Charcoal kilns in the villages near Fojnica: How the healthiest and highest quality charcoal is being produced

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Proizvodnja ćumura FOTO: VELIJA HASANBEGOVIĆ

A narrow road and a dusty macadam from Fojnica towards the enchanting, but insufficiently known natural gem, the Kozica waterfalls, passes through several almost abandoned villages of the common name Pridola. There used to be hundreds of inhabitants, and today almost all of them can be counted on the fingers of both hands.

Vladići, Dragačići, Vukeljići, Živčići, Majdan, Botun, Rizvići, Kozica, Podstijena … In each of these villages a few residents still live there, and most of them, besides agriculture, live from the production of charcoal. At every few meters along the road, small charcoal kilns (Bosnian: ćumurana, žega) peek from the ground, and just like several hundred years ago, locals produce carcoal in it.

In Dragačići we meet Irfan Drinić, who arranges woods and prepares them to be burnt in his charcoal kiln, from which the highest quality coal will soon be created.

Beech wood

– My charcoal kiln is 15 years old, and it’s made of brick. I arrange wood, fill the kiln, burn it, close it; it has an iron cap, put a little sand or soil up and then just smoke comes out . Every six hours one must feed the fire … The raw wood is burning longer, and when it is drier, it takes about seven days for coal to be created. This is all beech wood, although other kinds can be used as well, but the best and the most quality is beech and hornbeam – Drinić tells us while arranging wood.

He explains that this kind of coal, which is made in traditional way, is the best and the healthiest.

– It’s certainly the first league coal. There are no additions in this, and those cubes that our people buy for barbecue are made of dust that remains and the glue is put in the cubes. This is by no means healthy – Drinić said, adding that even better quality coal was obtained in the oldest charcoal kilns that were made underground.

He explains to us and how he knows when the coal is done.

– When the fire is lit, there is a white smoke coming out of it, when the blue smoke goes up, there is a bar that is pushed through the pipe and you see the coal when it comes out, you see it and then you know i sit done or not – said Dragačić.

While showing us bags filled with prepared coal, he tells us that 10 meters of wood can be put in the charcoal kiln, and from that you can get 190 to 215 sacks containing 12 to 15 kilos of coal, depending on the weather.

His sons are helping him in the business. The youngest son Hamza is still to go to school, while two older Haris and Adem are unemployed even though they have graduated to be pharmaceutical technicians.

Living from agriculture

– You know how it goes, they cannot find any job anywhere which is suitable to their education. Haris has passed the state exam, but he does not have a job. Both of them help me here, and Haris is a waiter in Fojnica. Besides this, we sow, everything succeeds out here. We have blueberries and cherries, recently we have been able to pick these fruits to make it enough for neighborhood of Sarajevo, so much we had, but it was rapidly disappeared due to rain. We have a problem with raspberries only. One day, when God gave us the sun, instead of picking it then, they didn’t give us containers and crates, then it starts to rain and most of it was ruined. 500 kilograms of raspberries rotten, he says.

He says that villages in this region have remained desolate even though they can live a fine life from agriculture and production of coal.

– Who wants to work, he or she can do that. This region of Central Bosnia is paradise. Here, when mushrooms grow well, it can happen that people earn up to 7,000 BAM in three or four months. Unfortunately, there are very few of us remained here. In Majdan there was a school, shops, ambulances, today only walls are standing; people have gone in search for better life. If the municipality tries to fix the road, many tourist would go to the lake and to the waterfalls. My wife and I would make some kind of a building, we would make pie and other dishes, so that people have somewhere to sit, rest, then it would be even more work for everyone – Drinić believes.