GTF Initiative Could Lure Investors To Lika-Senj County

Lauren Simmonds

gtf initiative
Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

August the 10th, 2023 – The praiseworthy GTF Initiative, which focuses on sustainable growth, could be what lures investors with deep pockets to the beautiful but tragically overlooked Lika-Senj County.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, admittedly, it’s probably somewhat difficult to imagine Lika as a paradise for investors. This is especially the case for those of who are aware of Lika’s struggles both economically and demographically. There are issues, but Lika popping up on the investment radar is by no means a pipe dream worth shelving. It could become a concrete reality in the coming period if we take into account the activities being carried out by Lika-Senj County and the local authorities, which, together with the GTF – Initiative for Sustainable Growth, generate the basis for everything that is sustainable and green.

These activities attract the local population, and on these premises, new companies, new jobs and new investments come. The GTF Initiative is led by founder and president Marry Ann Rukavina who has been working very intensively on that platform under the auspices of “together we are stronger”, with a characteristic multitude of pilot projects being implemented or being prepared, including some cross-border collaborations.

Ideas with Lika firmly in mind – sheep’s wool, anyone?

The latest example of good practice comes as part of the GTF Initiative’s smart agriculture project. In Perušić, more precisely next to the recycling yard, the infrastructure for the first such project in Adriatic Croatia is being set up. These are PVC towers on 120 square metres of land where plants hang in the air and get their food and water through the mist. This initiative aims to make people aware that they have a solution for their own crops at their fingertips.

“It could certainly be ideal for urban agriculture as well, through a small investment for the production of your own fruit and vegetables, the dependence on long supply chains is reduced,” said Rukavina.

The idea will be realised and the planned project will be presented this September, so it’s expected that it will arouse considerable public interest and stimulate many such small farms across Lika, as approximately 80 percent less water is used than in commercial agriculture. Solar panels are logically incorporated into the project, with green electricity being the source for the pumps in the region of Nikola Tesla’s birth. A project currently in its final stage is the elaboration of a study for heating such a space, and several options are being chosen from. The goal is to extend the growing season, and the premise of this is the most economical green source of heat, so that everything corresponds with the guiding idea of the circular economy.

“The substrate that will be used is based on sheep’s wool, and that’s why we’re connected with Dragica Jerkov, who opened the first factory for pelleting sheep’s wool in Otočac. This idea was born as one of the components of our business plan, for which the GTF Initiative received the award for the best social innovation in Croatia in 2016 by the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development, as well as from the OECD. This business plan is comprehensive, and in addition to wool pelleting, it also includes ecological wool washing and its use in the cosmetic and automotive industries,” explained Rukavina.

Natural protection for Lika’s famous potatoes

The use of sheep’s wool in this way is strongly evidenced by other projects, with the leading one being the regenerative agricultural estate, which follows the most modern global trends in agriculture. It is even used by global food producers. Several tons of sheep’s wool can be used as a substrate for the production of famous Lika potatoes. Compost obtained from the utility company from Koprivnica is also added to the ice during the process, which is then used for the reprocessing of municipal waste.

Lika as an eco-oasis

Both projects, as well as the commercial use of part of the broad business plan, lead one to ask question of what the general guiding thread of the GTF Initiative is, exactly? Rukavina explained that “their goal is to turn Lika into an eco-oasis,” which it already is in terms of boasting protected nature parks and national parks, but it needs to gain wider significance in terms of sustainable agriculture.

We’re pioneers in Croatia, acting in a multitude of ways, from preparing pilot projects, to being an incubator of knowledge that people and enterprises then can take on, as well as through education programmes, which includes working with young people on innovative and sustainable entrepreneurship,” added Rukavina.

The GTF Initiative is connecting people and structures alike

Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

Through the incubator model of sustainable entrepreneurship in Lika, the GTF Initiative is present in various ways. It is present in sustainable tourism and agriculture, through short supply chains, in cooperation with tourist operators, all with the aim of raising the image and perception of the overlooked region of Lika in the best possible way. “It’s important for us to brand the Lika area as a region bursting with potential in order to attract investors and to encourage people to stay here,” said Rukavina.

This initiative was actually registered about twenty years ago, has its headquarters in Gospić and an office in Zagreb, and employs about ten people. Rukavina stated that they have a a lot of social influence, and are now spreading their influence across Croatian borders. The project on the subject of bio-waste, for the purpose of re-use and the better management of bio-waste, is being worked on in cooperation with Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, they are part of the first working group for blue-green growth, for the circular economy of Lika-Senj County, which has the first such working body in all of Croatia.

The idea of a green and sustainable Lika and the connection of people and all of the region’s structures is a prerequisite for the successful implementation of their enviable series of planned projects. Rukavina pointed out that the human potential in Lika isn’t quantitatively great, but the key lies in the quality it offers, which has been given a special stamp by the women of Lika as the initiators of new and more progressive ideas.


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