"I just love it! I can imagine doing something else, but I'm happy right where I am. I grew up in the countryside, I love sheep and cows. If you don't like that whole thing, you simply cannot be a successful breeder," says 39-year-old Damir Tišma, who lives with his five-member family in the village of Ivoševci in the municipality of Kistanje in Croatia. Damir is an ideal example of a man who lives in harmony with nature. If more people followed his example, life would be less challenging: people would be happy and, in return, nature would offer its resources, from water and food to remedies or simply inspiration.
But everyday life is somewhat different: we are neither always in harmony with nature nor do we always understand what that implies. Therefore, the fact that the Krka National Park supports livestock farmers through the Agreement on land use without compensation represents an excellent example of the aforementioned harmony: livestock farmers can use the pastures of the Park for grazing thus guaranteeing that these pastures will not end up encroached.
“My goal is to have as big a pasture as possible, and the aim of the Park is not to have encroached pasture. Additionally, the Park wants to establish good cooperation with the local population," Damir Tišma says
"I accidentally found a parcel I liked very much, so I went to the Forest office to make an inquiry about the owner and to find out how to take the pastures on lease. They referred me to the Krka National Park, where I met with Mr Drago Marguš, and it turned out they thought it was a good idea for me to take care of the pastures," says Damir, explaining how the collaboration with the park begun. The park was looking to lease the area for grazing to a person or a family that would, in return, take care of that same area. "The area is huge, overgrown with spruce. My goal is to have as big a pasture as possible, and their aim is not to have encroached pastures. Additionally, the Park wants to establish good cooperation with the local population."
The "Krka National Park" public institution is carrying out this project in order to preserve the rocky pastures and biodiversity because the changes in the lifestyle of men have conditioned the changes in the composition of plant species and the structure of the habitat in the past decades. The Conservation Manager of the Park, Drago Marguš, Ph.D., explains how the extraordinary diversity of active pastures has declined over the years. "Pastures that were previously used for grazing have been encroached by shrubs and mostly by spruce. Such type of vegetation has significantly smaller biodiversity and variety of species compared to rocky vegetation. In addition to preventing succession, this project actively helps reduce the risk of fire."
Both Drago and Damir were surprised that only the Tišma family applied for the project! "I don't know how it is possible that no one else applied! I hope that soon there will be two, three acquaintances asking for support because I have talked to many people about this," Damir said, pointing out that his is an excellent example of cooperation between the Park and the local population, to mutual satisfaction and benefit.
"I was born in this area and I fell in love with the nature here when I was just a kid. We are Dinaric people, this is in our blood and we need to protect it,“ Željko Burza says
Finally, somebody reacted! Two cattle farmers applied for cooperation and they are currently negotiating with the Park. One of them, Željko Burza from Bilušića Buk, claims that this cooperation should have started a lot earlier. "I was born in this area and I fell in love with the nature here when I was just a kid. We are Dinaric people, this is in our blood. After living in Split and working in a shipyard for 39 years, I went back to Bilušića Buk, but I can't keep still: I keep 25 goats, 40 sheep and I'm about to buy two cows. I am one with stone and karst, I love it," says Željko. They know him well in the National Park because he has been maintaining a communal path for years.
"I have a billhook, a small tool for cutting shrubs. Every morning when I go to the field, I trim the spruce and other vegetation, as I am also interested in expanding the pasture on which my cattle graze. I am waiting for the Park to call me to come sign the agreement and I'm looking forward to cooperating," concluded Burza, a distant relative of Damir Tišma.
As a young boy, Damir spent days and nights looking after sheep and cows with his father. This is why he did not even think of choosing another profession.
"Sheep are my favorite, but they are hard to keep because they are the most demanding! They need great attention, you have to be with them all the time, which is not the case with cows and horses." The Tišma family keeps two horses, 50 Buša cattle and over one hundred sheep. "Buša cattle are easy to keep, they just require grazing, there are no additional charges. They are good in terms of organic farming and ideal in the karst area. This is a local breed and it is very adaptable, they eat everything."
The Tišma family already does organic farming, and they will get their eco-certification in two years. The state requires taking an exam in order to issue this certificate. "That's why I'm attending lectures where they teach me how to be a cattle breeder, although none of the lecturers have as much experience as I do. It is what it is. If I want the certificate, I have to pass the exam," says Damir, aware of the fact that he will raise prices because of the certificate, much to the disapproval of his regular customers. "The locals don't care if the meat comes with a certificate, but what it tastes like. But I do it for us, I believe that organic farming represents the future," says a cattle farmer whose meat processing business was mostly done locally. "This year, however, we had an order from Imotski."
"The locals don't care if the meat comes with a certificate, but what it tastes like. I believe that organic farming represents the future," Tišma says
Damir is a father of three, but he does not believe his kids will follow in his and his wife Sanja's footsteps. The oldest, 12-year-old Boban, helps by driving a tractor in the field, which is what he's most interested in, while the five-year-old Jakov helps only when he is asked. For the time being, it is the 10-year-old Darija who helps the most. She loves horses as well as all other animals. "There is no need for us to move to a city, we have everything we need right here. Also, Zadar and Knin are close by and Zagreb is not that far away. I'm only sorry that there are no more children in the village, so my kids miss having company."
The Tišma family points out that living in the village can be very nice. "Currently, the trend is for people to go to Germany or anywhere outside of Croatia, and our biggest problem is that nobody appreciates what we have here. We all think that it is nicer somewhere else, and we only realize how nice we have it when the Germans come here and admire our nature and our cattle," concludes Damir, claiming that the municipality should also benefit from a young family living and developing a business here. "The message is clear - it's not just the older generations, young people can live here too. But nobody talks about this."
"The message is clear - it's not just the older generations, young people can live here too. But nobody talks about this."
Damir only has nice things to say about the relationship with the Park. "They come out to the field to inspect what we are doing. During these two years that we have enjoyed the Park's support, there have been no problems. In fact, they gave me water when I didn't have any. Ours is a very friendly cooperation."
When asked about what kind of future he sees for this area, Damir replies: "It is very difficult for me to sell the cattle, I really get attached to the animals. If they are cute, it's hard for me to give them away. Because of this, and in order to simplify my work, I'm thinking about keeping only Buša cattle. It's much simpler with Buša cattle. Electric fences enclose the pastures, I move them from one pasture to another, and it amounts to barely two hours of work a day. With sheep, it's like there are no weekends or holidays. When lambing starts, I cannot leave the village for three months."
Damir has a lot of sheep so he doesn't name each one. However, the special ones, the most stubborn or beautiful, always have a name. Crna, Mica, Roga, Crnorepa or Tupava are almost always out grazing. "In the summer, the sheep need milking which takes at least three to four hours a day. I would need a few more people to do this, but as there are no people, we don't process milk. If there were any people in the village, they could help," concludes Damir and says that you can earn a good living by doing what he does. "However, there's a lot of work. And it can't be done by somebody who doesn't like it. You cannot get into this for economic benefit, that mindset should be left in some office. This simply has to be done out of love!"
Drago Marguš agrees with this statement. "Pasture encroachment leads to the reduction in biodiversity. We are now conducting a research on how to prevent the encroachment of pastures, whether it is through grazing or burning. According to the results so far, it seems that the right way to restore the rocky pastures is through grazing which contributes to the local community and to the development of the region, to preserving the tradition, heritage and cultural customs as well as ecological awareness and ultimately biodiversity through the coexistence of man and nature."