Eco-experience rises from the COVID-19 ashes in AlbaniaDriven by her love for nature, in 2016 Elona Bejo built a farm and bio-boutique for tourists who love nature and outdoor activities in the countryside of southern Albania. Her eco-friendly farm contributes to the economic development of the local area, which continues to see people leaving for better opportunities in urban centers. Despite the obstacles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bejo’s aims to create new income opportunities for her business and for the rural women in her community.
An authentic Albanian experience
Situated amidst untouched nature, Bejo’s farm, Ferma Grand Albanik, is located at the foot of the Trebeshinë Mountain. It is surrounded by magnificent rivers, lakes, canyons, mountains, and forests that offer endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, swimming and fishing.
The farm includes a 15-bed hotel, a restaurant, a bio-boutique, and camping area, “the main farm building is reconstructed with natural and ecological materials such as stone and wood that has a historical memory, and the history goes on through my story," Bejo said.
Her goal is to give visitors an authentic Albanian experience: "Off the tourist circuits, off the main roads, amidst the natural wonder". Her farm kitchen and shop are supplied mainly by farm products and cooperative farm families from the surrounding areas, contributing to the economic development of the local community. The farm bio-boutique gives visitors the opportunity to take home a little of their holiday taste that Bejo calls: "Delights of endless memories!".
COVID-19 causes havoc
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bejo's business had to shut down temporarily. She saw fluctuating incomes and no foreign tourists. She now has to grapple with a financial hole. "We closed the hotel and restaurant, and it was very difficult to keep working with our suppliers … But we do not give up!".
Her plan to rise from the ashes depends on diversifying her services and building an organic brand. She intends to launch online sales for a variety of organic products and herbs from the region. Her strategy and approach do not only aim to create new income opportunities for her business, but also seeks to create chances for home-based rural women through collaborations with the farm. Bejo’s approach to her business and motivation is based on her hope and love of helping others, which she considers as her favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur.
A new, more diverse future
Bejo’s dreams are big! Her efforts for the future will focus on maximizing the quality of her services and attending to the needs of her costumers. She aspires to further develop her business to meet all ecological standards by building a drying and stocking rooms for medicinal and aromatic herbs as well as raising the bar even higher by building a section for wild fruit juices and jams. Bejo also seeks to invest in herself and her employees by building professional capacities and learning from others. This was one of the reasons why she participated in UN Women's Women's Entrepreneurship Expo in April 2021 - a space to connect, create and accelerate business ideas and growth for women entrepreneurs amid COVID-19.