Cultivating Climate-resilience in Moldova
For Vasile Baciu, a farmer from Sadaclia village located in the southern part of the Republic of Moldova, the best part of 2015 for him was receiving a grant from an Austrian Development Agency UNDP-supported project to purchase advanced farming equipment and receive training in climate-resilient farming practices.
With over 15 years of farming experience, Mr. Baciu found that, "[a]fter buying the equipment, in a limited timeframe we have noticed a higher quality of work, the quantity of gas spent per hectare has decreased almost twice and the employees using those equipments have a higher working spirit. [This support] allows us to look with certainty, and make our future plans, we have switched to a more advanced stage of working the land and we hope that the crops will be better."
Moldova is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, northeast of Romania, best known for its number one export: wine. Cereals, as well as fruits and vegetables - especially apples - are also among the top five of Moldovan agriculture exports. The agriculture and food processing sector together make up about 40 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
In Moldova, households reliant on farming, like Mr. Baciu's, have been the first to feel the impacts of climate change. With three-fourths of Moldova's land used for food production, Moldova's economy relies heavily on agriculture, which is being jeopardised by extended droughts and desertification processes, temperature increases, decreased water reserves, and soil erosion, all of which conspire to decrease food security and household income.
Mr. Baciu comes from a proud agricultural background, having graduated from the State Agrarian University of Moldova with top honours. To ensure that Mr. Baciu and small farmers like him are able to put food on the table for their families in the face of climate change, designing effective adaptation interventions and improving climate-resilient farming practices is imperative.
The project "Supporting Moldova's National Climate Change Adaptation Planning Process", is responding to this imperative and is working to ensure that Moldova has a system in place for medium- to long term adaptation planning and budgeting, with the aim to reduce the vulnerability in key sectors, like agriculture, energy and water sectors, to the impacts of climate change.
With funding provided by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and supported by UNDP Moldova, the project is being implemented by the Ministry of Environment's Climate Change Office. Working in three key sectors: agriculture, energy, and water resources, pilot projects are being implemented in six districts vulnerable to climate, in order to promote adaptation measures and catalyse their replication in other regions of the country.
Through the project's dedicated grant scheme to showcase innovative adaptation measures at local level, 7 grants have been given - 3 related to agriculture. The beneficiaries of these grants have been working to improve agricultural conservation practices, while helping to restore soil fertility. By promoting new agricultural technologies, like automated GPS navigation to increase the efficiency of pesticide and mineral fertiliser application, or by using improved soil conservation methods and precision machinery, the overall objective is to develop climate-resilience for farmers.
Conservation methods like continuous no-till or minimum-till, crop rotation, and cover crops are keys to building healthy soils. At the same time, these methods minimise potential problems, including soil erosion, degradation of soil, and excessive energy consumption. The beneficiaries are promoting a wide variety of cropping practices as part of a systems approach to sustaining and improving natural resources. In addition to the conservation benefits, such systems add to the overall sustainability and energy efficiency of the entire farming operation, saving fuel and labour.
Mr. Grigore Batîru, national consultant for the agricultural sector underlined: "Farmers are encouraged to apply the principles of conservation agriculture based on minimal soil disturbance; to not harvest plant debris that eventually turns into organic material and has the ability to maintain and conserve water in the soil and another principle: a general rule of agriculture is crop rotation. It is one of the priority adaptation solutions. "
Changing cultivation technology has required building technical skills and raising conservation awareness. In order to implement the right technologies, Austrian Development Agency and UNDP experts have trained farmers on adaptation practices, providing long term advice and guidance during the implementation of the pilot projects.
Following the successful implementation of pilot projects, local producers are motivated to make plans for the future, applying technologies that contribute to adaptation, simultaneously enhancing food security and improving the welfare of rural populations.
- In the North of the country, in the Fălești district, one grant provided funding for equipment consisting of a ripper and a precision no-till seeder. Covering 870 ha, 1,400 people are working the land, growing wheat, corn, barley, sunflower, and sugar beets, in turn benefiting the whole Călugăr village (population 2,178).
- In the South of the country, two pilot projects have been supported in Sadaclia village (population 4,389): Peasant Farm Vasile Baciu and LLC Sadac-Agro. Both pilot projects in Sadaclia provide services to other small farmers and households nearby.
- Peasant Farm Vasile Baciu covers a 347ha farm comprised of subplots leased by over 200 villagers; the farm grows rapeseed, mustard, barley, wheat, corn, and sunflower.
- The adjacent community farming pilot project, LLC Sadac-Agro, covers 8,000ha and is comprised of the small plots of 1100 villagers. This farm also farm grows rapeseed, mustard, barley, wheat, corn, and sunflower, and includes a vineyard and an orchard. Between the two farms, 1,300 households are supported by leasing lands.
- ~60 farmers have received training in climate-resilient farming practices and sustainable agriculture.