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In Montenegro, collaboration with local experts is crucial for promoting economic development and empowering women. This is especially true in the training for herb cultivation, which is one of the promising economic activities. Local mentors are indispensable in this process.

Mentors have an in-depth understanding of the natural conditions specific to each region. This includes knowledge of the soil, climate, and local plant species. Women participating in these programs gain valuable practical experience that cannot be acquired from books or online resources.

Local mentors also understand the cultural and social contexts in which they operate. This allows them to tailor the training in a way that is most acceptable and effective for the participants. Culturally adapted training methods encourage greater participation and acceptance of new practices, which is essential for long-term success.

When local mentors lead training, they also act as role models and sources of inspiration for the women. This contributes to the empowerment of participants by giving them confidence in their own abilities. Women who receive such mentorship often gain greater self-confidence and motivation for further skill development and involvement in other economic activities.

Training women to cultivate herbs with the help of local mentors also contributes to sustainable development. Local experts often incorporate environmentally friendly practices, which help preserve natural resources and promote the long-term economic and ecological development of the region.

In 2023, the EKOS project trained 20 women in the planting of medicinal and aromatic plants, with 10 from the Nikšić area and 10 from the vicinity of Rožaje in Montenegro. The training, study trips, selection of seedlings, and planting were led by experienced mentors who came from the local community and were highly educated in this field. They established Viber groups where they were always available for questions and, with their personal dedication, motivated all the women involved. Together, they also prepared an online manual titled "Training in the Planting and Cultivation of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants with an Emphasis on Biodiversity and Environmental Protection." The manual can be viewed on the project partners' websites.

At the end of May 2024, we visited some of the participants to learn about their experiences. All were extremely satisfied with the program, the mentors, and the success of the planting. It turned out that in the northern area, where the climate conditions are harsher, women needed more greenhouses and larger areas for herb cultivation, while in Nikšić, entrepreneurial ideas in the field of herb growing are already developing. All participants shared a common optimism and desire for further training and development of activities.

The project EKOS  "Education and Economic Empowerment of Vulnerable Groups of Women and Girls in Montenegro " implemented by the  Zavod Krog/Institute Circle, NVU Impuls, and NVO Ikre in five participating cities (Nikšić, Berane, Rožaje, Plav, Bijelo Polje), highlights multifaceted approaches to raising awareness and improving the status of women and girls in Montenegro, with financial support by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia within the framework of international development cooperation.

Alija Kalač

Ratko Bataković


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