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FAO Representative in Moldova speaks about a new partnership to benefit Moldova’s agrifood sector

In this interview, FAO Representative in Moldova, Raimund Jehle, reflects on the importance of a new cooperation agreement concluded recently between FAO and Moldova.

Why was this agreement needed? What will it change for Moldova’s agrifood sector?

This FAO Country Programming Framework for Moldova sets commits FAO to support the Government of the Republic of Moldova in its efforts to develop the agrifood sector. Over the four-year period from 2016 to 2019, it will share international best practices, innovative methods, and global standards through national and regional expertise.

It is no coincidence that our top three priority areas are reflected in the main objectives of the National Agriculture and Rural Development Strategy for 2014-2020. The document is the result of consultation among FAO and Moldovan authorities, civil society and development partners of Moldova.

Another important input was the expertise and accumulated experience of the FAO team. We have already implemented multiple projects with the objective of promoting sustainable agriculture, enhanced institutional capacities and strengthened skills for farmers.

We are aiming to make a long-lasting positive impact on the development of Moldova’s agriculture and food industry, and to develop productive cooperation with international partners – taking into consideration the increasing importance of the agrifood sector to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which Moldova is committed to reach within the global 2030 Agenda and the Paris agreement on climate change.

How will FAO help Moldova increase the competitiveness of its agriculture and food industry?

FAO support will focus on the main gaps and barriers to obtaining a high level of competitiveness for Moldovan agrifood products. Strengthening the food safety system, veterinary and phytosanitary control services that will create opportunities for increasing agrifood exports to the EU and other markets. We will make expertise available to promote Moldovan products on national and foreign markets, and rehabilitate the outdated education, research and extension system.

Going from large collective farms to small, privately owned farms – this meant important structural changes that shifted the entire agricultural technology system, including research, education, and extension. That system now needs to be reorganized to be more responsive and effective.

In essence, FAO is committed to supporting the Republic of Moldova in its efforts to modernize the agricultural sector and increase incomes for rural families. This has a direct connection, too, to another of Moldova’s priorities: sustainable agriculture and rural development.

What are the main problems for sustainable agriculture and rural development? How do they affect the population?

On the one hand, there is a social problem: high rural unemployment affecting about two thirds of the population. This situation is exacerbated by low wages in agriculture compared to other sectors of the economy. Wages are even lower among women, who earn on average about 76 percent of what men earn. Due to declining opportunities for decent rural employment in rural Moldova, we have outmigration from the villages, especially by young people and the more educated women and men.

On the other hand, sustainable agricultural development is one of Moldova’s main concerns, as set forth in “Moldova 2020.” We will be working with the Ministry of Agriculture on policies and practices that support farmers in growing healthy, high-quality crops while minimizing the use of pesticides with their negative impact. This approach is known as Integrated Pest Management. FAO will work with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Phytosanitary and Veterinary Service of the National Food Safety Agency to develop programmes and provide field training.

Another important concern is the need for reliable statistical data when developing coherent agricultural policies. In this respect, Moldova will be preparing for the next agricultural census foreseen for 2020. This will involve updating existing data and developing a methodology for collecting additional information from the agriculture sector. FAO will be providing technical assistance to both the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Bureau of Statistics.

Specific efforts will address outmigration from rural areas – for example by facilitating investments in agriculture, including from the remittances received from Moldovan co-nationals working abroad. In addition, up-to-date agricultural knowledge will be made available to family farms including smallholders, under FAO’s Regional Initiative on Empowering Smallholders and Family Farms. This will support Moldova in its efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goal 2, which focuses on poverty reduction.

We focus particularly on promoting sustainable agricultural practices and environmentally friendly technologies, to make sure Moldova’s natural resources are managed in sustainable ways.

What are the benefits when Moldova manages its natural resources sustainably?

Moldova has fertile soils and a favorable climate for agricultural production. But it faces several environmental and climate change challenges. The major threats to agriculture from climate change are more frequent and more severe flooding, hail and frost. The government also has serious concerns about the impact of severe droughts, which are now happening almost every two years and affecting the majority of people active in agriculture.

We are promoting environmentally friendly production technologies, and helping farmers both adapt to climate change and reduce the ways in which agriculture contributes to climate change. In this way, the FAO Country Programming Framework for Moldova supports the government's commitments outlined in the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

We will also support conservation and sustainable use of plant and animal genetic resources, improving existing and introducing of new production technologies and making it easier for farmers to access the new drought-resistant varieties of cereal crops and environmentally friendly technologies. There will be training on innovative land and water management practices, and management of pesticide waste.

Can Moldova afford to make these changes?

Total financing needed for full implementation of the FAO Country Programming Framework with Moldova is about US$ 9.7 million. Of this, US$ 4.5 million is already available, while another US$ 5.2 million needs to be mobilized – under FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme, and from resource partners both bilateral as well as multilateral agencies though joint efforts with the Government of Moldova.

In other words, FAO will contribute directly with a large portion of the required resources, and we will work to help mobilize the remainder in partnership with other stakeholders. We are also expecting a contribution from Moldova itself. In implementing the agreement, we will pursue broad partnerships in alignment with Moldova’s own priorities and partnerships.

Moldova has established partnerships with producers associations, civil society organizations involved in agriculture and extension, and research Institutes. The private sector will contribute by providing relevant data. Regional cooperation among and between countries in the region will be promoted, to the extent possible, through South-South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation.

Can you give examples of other countries that FAO has assisted in this way?

I also serve as FAO Representative in three other countries in the region, where we have brilliant examples of success in achieving sustainable agricultural development.

FAO is implementing the European Union’s ENPARD programme in Georgia and Armenia by providing capacity-building activities in the area of agriculture and rural development. Our expertise and knowledge are appreciated by both the Georgian government and the European Union as resource partner.

Another good example is the creation of demonstration plots in Armenia for growing different types of fruit. After seeing the new technologies for fruit protection and production, many Armenian farmers replicated these methods on their own farms.
Moreover, we are addressing the issue of climate resilience supporting the farmers to increase their flood response capacities in Albania.

FAO is a leading organization in different international committees working on issues such as food safety and integrated production and pest management. Through these forums, all countries have the opportunity to discuss and decide on mutual recognized international standards for food quality and safety.

Many good international and regional practices can be replicated in Moldova, and we look forward to their successful implementation for the benefit of the whole country.

11 January 2017, Budapest, Hungary

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