Last week I visited Oikocredit partner Ezoxs with four journalists. We not only got an impression of what the founders of the agricultural business had achieved (see part 1), but also the key role that Ezoxs plays in the community.
Bread and medicine
The economic measures taken by the Bulgarian government shortly after the fall of communism left villages primarily inhabited by pensioners and characterized by high levels of unemployment and recession. In addition to jobs and income from letting small plots of land, Ezoxs offers members of the surrounding villages classic public sector social services, such as snow clearing, medical care, procurement of residential property and education. Every day 700 loaves of bread are delivered to pensioners’ homes at a social rate. Feed for the leaseholders’ small animals is provided free of charge. In a former residential estate for workers, flats are being prepared for young families and pensioners.
Organic milk and biogas
Oikocredit has granted Ezoxs loans amounting to more than € 5.7 million since 2004, with € 475,000 still outstanding. The latest financing was used for the construction of a biogas plant, which generates renewable energy. This plant was installed by Austrian company BIOGEST, whose biogas expert Georgi Kirov is personally overseeing the project. Specialists on site have been trained to operate and maintain the plant.
Kirov is satisfied: “At 800 kW in output, Ezoxs not only covers its own power needs, but also feeds sufficient power into the Bulgarian grid to recoup all costs after five to six years. This means that over the agreement term with the state of 15 years, a lucrative additional business as a power supplier is possible. The high-quality milk and the renewable energy make Ezoxs a model business.
Its two founders live for their company, never take a holiday and love their seven-day week. Former banker and Ezoxs founder Ogniyanov sums it up: “We feel like we are in paradise here, because we are living our dream. Our farm is our life. That’s more than we had ever dreamt of.”
This blog was originally posted to the Oikocredit Germany website.