Aug. 2014—Using the natural resources of Konjuh Mountain in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Alma Čamdžić and her sister started a home business two years ago, reviving the old trade of soap making and production of natural cosmetics. Like hundreds of other enthusiasts and small entrepreneurs in BiH, they have tied their careers to the development of tourism potential.
This year, Čamdžić registered the Alma Derm company, and the entire family is making an income and building the business with help from USAID. The first products to come out of the small, home-based business were essential oils of coniferous trees from the nearby mountain. Čamdžić uses olive oil as a base for her soaps, adding essential oils and coloring them with honey, pollen, poppy, cinnamon, ginger, corn bran, coffee and chocolate. The distillery is located near the town of Kladanj, known for the healing water called “Muška voda,” giving added value to the products.
“I do everything by hand, using a cold process, and the soaps include 30 percent of goat milk, which gives them therapeutic qualities. We extract the most therapeutic essential oils,” Čamdžić explains.
Čamdžić was an economist in the NGO sector for 16 years before she decided to take advantage of the country’s natural potential to improve the livelihoods of not just her family, but those of the overall local community as well.
“USAID provided assistance through its FARMA [Fostering Agricultural Markets Activity] project, to which I applied and received equipment and training,” said Čamdžić. “Today I attend fairs in BiH, Croatia and Serbia and I am especially proud of the fact that, a few days ago in Baščaršija, I opened the first traditional soap-making shop in this tourist destination after a hundred years.”
Miles away, near the Adriatic Coast, in the Blidinje Mountain nature park, lives the Bagarić family. While Renata processes wild aromatic herbs—she says that in Blidinje alone there are three types of thyme—her husband Anto strives to promote mountain biking as a way to enhance year-round tourist activities offered by the park.
“I hope there will be tourism jobs in Blidinje, but it will take lots of work and effort to get there. We did it by ourselves, with assistance from USAID,” Anto said.
BiH is endowed with unique natural beauty and historical treasures, so tourism stands out as a sector of the economy that, with a well thought-out strategy, could drive development of the entire country.
In recent years, mountain, adventure and environmental tourism have gained popularity in BiH. The platform for their development is provided by Via Dinarica, a multi-country trail spanning the Dinarica Alps and passing through BiH.
USAID has partnered with the U.N. Development Program in a project to mark and map the BiH portion of the Via Dinarica trail with the objective of improving the income potential of rural Bosnians. It also promotes tourism through its FIRMA project. And in April, USAID promoted the tourism sector through a special month-long campaign: “Tourism in BiH: The possibilities are endless.”
Alexander Bond, director of USAID’s Executive Office, says that many have forgotten that, in the 19th century, BiH was an attractive tourist destination for visitors from Western Europe.
“USAID wants to use this project—and this campaign—as a means of helping BiH to regain that image of a fabulous tourist destination,” said Bond. “Via Dinarica is a jewel amongst all the other jewels that BiH has to offer to tourists. We want to initiate programs that will open up jobs along the entire trail. Some people don’t realize how spectacular BiH is as a country, and our goal is to help them understand.”
Last updated: January 12, 2015