Cultivating climate resilience in Moldova

Jan 15, 2016

In Moldova the economy relies heavily on agriculture, three-quarters of the land is used for food production. Photo: UNDP Moldova

For Vasile Baciu, a farmer from Sadaclia village located in the southern part of the Republic of Moldova, the best part of 2015 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.

“After buying the equipment, in a limited timeframe we have noticed a higher quality of work, the quantity of gas oil spent per hectare has decreased almost twice and the employees using the equipment have a higher working spirit,” says Baciu, who has been farming for more than 15 years. “[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 agricultural 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 Baciu’s, have been the first to feel the effects of climate change. With three-quarters of Moldova’s land used for food production, the economy relies heavily on agriculture, which is being jeopardised by extended droughts, temperature increases, decreased water reserves, and soil erosion, all of which conspire to decrease food security and household income.

Baciu comes from a proud agricultural background, having graduated from the State Agrarian University of Moldova with top honours. Upon graduation he started working in viticulture, an important skill in a country where a single state-run winery is big enough to produce 15 percent of the country’s annual national budget.

To ensure that Baciu and 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, to the impacts of climate change.

With funding from the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and support from 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.

For the agricultural sector, grants were given following a competitive proposal process. The recipients of the grants have been working to improve agricultural conservation practices, while helping to restore soil fertility. The overall objective is to improve farmers’ climate resilience 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.

Conservation methods like continuous no-till or minimum-till, crop rotation, and cover crops are key to building healthy soils. At the same time, these methods minimise potential problems, including soil erosion, degradation of soil, and excessive energy consumption. Participating farmers 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 energy efficiency of the entire farming operation, saving fuel and labour.

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.