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Plateforme de connaissances sur l'agriculture familiale

  Roumanie

Romania has a long tradition in family farming; it was the pillar on which Romanian society developed. Family farm activities are not limited to agriculture. They also comprise important social activities for the community and family, preserve traditions and crafts, attract rural tourism and agrotourism, and help to protect the environment through extensive agricultural practices. After the First World War, Romania became one of the largest producing countries of agricultural commodities in Europe, exporting mostly maize, wheat and other grains. The reforms made by the Government at the time helped families secure a living, by giving them land and know-how in the field. The connection between people and their land was embedded in Romania’s rural society and it is still present in today’s villages. The Second World War destroyed all the agricultural infrastructure and communism took over rural life. Large state farms were built and the land was taken away from the people. Most farmers were moved to the cities and were employed in newly developing industry. Those left in the villages worked at low productivity levels for the state farms. The farming know-how gathered over centuries, along with traditions and crafts, were lost. The new industrialized agriculture system took over and family farmers were replaced with simply employees. The only land people kept was that around their houses, where they kept growing some crops for the family.

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After 1989, many moved back to the villages due to the closing of the industry plants. They and those who still lived there became farmers in order to survive. Their methods were poor and their means were very low. In Romania agriculture employs most rural inhabitants, and most farms are less than 5 hectares.

Section area of communism made people very reluctant to join any form of association; families individually worked the small and fragmented parcels of land inherited from their pre-war ancestors. The persistence of the fragmented land structure of Romania through the last 20 years, despite the expectations of many land consolidation experts, is largely due to the important role subsistence and semi-subsistence farming plays in providing livelihoods where pension and welfare payments are extremely low, food prices are similar to those in developed countries, and access to credit is very difficult. These small-scale farmed landscapes, strongly associated with family farming, are still under increasing pressure due to loss of economic viability, failure to provide adequate living conditions for young farmers, and resulting abandonment. Taking land away from the families had a huge negative impact on rural social consciousness and the effects of this can be seen today. Rural society was shaken to its core. Family values and traditions built over centuries were lost, the landscape and the environment suffered and the peasants were in a great distress, not being able to secure their most vital needs. Irreversible damage was also done due to huge migration from the villages to areas where people could earn a short-term, non-sustainable living. Abandoned villages and families found themselves rethinking what their real values were.

Smallholding-based production has persisted, especially in Romanian mountains and upland regions. However, livestock numbers have fallen since 1990, initially as a result of the dissolution of state and cooperative farms, and later due to rises in input costs and loss of market share, as a result of cheap imports after Romania’s accession to the European Union (EU) in 2007. The sharpest decrease in cattle numbers began in 2009 when the milk market failed. Many small farmers sold their cattle because the milk price was too low. Worldwide, and in Romania alike, the trend was to develop a performing agriculture. Subsidies help mostly large farms achieve performance, but they had almost no impact on the poverty of rural areas. This bipolarity has been increasing over time. It is painful to accept and understand the damage done by the shift away from the cell on which rural development was based: small scale family farming.

If support has so far gone mostly to developing large-scale agriculture, it is now time to reconsider this approach and to increase the support for family farms, in order to achieve sustainable development. Family farms are the prevalent agricultural model and the most important food supplier in developed countries and in developing nations alike. Family farms use environmentally friendly techniques, can offer excellent quality products and keep rural areas alive. Small- and medium-scale agriculture employs a large number of farmers and our objective should be to assist them in gaining access to knowledge and to markets.

Family farms are not only occupied with agriculture, they also lead important community social activities, they preserve traditions and develop crafts, they help tourists discover rural areas and, by using extensive agricultural practices, they help protect the environment. Small-scale farms have the power to build a network capable of organizing production and distribution chains that bring their products straight to the consumer market and provide work at a local level. Those products can also be used by public institutions and administrations, local restaurants and hotels, so developing the economy in the region. Local food systems stimulate the growth of local economies; global food systems only help a few.

Developing the family farm agriculture system not only enables better environmental and sustainable agro production, it also helps to solve severe social issues. When food is processed in the production area with smaller food processing systems and products are transported for shorter distances, they offer fresher products to the final consumer, compared to the industrial food chain that offers mostly processed food and intensive agricultural practices and uses large quantities of energy and fuel throughout the transport, storage, packing and freezing process. There is increased interest in society in eating better, healthier local food. Family farms are the ones able to fulfil this demand. Statistics show that, if in the 1990s the migration was from villages to cities, nowadays, past the economic crisis, more people are turning their faces towards sustainable living in the countryside.

Romania now has hundreds of thousands of families who want to live well in the countryside, ready to fight the poverty flagella, ready to bring back to life lost traditions, crafts and knowledge. Romania’s rural area is an asset that has recently been brought back to attention. The landscape is beautiful, the land is rich in resources for agriculture and the remote villages have kept their local vibe in a way that is attracting more and more visitors. Large-scale tourism, most of the time, damages the environment and produces huge amounts of food waste, another main focus of attention this year. Rural tourism is sustainable, helps people gain an extra income, keeps traditions alive and does not waste food, especially because it uses food produced locally, with home-style cooking practices.

In Romania agriculture employs most rural inhabitants, and most farms are under 5 hectares. There are 3.9 million farm holdings in Romania, the majority of which are family farms of extensive semi-natural grassland pastoral systems and mixed farming systems. These semi-natural small-scale farmed landscapes are of significant economic importance. For example, the 1 million holdings between 1 and 10 hectares (3.1 million hectares, 20 per cent of Romania’s agricultural area) are classes as semi-subsistence farms producing for home consumption, local sales and for their extended families. Yet these farms are estimated to produce 25-30 per cent of national food consumption. The traditional farmhouses and courtyards are gathered into villages. Crops are grown on the arable valley floors, and the valley slopes are given over to hay meadows and large expanses of communal grazing land for both sheep and cattle, which are managed separately. The typical family farm consists of a farmhouse, barns and sheds for cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and hay; a vegetable patch for household use, and an apple, plum and pear orchard.

Family farmland is usually divided into small parcels of arable land and hay meadow, often no more than 0.3 hectares in size, near the village. Further from the village are the common grazing pastures and forests which are a source of wood for cooking and heating. In order to ensure the viability of Romania’s farms and since their majority is small, we had to target our support tools in their direction. We found that by supporting family farms, not only did we solve social issues related to unemployment, but we are also able to connect the people working in production to market tools. Not to mention that they were able to standardize their production so they could sell it on the European (international) market as well.

Great importance was given to the diversification of production, in order to ensure their revenues all year round. Three main priorities were identified in order to better support family farms:

• promoting the family farm as a sustainable, inclusive growth model

• creating an institutional framework to implement support measures

• including family farms in the food supply chain.

Romania support over 60,000 small farms with a total of almost €400 million. We have created a tool to help family farms gain access to bank credits, given the fact that banks are still reluctant to support a field such as agriculture, which is associated with great risks.

The Rural Development Programme supported young farmers, encouraging them to stay in the rural area and to secure themselves a decent life. The programme entailed almost 13,000 projects, at €236 million. Based on our experience, only by continuing to give incentives for small farms can we achieve viable development in rural areas and a healthy economy. The effects of this support will be seen long-term; not only will people learn to connect to the market, use better technologies, educate themselves better and protect the environment, but the communities as a whole will keep their traditions and will be able to flourish. Sustainability of family farms can be ensured only if they are supported in various forms on a long-term basis, providing advice on the application of environmentally friendly technologies and maintaining local traditions of animal husbandry and farming. Thus, it is necessary to identify more accurate specific needs of family farms and provide a package of measures with regard to both agricultural and non-agricultural specificities for these farms to develop both at national and community level.

 

This text is kindly provided by the authorities of this country.

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