Science - May 15, 2008

Mobile horse school and livestock advice in Croatia

‘This is my dream: travelling, doing research and giving advice,’ tells Monica van der Hall. Together with two teachers and ten other Van Hall Larenstein students from Wageningen, she spent three weeks of April and May travelling through Croatia. The second year students of Animal Husbandry and Equine, Leisure and Sports made the tour as part of a project in business and enterprise.

Van Hall Larenstein students took a boat trip on their recent visit to Croatia.
‘The coast is prosperous and attracts tourists, but we were inland. There you see rich and poor, but there’s no middle class and purchasing power is very low. But the people are very hospitable,’ Robin Wolf sums up the contradictions of Croatia. Together with four other Animal Husbandry students, Robin set up the International Livestock Consultancy office, to advise Dutch businesses on the Croatian dairy farming market. ‘Dutch companies could for instance sell tractors there, but it’s not clear whether farmers have enough expertise to use them,’ Robin explains. ‘And, without a network, it’s very difficult for Dutch businesses to build up contacts. The farmers are not very forthcoming,’ adds fellow student Niek Vos. The Dutch group managed to make contact with dairy farms and veterinary organisations through teachers and students at the agricultural college in Kizevci, a partner of Van Hall Larenstein in an EU project for education development.

The members of the group also recall the mine fields and houses with bullet holes, reminders of the war in the former Yugoslavian area. ‘The war is seen as the cause of many problems, like the high number of divorces. In border areas there is a lot of hate and animosity towards neighbouring countries, and it’s forbidden to play Serbian music,’ Monica van der Hall was told in her talks with teachers and students in Kizevci. On the work front, the group noticed big differences between EU member-country Slovenia and Croatia, which has not yet joined the EU. ‘Croatian farmers have little schooling, and professionals often have just very specific veterinary know-how. Few people have management skills,’ according to Monica. She hopes to continue working with the consultancy office as a job alongside her study.

The six students of Equine, Leisure and Sports organised lessons for horse owners through a mobile horse school, and gave lessons in schools on animal safety, welfare and nutrition. Gerrit van der Linde, who teaches animal husbandry and business skills at VHL, is pleased with how the visit to Croatia went. ‘This pilot project gave the students an opportunity to test their plans in the field.’

Re:act