Center for the Promotion of Sustainable Development Berkovici: Youth Ideas for better Berkovici

With just over 2,000 inhabitants, Berkovici is one of the smallest municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, located in the immediate vicinity of Trebinje, Dubrovnik, Stolac and Neum, it is far from being unknown to the general public.

And while for many, the first association with Berkovici is precisely “a place on the way to the sea side”, for others it is the problems that accompany underdeveloped municipalities, such as the departure of young people, the inability to find employment, and apathy. Between those two pictures, the Berkovici has another side.

The side that shows that there are young people in that Municipality, and those young people who are aware that they Berkovici is their home, that they have to do their best to change what is in their power.

On this occasion, we spoke with Milos Setko, who, along with Drasko Dzombeta and Nikola Cabril, is dedicated to work at the Center for the Promotion of Sustainable Development Berkovici.

We are talking about young people, born between 1992 and 1996, who gathered around the idea of the Center, which formally began its work in March 2021.

The center was founded with the idea on implementing the goals of sustainable development at the local level. It is about the 2030 Agenda.

Let us recall that in September 2015, Bosnia and Herzegovina, together with 192 member states of the United Nations, undertook to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which consists of 17 sustainable development goals and 169 sub-goals. You can read more about the 2030 agenda itself at the link here.

As stated in the document of this agenda, it is “a plan of action for people, the planet and prosperity.” Its goal is to strengthen universal peace in greater freedom. This plan will be implemented by all countries and all stakeholders, acting through a partnership based on cooperation. We resolved to free humanity from tyranny, poverty and destitution, as well as to recover and protect our planet.”

When it comes to the 2030 agenda at the local level, Setka explains that throughout these two years of work, they have mostly focused on projects that have a clear, practical purpose in Berkovici.

“What I would single out as a project that we are proud of is the furnishing of the park in the Vidusa settlement, where, with the support of the Telemach Foundation, we furnished the park with children’s furniture,” says Setka. As he explained to us, this park was without any furniture for the youngest, which the Center noticed as a problem, and in 2022 they managed to provide funds.

Although the Center itself is a young organization, which in practice means that in addition to working on projects, both our interviewee and his colleagues undergo various trainings in order to be as efficient as possible, this is not their only project aimed at a better life in Berkovici.

Berkovici is one of the municipalities that is rich in cultural and historical monuments in its surroundings, Setka and the Center for the Promotion of Sustainable Development Berkovici saw an opportunity to improve that part of Berkovici.

Within the project “Strengthening local participation and cooperation through the partnership of public authorities and civil society organizations in BiH”, the Local Democracy Agency (LDA) in May of this year supported their idea, which they called “Berkovici, visit, explore and experience”.

As Setka explains, with this project, the acquisition of tourist signage is planned, with the aim of making it easier for those who come to this place to find their way around and visit interesting tourist sites.

It should be noted that in the town of Potkom there is the cave of Ratkovaca, which is considered a valuable archaeological site, although the largest part of it is still unexplored. The examined part is interwoven with underground corridors, halls, cave lakes, and is richly decorated with cave jewelry.

Directly next to it is the waterfall of the river Opacica, which is higher than 150 m, but it should be noted that the flow of this river is occasional, and the height of the waterfall itself varies. Above the village of Hatelji in the steep cliffs is the Sunicka cave, only 300 meters long. All these locations will be more easily accessible to tourists, but also to the local population, thanks to the Center’s activities.

When it comes to the support of the local community, Setka does not hide her satisfaction with cooperation. “I am especially pleased that we, as the Center, were partners with the Berkovici Municipality in the procurement of a hematology apparatus for blood analysis,” Setka says, adding that it is a donation from the Slovak International Development Agency, Slovak Aid. Thanks to the work on this project, the local health center received a new device in May 2023.

In connection with current activities, Setka states that the project of diversification of agricultural holdings is ongoing, which this organization also implements in partnership with the Municipality. The financier of the project is EU4AGRI, which is a four-year initiative (2020-2024), with the aim of modernizing the agricultural and food sector, creating new and retaining existing jobs, and supporting the recovery from the crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The support of the local community, especially in a small town, means a lot. Our work, without such support, would not even make sense, because all our projects are guided by the idea of what we can improve in Berkovici” concludes our interviewee.

Author: Mladen Lakic

This article was written thanks to the generous support of the American people through the “Local Works” program of the United States Agency for International Development in Bosnia and Herzegovina (USAID). The contents of the publication are under the exclusive liability of its author and “Network for Building Peace”. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the USAID or the US Government.