into practice, as this is a good idea which should not be let go to waste, she says.
Professional Collector of Medicinal Herbs
According to Ljubica, in order to collect medicinal plants what is needed is to organize courses and education in the form of lectures by competent experts.
“We already have interested people who would do that – from the Josif Pančić Institute, the Agricultural Faculty of Belgrade University (BU), the Department of Botany of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics of BU and the universities of Kragujevac and Niš, and I myself have taught the subject of medicinal plants in the Secondary Agricultural School in Rekovac near Kragujevac, and many other scientific experts”.
The education, says Professor Stojanović, would consist of indoor lectures featuring descriptions of the plants and their characteristics. This would be followed by outdoor searches for the plants, controlled by the lecturers. This would then be followed by a serious examination, with those who pass acquiring a certificate of Professional Collector of Medicinal Herbs.
We would organize groups who go out into the field. It does not matter where, the only important thing is that all mountains have a lot of medicinal plants – Mts Rudnik, Zlatibor, Kopaonik, Jastrebac, Avala. The certified collectors would take along with them eight to ten uninformed persons. On the first day only one plant would be collected. The certified collectors control the other members of their groups. The certified collectors do not take part in the collection, but only control what the others are picking. Once a certain quantity is collected, it must be absolutely clean, consisting of one plant only. In the evenings, the quantity collected must be purchased and taken directly to drying facilities”.
The Idea Can Succeed Only with the Help of the State
“How can we assemble those collectors and those people? It is necessary that it proceeds from a higher level, to conduct an interest poll among unemployed persons, to organize unemployed people in rural areas. Municipalities would secure premises for the lectures and the lecturers should receive some compensation. The education for the attendees would be free of charge. It would be possible to make money. Everything is simple and easy. We are even ready to hold the lectures without pay. However, the competent ministries need to have an interest in the endeavor. It is exceptionally important for the plants to be purchased while they are fresh and to be dried as soon as possible. There exist those who buy collected herbs, but there is a problem in that it is not a controlled activity. A large export contingent of rose hip was recently returned because it contained maggots, because it had been exported without control, and another contingent of sage was also returned because it did not contain a sufficient percentage of oils of ether. A lot of medicinal herbs has been returned to Serbia, to Serbia’s disgrace. That is another reason why organized collection is important, but also organized cultivation of plants”, says Ljubica, who is also an agricultural expert.
Ljubica says that before a contingent of medicinal plants is exported it is necessary for a competent institution to perform an analysis of the chemical composition of the plants. It really needs to be elevated to a higher level, and to be performed by professionals. For the plants to be of high quality we need to have collection stations out in the field. Members of the Lincura Association are interested in setting up collection stations. Initially this would not be a problem, as in rural areas for a start courtyards could be used for the purpose. In rural areas they have barns and other storage facilities, and smaller drying facilities. As the activity would spread, the number of storage facilities would be increased, and they would gradually be modernized. Initially, for example, Kragujevac would be a large assembly center, after which the activity would spread throughout Serbia.
Organized planting is the second project advocated by Lincura. This would also require education, but not extensive, and would initially be performed by vegetable growers. Medicinal plants are similar to pot herbs, with minor specificities. Ljubica has her own registered family agricultural holding, on which she produces seedlings: lemon balm, common mallow and other plants. She has recently retired and says she will now have more time for growing her medicinal herbs. What is important is that on Serbian territory, in respect of organized planting, it is necessary to have standardized seeds.
Certain plants, like gentian or buckwheat, grow on higher elevations. Ljubica says it would be possible to increase agricultural production by planting at higher elevations. The land which was used solely for grazing or haymaking could become good agricultural land. But, she says, everything still needs to come from above, from the government, because individuals and associations cannot do anything on their own.
“We have high-quality land, good relief, a good climate, moderate continental, in places even moderate Mediterranean, such as Levač, which is surrounded by the Gledić mountains, so that inside it is warmer than the moderate continental climate. Župski Aleksandrovac also has an excellent climate, and there are also a few other smaller protected areas, where the influx of cold air is prevented”, Ljubica says.
About the Association
Anyone who is interested can become a member of the Association. Ljuibica registers everyone, and often someone approaches her for seed while someone else has seed for sale, and she connects them. Many people are amazed that she does not take a commission on such deals, which she does free of charge. Association members get rebates when purchasing plant-protection chemicals and even fertilizer, sometimes even seed materials. The Association organizes appearances at fairs, free education, various professional forums.
The Licura Association is a co-founder of SPAS – the Alliance of Agricultural Producers of Serbia, in which Ljubica is a member of the managing board. The Alliance is organizing for the fourth time a major international summit for small and medium-sized enterprises in Vrnjačka Banja on the 28th, 29th and 30th of June. The general sponsor is the ambassador of India, Mrs Narinder Chauhan.
All those who are interested in cooperating with Ljubica and the Lincura Association can contact her on the following telephone number: +381 63 887 93 54.
The House of Good News wants by this text to show that solutions do exist, that we have wonderful, talented and educated people, young, older and even older people who want to place their knowledge, expertise and goodness at the service of their country, for the benefit of Serbia and its people, thereby also the region and the world.
Source: House of Good News