|DEŠA | Bitter Oranges for Sweet Entrepreneurship|
|Author:Željka Mandić; Translated by: Makso Herman|
|Ponedjeljak, 23 Siječanj 2012|
Up until recently, few people would think that a rare type of fruit, grown in the Dubrovnik area, could join small family businesses together for a common goal: the production of jam. More precisely, bitter orange jam. The fruit, which is well-known to all people from the Dubrovnik area, still sometimes raises confusion due to its name. Bitter oranges? Can that be? Yes. This unique plant grows in Dubrovnik.
It looks like a regular orange, but its taste is somewhat bitterer. Bitter oranges hold a special place in Dubrovnik’s history and tradition. Its orange color, green leaves and delightful scent proudly decorate Dubrovnik’s gardens, and you can even see them in Pile and Ploče – both entrances to Dubrovnik’s old city…
Bitter oranges are a famous culinary treat with positive medicinal effects. They are a true treasure from nature and – as is often the case with such treasures – we have not yet explored them to the full extent. They are working to promote the fruit and initiate a joint entrepreneurial venture… briefly: to give the bitter orange the place it deserves and the small family businesses the chance they deserve.
Orange jam – indigenous product
“The potential of this remarkable fruit is enormous. We couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste. That is why we chose to initiate a project to connect small family businesses which cherish the tradition of planting and growing bitter oranges. The goal of our project is to manufacture bitter orange jam and turn it into an indigenous product, thus helping to increase employment among the local population. We are certain that the product will be a great symbol of our local tradition”, explained Jeny Hansal, president of the Dubrovnik Deša Association.
The Association believes that with time they will succeed in implementing their idea of standardizing their product as an indigenous feature of the area. The people who are to take part have already gotten to work, while the City of Dubrovnik and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management secured the initial funds necessary to start the project in the amount of 200.000 kuna. All other demands will undoubtedly be fulfilled through the love of the local people for the bitter orange and the connection between their roots and the enchanting smell of this incredible fruit. The project has already been presented to the public several times, mainly through organizing bitter orange jam festivals. Everyone who ever had a taste of the jam always wanted to take some home, said several Dubrovnik women, who know how to use bitter oranges in a variety of recipes.
The bitter orange as a factor in keeping young people from leaving
“We will try to use this project to motivate younger people not to leave the area, as they often do due to the economic circumstances. We planned the entire course of the project, starting from educating potential manufacturers and founding a manufacturing association. Our goal is to create a recognizable product which will in turn bring a better economic standard to the local population of the wide Dubrovnik area”, explained Hansal.
This story has everything necessary to become a true success: the enthusiasm of the members of Deša, the support of the local community, and the local people – in love with their home and this unique fruit – the bitter orange. If you add to this the fact that the bitter orange, from which this jam is made, is an indigenous plant, then success is a sure thing. The project has already had great results and so far it is proving to be a true testimony of how a socially sensitive entrepreneurship, when implemented properly, can have a future.
The Deša Association is also proud of the fact that the project relies exclusively on local resources – human, natural, etc. – and stimulates cooperation between sectors by including local authorities. Of course, the project adheres to the principle of sustainable development, because its initiators want it be a long-term thing. Deša has been systematically educating the local population so as to increase the production of bitter oranges. The education within the project increases family incomes, decreases poverty and, what Deša is especially proud of, puts traditional values back into their deserved place.
Creating a gastro-souvenir
Almost everyone who tries bitter orange jam wants to take some home with them. The Association has so far successfully presented its jam on various international and domestic congresses. They’ve also held numerous workshops on manufacturing bitter orange jam. Deša has even organized a Festival dedicated to their jam and has a strong presence in the area’s tourism. Their intention is to reach end users, guests of the Dubrovnik area and that is why they’ve chosen hotels as venue to present and prepare traditional products from bitter oranges. Sometimes their presentations include as much as two hundred kilos of oranges, sugar and lemon juice.
The Dubrovnik Bitter Orange Association, founded by Deša in order to join together small family businesses, is on a fast track to becoming a truly sustainable project. Even though so much has already been accomplished, the Association estimates that around two thousand bitter orange plants currently grow in the Dubrovnik area. Unfortunately, many often go to waste. That is why Deša will do everything in their power to give each bitter orange its picker, and that each and every picker and manufacturer creates a better life for themselves through becoming a part of the production of a true Dubrovnik gastro-souvenir.
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