Malesia e Madheis is a mountainous District in the Region of Shkodra where the landscape is dominated by the Albanian Alps. Traditionally, people who live there farm animals, mainly goats and sheep, and produce milk for home consumption. Some families are able to produce and sell cheese in the capital, Shkodra, but face constraints such as bad road conditions, market saturation, and no refrigerating system to preserve cheese in the hot season.
Five years ago the Hasanaj family, Drande, her husband, and their two children set up a small dairy, the first and only one in the area. They travel 60 km every day on unsafe roads to collect milk from 83 other families. The presence of a dairy, called “Velecik”, allowed all the families in the area to own more dairy animals (cows, sheep, and goats) and provide their own income. As for Drande and her family, they produce the traditional white cheese and more creative types of cheese, such as spicy cheese, sage cheese, nut cheese, sesame cheese, dry tomato cheese, and cumin cheese.
Due to its unique taste, Veleciku cheese (Djathe Velecik in Albanian) has become well known, and it is now found in shops, markets, supermarkets, and restaurants in Tirana, Durres, Shkodra, and many more places.
Oxfam is helping small holder farmers in Albania through improvement of the access to market and encourages the use of renewable energies through supply of solar panels, that help reduce the costs of production.