This country item is part of the Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe, edited in 2016 by the European CSA Research group.
- Author: Danijel Balaban is a CSA organic grower and biodynamics enthusiast. At the very beginning of the CSA movement in Croatia, together with a group of activists, he started one of the first CSA groups and organic farmers’ markets in his region. He was an administrator of the local CSA group when, after a year he decided that farming might be the response to the freedom he was looking for. Aside from being in the field, he works with Urgenci as a Kernel member and is also part of the research group. More recently he has redesigned the Urgenci website and does some graphic design for Urgenci’s activities.
- Native name of CSA: Grupe Solidarne Razmjene (groups of solidarity exchange) or Solidarne Ekološke Grupe (organic solidarity groups).
- Common definition: Croatia has three CSA streams (GSR, SEG, RIS) which differ slightly in their modes of working but the overall definition says that solidarity groups are informal citizens’ groups that exchange products and services based on transparency, trust and solidarity.
Croatia occupies the largest area of the Eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. As part of the Mediterranean, it penetrates deep into the European continent. The narrow Dinara Mountain Range separates the country’s Mediterranean region from its central European continental section that runs from the Easterly edges of the Alps in the North-West to the shores of the Danube in the east, encompassing the Southern part of the fertile Pannonian lowlands.
The service sector dominates Croatia’s economy, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture. Tourism is a significant source of revenue during the summer, with Croatia ranked the eighteenth most popular tourist destination in the world. Croatia has a high income economy where International Monetary Fund data shows that Croatian nominal GDP stood at $57,371 billion – $13,401 per capita – in 2013, while purchasing power parity GDP was $86,570 billion – $20,221 per capita.
Real GDP growth in 2007 was 6%. The average net salary of a Croatian worker in March 2013 was 5,516 kuna ($988) per month. As of June 2015, the registered unemployment rate in Croatia was 16.1%.
In 2010, economic output was dominated by the service sector that accounted for 66% of GDP, followed by the industrial sector with 27.2% and agriculture accounting for 6.8% of GDP. According to 2004 data, 2.7% of the workforce was employed in agriculture, 32.8% by industry and 64.5% in services.
Farms in Croatia can be characterised as being relatively small with an average size of 5.6ha per holding in 2010; this is considerably less than the average of 14.4ha per holding across the whole of the EU-27. About one half (52.5%) of all holdings in Croatia were less than 2ha in size, with the vast majority (89.4%) being less than 10ha. It is noticeable that a majority of farms are not actually commercial farms, but rather grow agricultural products for household consumption or non-commercial trade activities. It is also worth noting that the number of organic farms has grown rapidly in Croatia from 130 in 2003 to 1,449 in 2011.
A little over two thirds (68%) of the land used for farming (the utilised agricultural area) in Croatia was classed as arable land. Of the 895,220ha of arable land in 2010 about two thirds (65%) was given over to cereals, of which a majority (310,450ha) was land under grain and maize production.
According to the EU’s labour force survey, agriculture, forestry and fishing employed 229,200 people aged over fifteen in Croatia in 2010, the equivalent of 14.9% of the total workforce over fifteen years old. This was one of the highest rates among EU member states; the EU-27 average was 5.2%.
The farm structure survey carried out in 2010 suggests that a high number of people worked regularly in the Croatian agricultural industry (513,680 people). Many of these people were family helping out on the farm but having their main employment elsewhere. Farming in Croatia is very much a family affair; on average 90.7% of the labour input for agriculture (measured in annual work units) was carried out by the farmer and/or a member of his/her family in 2010. This was a much higher proportion than the average for the EU-27 (76.4%).
History and characteristics of CSA
How did CSA develop?
The first initiatives related to establishing CSA groups in Croatia were launched at the end of 2012 when the organisation ZMAG ran a project called ‘Fine Threads of Local Development’. The project supported local food production and the creation of cooperative groups for the purchase of locally produced food and the promotion of the preservation of old seed varieties and the concept of food sovereignty. Within the project, various workshops were held at national level where administrative teams were formed and CSA principles were agreed upon to bring about a movement with solidarity being the most important value identified.
We can say that the CSA movement in Croatia started similar to many of the worldwide movements – Community Supported Agriculture and Association pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne – in order to solve the problem of overpriced organic food in the country and the help save small-scale local food production.
What is understood by CSA?
Although the farms that supply Community Supported Agriculture in Croatia display small variations in size, organisational and production structure, their common characteristic is a tendency to bypass middlemen and ensure fair income for growers. In this context, we can find a much more common form that can be called “subscription”, where farmers guarantee a certain amount of farm produce for an agreed sum. The overarching definition states that solidarity groups are informal citizens’ groups that exchange products and services based on transparency, trust and solidarity.
Are there different types of CSA?
Groups of Solidarity Exchange, Organic Solidarity Groups, Exchange and Solidarity
Informal groups of citizens and non-profit organisations
Interaction with public bodies
Family farms as such operate within a legal framework of Croatian law, yet CSA as a model of direct selling was faced with legal obstacles from the very beginning because it wasn’t in full compliance with existing farm legislative bills. The concern of CSA farmers and consumers led to communication with the Ministry of Agriculture to expand and renew the bill in order to take basic and additional family farm activities into account.
Involvement of the eaters
From The Census data, we can say that group members are willing to invest their time and energy in actions that are tied to group interests, e.g. sharing recipes, covering administration work and attending open days. The group commitment could do far more by way of playing a bigger part in investment and food growing but this falls to the grower who openly has to ask for help.
Of seven respondents, three replied that their food is certified organic and another three respondents replied that their food is organic but not certified. However, even within groups there are differences about whether or not producers can be accepted if certification proves to be a financial obstacle for them.
Croatia is a country where family farms occupy 84% of agricultural land and about half of the farms are under one hectare. Families in the countryside are therefore still social actors that determine a significant part of our already small manufacturing role in the overall consumption of food. Research into the characteristics of Community Supported Agriculture in Croatia for the most part confirmed similarities with the characteristics of similar groups in other parts of the world.
Community Supported Agriculture can provide significant support to the development of organic agriculture, primarily as an additional distribution channel for organic products ensuring access by and inclusion of local communities. CSA group activities can definitely contribute to the building of local networks that may encourage more small-scale producers to engage in organic agriculture. This is certainly one of the activities that can contribute to the diversification of agriculture in Croatia, especially among the rural population who do not have sufficient capital to launch market-oriented agricultural production or who choose not to do so.
- Medić, Aleksandar, Sunčana Pešak & Mario Marić (2012) Grupe solidarne razmjene, Zelena mreža aktivističkih grupa. Zagreb.
- Šimleša, Dražen & Lay, Vladimir (2012) Nacionalni interesi (razvoja) Hrvatske kroz prizmu koncepta održivog razvoja. Zagreb.
- Znaor, Darko & Landau, Seth (2013) Unlocking the future – Seeds of Change: Sustainable Agriculture as a Path to Prosperity for the Western Balkans. Zagreb.
- Eurostat (2010) Structure of agriculture in Croatia.