Greenhouses of hope

In Albania, the rolling hills of the Goriçan village have gradually become dotted with greenhouses. Now, year-round vegetable production is possible, thanks to enterprising farmers who have invested in the facilities.

Mystehak Goga, 68, lives in this small village and is one of these spirited farmers.

Man standing inside a greenhouse (Hung Vo/USAID)
Mystehak Goga. (Hung Vo/USAID)

Goga lived most of his life under communism, during a time when Albania was the most isolated nation in Europe.

In high school, he studied agricultural engineering, but because his father refused to join the farming cooperative under communism, Goga did not have the right to attend university. Instead, he worked in water and sewage, but he still held out hope for his dream career.

His second chance arrived when communism fell. In 1993, he became a tomato farmer, investing in greenhouse production with .2 of a hectare of land. After seeing a farmer in a nearby region experiment with greenhouses, he decided to try it in Goriçan. Now, Goriçan is the largest greenhouse producing area in Albania.

“In the beginning, we had a lot of difficulties in the business because we did not have the right knowledge and lacked the marketing skills,” Goga says.

Greenhouses next to river in a countryside, with mountains in distance (Hung Vo/USAID)
Located in a mountain range, Goriçan has a special microclimate that prevents temperatures from dropping too low. (Hung Vo/USAID)

Goga’s production expanded when he received a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to pave a road, allowing farmers to connect their land, improve efficiency and reduce transport costs. He and other farmers were able to expand their greenhouses from 3 hectares to 100 hectares in just a few years.

Goga went to Macedonia, Kosovo, Hungary and other countries to learn best practices — including new irrigation techniques and marketing strategies and how to export products regionally.

With USAID’s help, Goga also formed Albania’s first agriculture association, Hortigor, and became its president. Hortigor now owns 80 hectares of greenhouses in Goriçan. Other farmers followed their lead, and now the Kalmeti region has up to 500 hectares of greenhouses.

“The goal for myself and other businesspeople is to invest and leave our legacy to the next generation and their children,” Goga said. “I hope that my children and grandchildren will continue on this journey.”

A longer version of this article appears on USAID/Exposure.