After disaster in Bosnia, guiding Jajce and Gradacac towards a dog management plan
Very dramatic floods have recently devastated a large part of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as well as several neighbouring countries, washing away houses, drowning crops, and killing people and animals.
Over the last two weeks, in the aftermath of this disaster, I was in BiH with IFAW to pursue our work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in helping six communities develop their own humane roaming dog population management plan.
Together with our Bosnian colleagues from the UNDP, whom we have trained to facilitate IFAW’s process, Becky Brimley and I traveled to Jajce and Gradacac to start the planning process to improve the welfare of dogs. Jajce is located in the central part of BiH, while Gradacac is in the northeastern of the country, not far from the border with Croatia.
On our first day in the United Nations House in Sarajevo we attended a UN coordination meeting meant to update the International Community on landmines migration and the displacement of people in BiH. Participants in the meeting included representatives of Embassies, Missions, NATO, International Armed Forces, and others.
We were warned that 70% of the flood-affected zone was contaminated by mines which, due to the floods and landslides, had migrated; mines signs and fencing had been washed away, making these areas highly dangerous places. However, traveling around the country was safe as most of the main roads were clear of mines.
We were also informed that more than 1,500 people were still living in temporary housing, out of which over 20% will probably never return to their home.
On the road from Sarajevo to Jajce, it didn’t take very long before we could see the first signs of what must have been an unprecedented natural disaster for people and animals.
Along the Bosna River, a row of plastic bags and other waste hung in trees at least 5 meters above the water, showing how high the water went.
The power of the stream had swept everything away and the floods had left hundreds of houses, animals and crop fields under water. Also, landslides had buried some houses under rocks, gravel and mud, or left other houses leaning and hanging on the mountains slopes.
Upon arrival in the beautiful medieval town of Jajce, our IFAW/UNDP team immediately went to the Hotel “Turist 98” to prepare the room for the community workshop.
The Mayor opened the session saying that a lot has already been accomplished in Jajce to fix the issue of roaming dogs, but more needs to be done. He reiterated his support to community stakeholders in working together with IFAW/UNDP to develop a long-term dog population management plan for Jajce.
The group of participants included representatives from the municipality, the police, the disabled, the students, but also teachers, hunters, and the media.
There was a palpable tension on the first day as these varied representatives shared their individual perspectives of the problems associated with dogs in their communities.
We expect this when we bring community groups together, and as the workshop proceeded, the atmosphere soothed, the debate became more and more constructive and everyone was finally able to express their perspectives.
Over the course of the 2-day workshop the group increasingly worked together.
By the end the group had, to my surprise, managed to agree on the sources of their problems related to roaming dogs and identified a list of assumptions in their logic which they want to test in order to make sure that the plan they develop is most effective, efficient, humane and sustainable. Participants committed to verifying these assumptions by collecting the data needed before the second workshop which will take place later this year.
To everybody’s surprise, a representative from the municipality kindly offered the participants use of the municipality’s premises in order to achieve their tasks for collecting data, even offering her own office as a distribution point for materials to any participants who don’t have email access.
The gesture was truly appreciated and praised by the community.
In Gradacac, the workshop was hosted at a beautiful countryside restaurant turned into a working room for the occasion; the view was on a splendid garden owned by animal lovers.
During coffee breaks, which are a vital component of Bosnian culture, participants enjoyed watching bunnies lollop across the lawn.
The group in Gradacac again included representatives from the municipality, private and public veterinarians, teachers, pensions association, representatives of the disabled, and the media.
Here, the atmosphere in the group was collaborative right from the beginning of the workshop.
Everyone participated very actively in all the exercises and the group seemed to be relatively on the same page about problems related to roaming dogs in Gradacac and the sources of these problems.
The groups in both Jajce and Gradacac identified that they could immediately start working on raising the level of understanding of dogs needs within their community so we gave them all copies of our Cats, Dogs and Us educational materials in Bosnian.
They were delighted!
A participant committed to displaying straight away the "Dogs Needs" poster in the “info pult” situated in a pedestrian zone near the municipal building in Gradacac.
To learn more about IFAW's partnership with the UNDP in Bosnia, click here.