Vice President of ProRuralInvest, a Moldovan NGO supporting rural businesses, May 2016
A combination of small farm sizes, traditionally low pesticide and fertiliser use and a ready supply of labour in Moldova – combined with a growing appetite for organic food in the EU - has spurred UNEP to work on boosting organic agriculture in the country and help seize export opportunities.
The work takes place as part of the Greening Economies in the Eastern Neighbourhood (EaP GREEN) programme financed by the EU and carried out by UNEP together with the UN Industrial Development Organisation, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Upon the request of Eastern Partnership countries, the potential for a growing organic agriculture sector in these states was demonstrated in a series of scoping studies.
For Moldova, the case for transitioning to organic farming without pesticide use was highlighted as being not only environmentally but also economically profitable. Indeed, when farmers’ income is included, if yields from organic farming are no more than 20% lower than from conventional farming, market premiums were shown to bring greater overall economic gains in the country.
Since then, UNEP has facilitated the training of farmers to switch to organic from conventional agriculture in Moldova, in line with the country’s goal of ensuring that 5.8% of its agricultural land is organic by 2030. A series of trainings have been held on organic practices, policies, certification and marketing.
Further along the chain, in order to help organic farmers from Eastern Partnership countries gain access to global markets, UNEP has also ensured that producers can attend major organic trade fairs such as Germany’s Biofach. Being at the fair “plays an important role in creating a positive image for Ukraine and its organic produce,” says Natalie Prokopchuk, Project Manager at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL.
At the fair, producers from Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia were able to meet international buyers during a ‘matchmaking’ event, helping establish trusting relationships for the long-term so that export prospects and product quality are boosted. Such sessions taking place at the Ukrainian pavilion even saw contracts being signed worth more than €3.5 million in total.
“An excellent return on investment was obtained by Ukrainian SMEs,” says Ms Prokopchuk. “The results from both BioFach 2015 and 2016 are very exciting, and show a continued growth of interest from international buyers in trading with Ukrainian organic producers”.
UNEP has furthermore raised consumer awareness for organic produce through activities with schools and the production of a television advert aimed at the general public. In this way, UNEP is showing how reducing our environmental impact does not lower our quality of life nor hamper growth.