Dika’s Story: Building Community Trust

Posted in Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 20, 2016

A Traditional Medicinals Foundation (TMF) team first visited southern Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2008. Thirteen years had passed since the end of the Bosnian War, yet the wounds of survivors still cut deep. With minimal access to international aid, Bosnians had grown accustomed to looking out for themselves and rural villagers met them with suspicion and trepidation. To build a sense of trust, Traditional Medicinals (TM), TMF and their partners decided to focus on Bosnia’s collectors, many of whom are elders that are responsible for supporting their families through wild herb collection.

Dika has been teaching her daughter-in-law the art of wildcrafting.


People have collected medicinal herbs in this region for many generations, and plants historically have played an integral role in the Bosnian Herzegovinian lifestyle. Fertile with mountains, forests, wild areas and plenty of rain, the countryside offers an abundance of plants, namely raspberry, blackberry, linden flower, primrose, hawthorn, dandelion, elder, nettle, and sage—long valued for their medicinal use and an important source of income for rural Bosnian Herzegovinians.

Today, some 10,000 local families depend on the income they receive from herb wildcrafting (collecting) and cultivation, much like Dika, a widowed farmer who sources most of her food from the family garden, fruit trees, and foraging. She cans or dries much of what she grows and collects for the winter months. With the help of her cows and chickens, she also sells milk, eggs, butter, and cheese. This said, Dika still struggles to make ends meet. With her husband deceased and her son unemployed, she is left with the burden of providing for her family. Dika has been teaching her daughter-in-law wildcrafting, and, with the help of FairWild premiums from TM, her son now has the use of tractor to drive up to the mountains to collect herbs.

Dika harvests wild nettle leaf.

After the war, most of the younger generation migrated to the cities in search of work, leaving the elderly to fend for themselves. Dika questions the logic of their urban exodus, because the country’s unemployment rate among 18- to 24-year-olds is the highest in the world at 60%—particularly in the city—and young city dwellers often return to their families’ homes in the country on weekends to stock up on food from their parents’ farms. She also worries that if these young people fail to repopulate these largely abandoned rural villages, the knowledge of medicinal herb collection will be lost forever. A recent United Nations’ Development Programme survey confirms Dika’s fears, as over half the young people interviewed said they would leave the country immediately if opportunity allowed.


In the late-2000s, when Traditional Medicinals began purchasing FairWild-certified ingredients in Bosnia and Herzegovina, TMF interviewed villagers to understand their needs and identify community development initiatives. Since then, Traditional Medicinals has contributed thousands of dollars in FairWild funds and additional grants for much needed health services, farming equipment, and capacity building initiatives. The foundation’s team will travel to Bosnia to focus more deeply on the complex social needs of these rural collection communities. With their trust now established, there is much more work to be done and TMF and its partners will continue to expand on these social and agricultural interventions, focusing on rural women and the preservation of wild-collection. In doing so, we will be able to provide fair compensation and economic opportunity to the next generation.

Dika worries that if young people fail to repopulate these villages, the knowledge of medicinal herb collection will be lost forever.

Dika and her family.