Last spring, Izet Causevic and his colleagues - some disabled from the hard mine work or the war- at a coal mine in Kreka, Tuzla Canton, were about to be let go. But they didn't give up. Over 2021, they successfully planted willow shrubs on two sites on the mine. The plants are thriving. The miners have learned fast how to tend to them. They want to plant 225,000 new plants this spring. They have land, equipment, and assistance from CIFOR, but need help to buy 'cuttings' - the planting material.
The willows are 'super-hero' perennial bioenergy plants. They grow fast, and their heat intensity is better than that of lignite coal. They generate many fulfilling jobs in planting, maintenance, harvesting and processing. Even when harvested, they sprout again from the roots, and with this, they keep carbon in the soil - good for the climate. They also improve water, increase biodiversity and restore the land.
Fifteen new hectares of willow plantations is the intended next goal for the miners from Kreka. They plan in steps. Their end goal is to have seventy thousand hectares of energy willow in 2030 across the country - this would replace enough coal to provide 15% of Bosnia and Herzegovina's power needs from sustainable plantations. At the same time, it creates a few thousand new green jobs. Later, these plantations will be surrounded with other trees which will produce nuts, fruits and honey.