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Sunflowers in Albania – UMCOR launches new development project

28 May 2004

UMCOR NGO has commenced implementation of the 'Sunflower Production Support Program' from our newly-opened UMCOR Albania office. The project will provide 50 farmers with business and technical support which will enable them to grow sunflowers suitable for the production of oil.

UMCOR Albania will sell about 4,190 Metric Tons (MT) of crude sunflower oil, donated by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and use the proceeds to implement the 'Sunflower Production Support Program'. The process of using proceeds from commodity sales for agricultural development is known as monetisation.

This latest project reaffirms UMCOR's commitment to the Balkans region and its regional approach to programming.

"The sunflower oil and seed project in Albania is a great example of self-development for economic empowerment," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

The sunflower venture is a new undertaking for UMCOR. Previous monetisation efforts utilized commodities and focused on training rather than market development. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UMCOR monetised a total of 186,000 MT of commodities which generated US$ 46.6 million for projects. Of that amount, UMCOR used approximately US$ 11 million for farm technical assistance, loan programs for entrepreneurial farmers, and youth-focused activities in underdeveloped rural communities.

"This program will facilitate positive change in productivity and profitability for farmers and processors alike," said Paul Dirdak, chief executive of UMCOR.

Albania is a country of low income which suffers from serious food deficits. The per-capita annual income is US$ 2,300 and the unemployment rate is as high as 30 percent in some areas, according to a 2002 World Bank study. Agriculture is a key source of income, though the population is drifting towards urban centers in search of work.