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Consulting Services to the Fostering Interventions for Rapid Market Advancement (FIRMA)

FIRMA was a four-year project that began in September 2009 and is funded by USAID and Sida. The purpose of the project was to support enterprise competitiveness in selected value chains of the tourism, wood, and light manufacturing sectors of BiH, in the process advancing the country’s ability to meet the Copenhagen Economic Criteria for accession to the European Union. To support sustainability, the project worked primarily through a group of key local implementing partners, known as the “FIRMA Consortium”, who cover all regions of the country.

The goals of USAID and Sida for FIRMA were ambitious and transformational, and therefore require wide impact – in product design and quality, in ways of connecting to markets, in expertise of workforce, and in investment attractiveness. FIRMA's strategy is directed toward these systemic objectives.

The FIRMA workplan was defined at the private sector value chain level. Implementing partners, called “Value Chain Facilitators” (VCFs), organise stakeholders first to identify and prioritise competitiveness obstacles through value chain analysis, and then to originate and manage discrete activities to address these obstacles. FIRMA supervised and supported these activities, providing strategic and operational guidance, expert technical assistance, and grants from its $3 million Small Grants Fund. In order to maximise scale and impact, FIRMA worked closely with other donors and local government agencies that provided development assistance programs consistent with FIRMA's objectives – so-called “collaborating implementers”.

FIRMA was implemented by Cardno Emerging Markets USA, Ltd. (Arlington, VA), with several consortium subcontractors including ORGUT Consulting AB and 12 regional and local economic development agencies in BiH. As a subcontractor, ORGUT carried out consulting services to FIRMA specifically within the wood value chain. The Wood Processing Sector supported improvements of value-added wood products in product design, product quality and safety, application of up-to date technologies to enable efficient, flexible, and exact product fabrications, and workforce skills and capabilities. ORGUT has carried out:

• A Sawlog Market Assessment which comprehensively assessed, analysed, and reported on the sawlog supply and demand situation in BiH;

• A study on transition to new standards for forest timber assortments including developing an Action Plan with measures and actions to increase implementation of the standards by the industry;

• A study on the utilization of low grade assortments and transformation of coppice forests including developing an Action Plan with measures and actions for transformation of low value to high value forests, including usage of cut assortments for industrial usage.

In addition, ORGUT did Sector Outlook Reports for the three selected value chains of the tourism, wood, and light manufacturing sectors, which provided FIRMA, USAID and Sida with information on the current situation including recent developments in the three sectors, and forecasts for the coming year.

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