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Chestnut Processing in Pécsbánya Creating employment opportunities in Pécsbánya settlement

Once characterised by a prosperous miner community, Pécsbánya has been caught in a downward spiral for the past 25 years. The closure of the coal mines reorganized the social landscape of the neighbourhood. To find a solution to one of the most pressing local problems, unemployment, Pécsbányatelep Cultural Association proposed to make use of the chestnut fields surrounding the local cultural centre.

Currently, the local community is divided into three distinct groups: ageing miners, Roma families affected by deep poverty and newly arrived settlers, many of which are highly educated. To redefine the neighbourhood’s identity and bring it back to prosperity, Pécsbányatelep Cultural Association was created in 2011. The Association has been active in several fields: they have organised cultural events, engaged in community work, and offered skills training to the local inhabitants.

As one of the winners of the 2016 Springboard Programme, the Association was awarded funding by Badur to install two roasted chestnut stalls in Pécs. The raw chestnuts are partially sourced from the fields surrounding the local cultural centre, which has a two-fold benefit. First, it provides raw material at a competitive price for the venture, and second, several local families can be given the opportunity to earn significant supplementary income from picking the chestnuts. The inauguration of the roasted chestnut stalls was organised on October 8, 2016 within the framework of the local Chestnut Festival, and ever since the two stalls have been successfully operating. The enterprise already reached break-even in the first year and it has provided much needed work opportunities for five local community members, who managed the preparation and selling of chestnuts.

The set-up of the mobile chestnut stalls was just the first step. The Association has more ambitious goals; they would like to open a chestnut flour factory. To enable this, the Association continues to receive professional support from Badur in cooperation with NESsT so that they can detail their business plan and the factory can be opened in 2017/2018.

All in all, these two initiatives will generate stable employment opportunities for the local families, who will be able to take part in the picking, selling and processing of chestnuts.

Read more about the development of this initiative on the Chestnut project’s website.