It is well known that Montenegro is rich with medicinal herbs and spices, but its natural potentials are mostly untapped. Only sincere nature lovers recognize the importance and richness of its resources and become aware of the beneficial effects of individual plant species on the organism. The cluster „Ljekobilje” was established with a purpose of production and promotion of medicinal, aromatic and spicy herbs, herbal cosmetics, oils and other products, which are in accordance with the principle of sustainability and environmental protection. This nine-member non-governmental association, co-founded by its founders, is driven by the desire to produce but also to live by the law of nature. We talked to Ana Milovic Jasikovac, one of the members, and asked her how the Cluster was formed, what the development path was and what their plans were.
As a member of the recently formed cluster “Ljekobilje”, please could you tell our readers what the cluster is and how it was created?
The cluster “Ljekobilje” stemmed from the project Together Stronger – Product Development and Internationalization – Stronger, implemented by the Business Women Association of Montenegro through the Interreg IPA Cross-Border Cooperation Program, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. The cluster is an added value of the project Stronger, which aims to increase and promote the entrepreneurial capacity of those involved in medicinal plants, their collection and processing. This association was formed by the synergy of our desire and will, with the support of IEC Tehnopolis and the Business Women Association of Montenegro.
The mission of our association is successful and sustainable production, processing, protection and sale of medicinal, aromatic and spicy herbs, herbal cosmetics, oils and other derivatives of medicinal herbs and other products of that kind in accordance with the principles of sustainability and environmental protection. We have formed this cluster to achieve easier product placement, easier registration and certification of products, creating our own brand and unique appearance on the domestic, regional and European market, expansion of the market to the countries of the region, to make an impact at the policies related to the protection and sustainability of the production of medicinal products.
As domestic, healthy and eco-friendly products are put in the foreground much more in Montenegro and the products of the Cluster members fulfill each of these “conditions”, how did you make them available? Where can they be found?
Part of the offer can be found in the health food stores “Vodenica”, which is a member of the cluster. Currently, we rely on the online presentation the most, so products can be found on online networks, site www.ljekobilje.me, as well as on the regional Stronger platform. We did our best to show everything that our offer contains. Contact information of all members is available there so potential buyers can easily reach the manufacturer.
How do you assess the contribution of the cluster „Ljekobilje” to the Montenegrin market so far?
Today people are returning to nature due to the effects of global warming, pollution, overuse of pesticides that have a bad impact on human life and health. The cluster „Ljekobilje” offers only products that can contribute to improving the lives of individuals and the entire society. All products, although similar, have their own value and different effects. We work on a natural basis, so “Ljekobilje” is a bright spot that contributes to the global goal of coming back to nature, respecting it and living by the law of nature.
You participated in the Sixth New Year’s Fair of Local Products in Niksic and recently had a presentation at Mall of Montenegro, where you presented the cluster and products of some members. What are your impressions?
We are very pleased with the participation in both events, especially the participation in the Sixth New Year’s Fair of Local Products in Niksic. The organization and conditions of the exhibition were better than in previous years. The attendance at the cluster booth was very good, which also had a positive effect on sales. This was an opportunity to make numerous contacts, both with the media and with new potential members of the cluster.
Business is much easier because we are trying to act as a community whose members share business experiences. When people collaborate so well and are open to one another and at the same time have common goals, the disadvantages are simply hard to find. The only thing I can say is maybe slower decision making because there are more of us, but it certainly does not affect the quality but improves it. Consistent opinions lead to better decisions and therefore better results.
As you mentioned that clustering has a generally positive side, is this form of association recognized in the right way in Montenegro?
The cluster as a form of association has been recognized in Montenegro, but I believe that some of the relevant actors should provide more support as well as revise their commitments when giving it. Somehow, significant financial participation is always required, which is even more difficult for small organizations. There is a lot of information and programs available, but I believe that it is necessary to facilitate association and progress by reducing financial obligations and simplifying application forms.
The cluster was formed with the support of Tehnopolis, and then you became a part of its business incubator. Are you satisfied with the support provided to the members of the Cluster so far?
IEC Tehnopolis was a significant impulse for the foundation of this cluster, because in cooperation with the Business Women Association of Montenegro, it managed to bring us all together in one place. These two organizations offer us full support, which is still ongoing, within which we have created a website and provided branded booths. After the end of the Stronger project, pre-incubation of the cluster in Tehnopolis has begun, offering us the support of our expert teams on financial, legal and marketing issues all time long, as well as the use of the infrastructure for meetings.
Seeing all this, we are very pleased with the openness and communication that we have with Tehnopolis on a daily base.
What are your further expectations of incubation and what are your plans for developing the Cluster?
We have made a development plan for the first quarter of this year, mainly related to the advisory meetings we need to further build the capacity and skills of the members and the Cluster itself. In addition, a public presentation of the cluster is planned, where we hope that Tehnopolis will play a big role, as it has a formed business community and some of them have already seen us as potential associates. We will have the presentation of the Cluster in Niksic and Bar, followed by the certification of some of the members, product certification, possible agricultural certification of the holdings, obtaining certain labels, so that as far as the first quarter is concerned we have a lot of activities. We are also in the phase of developing a project that will contribute to Montenegro’s tourism offer and we are working intensively on it. We also plan to launch a joint product, which is still in the process of negotiating, as we believe that as an association we will be able to cooperate with future partners more easily.
There are those in Montenegro who share your love for nature, so growing and processing herbs is their basic choice. How can one become part of the cluster „Ljekobilje”?
We are open for membership expansion, because our work does not only affect the territory of Niksic municipality, but the whole state of Montenegro. It is important for potential members to know that we nurture values such as sustainability, natural production, natural and healthy products, open communication, clear disclosure of interests and the expression of certain needs. On the site of the cluster ” Ljekobilje”, those who are interested can find my e-mail address, make a request and briefly explain their previous activities. We will consider that request in a short notice and bring a decision if we can start with cooperation.
Members of the “Ljekobilje” cluster and their products:
• Angelina Nikolic, within the Nikolic household, collects and dries teas, but also grows fruits and vegetables from which she makes homemade products such as apple cider vinegar, jams, compotes, and juices. He is also involved in beekeeping and offers honey, propolis, and other products by bees that are suitable for medicines and cosmetics.
Contact phone: +382 67 302 480
• Biljana Arapovic, a representative of the Glavatovic farm, as a horticulture lover, started producing essential oils from medicinal cultures – immortelle and lemon balm. She is proud to point out a line of essential oil of immortelle with a great number of beneficial effects on the human body.
Contact phone: +382 67 521 508
• LLC “Olivmont” from Bar, whose CEO is Marija Babic, is engaged in the production of olive oil and soap based on olive oil, whose recipe is enriched with the use of essential oils. There are also two types of creams based on olive oil and lavender and olive oil and tar.
Contact phone: +382 69 243 845
• Jelena Glusica Nikolic started a line of “Aroma” natural cosmetics, macerates, tinctures, balms, certain medicinal preparations based on organic herbs that she collects or grows herself.
Contact phone: +382 67 552 699
• Ćirović Beekeeping is engaged in the production of certified multi-floral honey, as well as other bee products such as natural propolis, furs in honey-fermented pollen. They also have a special cosmetic line “Ana-Marija”, which offers several types of creams based on propolis, honey, and wax in combination with herbs and essential oils.
Contact telephones for cosmetics: +382 67 405 080; honey: +382 67 417 297
• Vodenica is a health food store, which purchases the best medicinal and aromatic herbs, cereals and other products from our fields and then processes, packs and sells them.
Contact phone: +382 67 224 217
• Lidija Giljen, a physical therapist by profession, is involved in the production of essential oils for this purpose, but also in the production of local products of fruits and vegetables, such as jams, liqueurs, juices, jams.
Contact phone: +382 68 060 063
• LLC Herbs and Clay is a small company whose primary activity is the production of unique ceramic items, but also the cultivation of decorative and aromatic plants. In the form of eco-friendly ceramic packaging and souvenir designs, they want to fulfill the offer of other manufacturers within the cluster.
Contact Phones: Ana: +382 68 057 808; Nebojsa: +382 68 621 414