Linking High Nature Value Grasslands to Small-Scale Farmer Incomes: Târnava Mare, Romania

Nat PAGE, Razvan POPA, Cristi GHERGHICEANU, Lenke BALINT

Fundatia ADEPT, Str. Principala nr. 166, Saschiz, Mures Romania RO 547510
nat@fundatia-adept.org, poparazvand@yahoo.com,
cristi@fundatia-adept.org, lenke@fundatia-adept.org

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KEYWORDS:

Romania, Transylvania, conservation, High Nature Value, grassland, biodiversity, wild flower meadows, organic farming, sustainable development, community participation.

ABSTRACT

In the High Nature Value (HNV) grasslands of the Târnava Mare proposed site of community interest (SCI), in southern Transylvania, species-rich plant and animal communities thrive alongside traditional agriculture. The wildflower meadows are probably the best that survive in lowland Europe. The designated area is about 85,000 ha, with a population of about 25,000 people, 90% of whom are small-scale farmers. This landscape has evolved over centuries of traditional management, by small-scale farmers creating an ecological mosaic. Only continued traditional management can maintain it. Economic and social benefits from biodiversity conservation can provide a sustainable future for economically threatened small-scale farming communities.

It is hoped that recognition of the European importance of Romania’s semi-natural landscapes, and the vital ecosystem services they provide, will lead to more targeted policy measures to support the small-scale farming communites associated with them.

In 2005 Fundaţia ADEPT began an integrated programme of biodiversity conservation, agri-environment and rural development. Agri-environment, organic and Natura 2000 payments are all key policy elements. ADEPT is working at local and national levels to improve access to EU funding. Added to this, improved marketing of local food products, training schemes and schools education, diversification including development of new products and of ecotourism, can result in real benefits for local people from protecting their landscape.

INTRODUCTION

Subsistence and semi-subsistence farming systems, certainly in Europe, are associated with High Nature Value Farmed (HNVF) landscapes: semi-natural grasslands often in a mosaic of small plots intermixed with forests and arable land. When valuing HNVF landscapes, it is useful to estimate their value in a broad sense, using the concept of ecosystem services. Such areas are to be valued as much for the public goods they produce, as for their economic agricultural productivity. Otherwise increased competitiveness will be given priority in landscapes without taking account of the broader social cost. The benefits of public goods (biodiversity conservation, water quality and security, food quality and security, cultural heritage, quality of life, recreation, carbon sequestration, fire and flood resistance, etc.) go beyond the communities that live within the areas that provide them.

What public goods do Romania’s HNV Farmed landscapes provide?

1. provisioning services

food – the majority of the area is under extensive subsistence or semi-subsistence type farming, and is thus an essential source of food (meat, dairy products, cereals, fruits and vegetables) for the local population. Wild foods such as game, edible fruits and fungi are gathered in the region to eat or sell.

timber and fibre – the majority of houses are heated with wood, gathered from local forests. Charcoal burning relies on local wood, supplying charcoal nationally. Timber is also still an essential building material, and although traditional crafts such as carpentry and basket weaving are still present, these are in danger of being lost. Wool from local sheep is used e.g. to provide an additional income for women in Viscri by making products to sell to tourists.

natural medicines and dyes etc. – Wild plants hold a valuable source of biochemicals and pharmaceuticals; today, use and knowledge about these plants is decreasing as they are replaced by synthetic substances. However, a wide range of plants are still used medicinally: Greater Burdock (Arctium spp.), Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis), St John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), and Centaury (Centaurium erythraea).

genetic resources – the Saxon Villages region contains many wild relatives of common crop plants (60 wild crop relatives occur in Transylvania – J. R. Akeroyd pers. comm.).

2. regulating services - include essential functions such as maintenance of nutrient and water cycles, carbon storage, pollination and pest regulation, soil erosion control and flood alleviation. Regulating services include:

3. cultural and support services - recreation and tourism. Aesthetic/spiritual values are unrecognized and uncompensated side effects of conservation of these landscapes. It is obviously important, socio-economically, that Romania offers her 4 million small-scale farmers an economic future. Small-scale farmers can create a natural image and regional brand, offering commercial incentives to communities to manage their landscapes sustainably. Many communities, often assisted by NGOs, have successfully added value to and improved markets for local products by creating brands that link small producers with natural food. As a major part of these commercial incentives, rural tourism will continue to develop in rural areas, due to the unique landscapes, large semi-natural areas, hospitability of rural inhabitants, conservation of tradition, and the diversity of rural tourist resources. This will act as a form of “payment” to local people for landscape conservation. Local projects have been successful in working with local farmers to develop a tourism-related economy - guest houses, food and crafts for tourists, nature guiding, etc.

The precise value of these environmental services is incalculable, although attempts at estimations are beginning to be made so that this factor may be incorporated into policy decision-making.
The above explains the hidden, broader social value of HNVF landscapes and the subsistence and semi-subsistence farm holdings that are essential for their survival. These significant public goods suggest that we should give priority to supporting them: the economic, social and environmental costs of losing them far outweigh the costs of support.

Threats
In most rural villages in Romania, 90% of the population works in agriculture (Romania’s Rural Development Plan 2007, NRDP). Some do this as a second income, but these are very much the exception, and the main income tending to be village schoolteacher, village mechanic/blacksmith etc. Most villages do not have centres of employment within reach, especially in view of transport problems.

These subsistence and semi-subsistence farmers face many problems including:

The mosaic landscape management is one of the key elements of the HNV landscape that is the provider of such significant public goods. Continued traditional management of the grasslands is essential to the survival of the area’s biodiversity and continued provision of broader ecosystem services.

This paper describes a project in which the regeneration of rural economy and village prosperity is being used as the main tool for biodiversity conservation. The principle being that we don’t support the grasslands, but the farmers who maintain them.

Without support, these HNVF landscapes will disappear, as they have in much of western Europe. Accession to the EU has intensified pressures on small-scale farming: for example stricter food hygiene regulations and vulnerability to competitive imports. However, the EU also offers tools to support them.

The Târnava Mare area
The Târnava Mare area is dominated by an astonishing seven EU Habitats Directive Annex I grassland habitats, of which three are priority habitats; 10 Habitats Directive Annex I forest habitats of which four are priority habitats. 23 Habitats Directive Annex II plant and animal (especially butterfly) species have been identified, associated with these grassland habitats. These figures are remarkable at a European scale.
The Târnava Mare area was designated a Natura 2000 site in 2008

Why is the area’s biodiversity so important?
Habitats:

The Târnava Mare pSCI still supports extensive stands of semi-natural vegetation, which is species-rich and, in the case of the woodlands, closely resembling the natural habitats that occupied the Transylvanian foothills of the Carpathians prior to human impact. At the same time the region supports habitats that have evolved in intimate association with human agriculture and other activities. Several of the habitats present, and individual species, are localized in distribution and highly characteristic of this part of Central Europe. It is a classic High Nature Value (HNV) farmed landscape, of considerable international value (Tables 1 and 2).

Fig. 1: Map of the Târnava Mare pSCI, in southern Transylvania, Romania.

Flora

Diverse and often pristine habitats support more than 1100 plant taxa, more than 30% of the Romanian flora. This richness is a result of geographical position, diversity of relief, varied climatic conditions and soils, and traditional land-use with a mosaic of woodland, grassland and arable cultivation. Of these taxa, 87 are listed for protection and conservation at national and international level, and 12 taxa are threatened in Europe and are included in Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive. A further 77 taxa are threatened at national level and included in the Romanian Red List. Just over half occur in meadow-steppe grassland communities. Several are rare and decreasing in Europe. Some 60 native plants are related to cultivated or crop plants and constitute a potential resource for plant breeding, notably distinctive variants of forage legumes such as Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) (J.R. Akeroyd pers. comm.). Some village fruit trees may represent old varieties or cultivars, especially plums and pears, and the wild pears too are a natural gene-pool.

Table 1: EU Habitats Directive Annex I habitat types present in the Târnava Mare pSCI

Natura 2000 Annex 1 code Description
40A0* Sub-continental Peripannonic scrub
9160 Sub-Atlantic & medio-European oak or oak-hornbeam forests of Carpinion betulii
9170 Galio-Carpinetum oak-hornbeam forest
91Y0 Dacian oak-hornbeam forests
91E0* Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion Alnion incanae Salicion albae)
92A0 Salix alba and Populus alba galleries
3150 Natural eutrophic lakes with Magnopotamion or Hydrocharition -type vegetation
3270 Rivers with muddy banks with Chenopodion rubri p.p. and Bidention p.p. vegetation
62C0* Ponto-Sarmatic steppes
6210* Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) with important orchid sites
6240* Sub-pannonic steppic grasslands
6430 Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels
6440 Alluvial meadows of river valleys of the Cnidion dubii class
6510 Lowland hay meadows (Alopecurus pratensis, Sanguisorba officinalis)
6520 Mountain hay meadows

* indicates priority habitats according to Annex I of Habitats Directive.

The most obvious manifestation of Transylvania’s astounding richness of plant and animal diversity is the wildflowers of the traditionally managed grasslands (Akeroyd 2002, 2006). These are probably the best lowland hay-meadows and pastures left in Europe; so extensive that you can walk through them for hours or even days. The colourful and varied flora of these grasslands comprises a mixture of western and central European plants, but with a significant element of steppic species. This species-rich ‘meadow-steppe’ has retreated throughout Europe, even in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia (Cerovsky 1995). Wiry grasses dominate the sward, and the species-rich communities often include 30-40 species of legumes, notably Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia), milk-vetches (Astralagus spp.), several dwarf brooms (Chamaecytisus and Genista spp.) and numerous clovers (Trifolium spp.), a characteristic floristic element of dry grasslands in Transylvania (Puşcaru-Soroceanu 1963).

On hot, dry south-facing slopes, the flora is distinctly steppic, with Pontic-Sarmatian elements such as Adonis vernalis, Crambe tatarica, Linum flavum and Salvia nutans, and Mediterranean elements such as Muscari comosa and Vinca herbacea (Akeroyd 2007).

One of the most interesting and significant factors is the low nutrient status of the soils (Jones 2008). Generations of villagers have transferred nutrients to the valleys as hay or animal dung with almost no input of nutrients to the upper pastures. This correlates with the great species diversity, the richest grassland communities (more than 40 species per 0.5 m2 relevé) being on medieval ‘ridge and furrow’ fields along high slopes. In other parts of Europe, nutrient enrichment has done untold damage to similar ancient grasslands.

Fauna

The region’s animals associated with the diverse habitats and flora include the last significant populations of wolf and brown bear in lowland Europe; a rich bird population including rare species such as lesser-spotted eagle and corncrake; and 1300 lepidoptera species including many rare and threatened taxa (Table 2).

Table 2: EU Habitats Directive Annex II species presentin the Târnava Mare pSCI

Group Species   Group Species
Mammals Canis lupus * Insects Astacus astacus
Ursus arctos * Lucanus cervus
Lutra lutra Callimorpha quadripunctaria
Myotis myotis Eriogaster catax
Barbastella barbastellus Lycaena dispar
  Maculinea teleius
Amphibians Triturus cristatus  
Rana dalmatina Plants Echium russicum
Bombina variegata Crambe tataria Sebeok
Rana temporaria Cypripedium calceolus .
  Pulsatilla pratensis ssp. hungarica *
Reptiles Lacerta agilis Arnica montana
Natrix natrix Gentiana lutea
Emys orbicularis Angelica palustris
  Lycopodium clavatum
Fish Barbus meridionalis petenyi Pulsatilla vulgaris subsp. grandis
Gobio albipinnatus vladikovy Adenophora liliifolia
Rhodeus sericeus amarus, Cephalaria radiata
Cobitis taenia taenia Salvia transsylvanica
Sabanejewia aurata balcanica
Gobio uranoscopus frici
Gobio kessleri kessleri

To summarize the ecological and conservation importance of the habitats and species of the Târnava Mare pSCI:

Rarity on its own may not always be the best criterion for assessing conservation needs and a holistic approach is required to protect such a sensitive and fragile ecosystem (Akeroyd and Page 2006). The grasslands cannot be separated from the cultural landscape, of which they are a historical and integral element. Sites with the rarest and most interesting plants, for example a steep grazed slope kept clear of scrub through burning and with Salvia nutans and Linum flavum (Jones 2008), were poor in species (c.10 per relevé) but of inestimable ecological and conservation interest at a European level. Plant species diversity, although important in ecological terms, should not be considered in isolation as a measure of conservation value. Numbers of Red Data Book species or other threatened plants (and animals) may not also be an accurate measure of the value of a community or habitat.

Throughout most of Europe, traditional grasslands have suffered drastic shifts in management and are in a state of flux. This part of south-east Transylvania represents a still functioning historic landscape, with the fauna, flora and complement of soil microorganisms of an intact ancient ecosystem, in which extensive wildflower meadows still retain their role in agriculture. Such areas are rare in lowland Europe, and are therefore extremely valuable for conservation research and interpretation. They also are a cultural treasure.

Low-input grassland delivers a broad spectrum of environmental benefits: enhanced landscape quality, wildflower and wildlife conservation, protection of archaeological sites, protection of water-courses, reduction of soil erosion, and public amenity and education (Allen, 1995). Experiments have also shown that farm grassland can lock up carbon to a similar degree to farmland that has been planted with trees (Smith et al., 1997).

Threats to the flora and vegetation
Although this ancient and special landscape remains substantially intact, the survival of its unique biodiversity depends upon maintenance of traditional agricultural practices. These are threatened by the precarious state of the local agricultural economy and social structure. The lack of profitability in traditional farming methods and the emigration of most of the experienced farming population have created pressure to abandon marginal land and intensify farming on readily accessible sites. The application of artificial fertilizers will seriously damage or destroy wildflower-rich hay-meadows, allowing coarse or vigorous grasses and weeds to invade. Traditional manuring is not a problem, but even a single application of chemical fertilizer would undoubtedly have catastrophic effects on the survival of the most species-rich grasslands. Woodlands are generally well-managed, but changes in ownership have created pressures for quick profits, and some localized abusive felling.

Research by ADEPT (Akeroyd & Page 2006; Jones 2008; and Akeroyd, Jones, unpublished) has identified a number of substantial threats to biodiversity. Unchecked, these factors will lead to loss of biodiversity, and will contribute to poverty and hardship for local people.

The principal threats to the wild plants and vegetation of the region are:

Secondary threats are:

Collapse of cow numbers is the largest and most immediate threat to this landscape.

The key economic sector is the owners with fewer than five cows. See Table 3, indicating trends in numbers, and Table 4, showing low average herd size; over 55% of applicants for payments have fewer than 5 cows:

Table 3: Number of cows in the 8 communes of Tarnava Mare area

Commune Year/Cow numbers registered in Town Halls
2008 2009
Bunesti 1764 1450
Saschiz 602 420
Vanatori 520 377
Danes 740 500
Apold 623 550
Albesti 600 422
Laslea 1647 1077
Biertan 430 374

Table 4: Applications for land payments and agri-environment payments analysed by number of cows owned

Cow numbers Bunesti Saschiz Vanatori Danes Apold Albesti Laslea Biertan Total
≤5 69 33 30 33 48 20 67 17 317
5-10 31 6 5 8 12 13 40 8 123
10-50 26 9 9 7 13 13 37 5 119
50-100 2 1 0 3 1 0 3 3 13
>100 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 4
Total: 128 50 45 52 74 46 148 33 576

ADEPT project in the Târnava Mare area
The NGO Fundaţia ADEPT (Agricultural Development & Environmental Protection in Transylvania) has been active in Romania since 2003. It has cooperated closely with the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), and Ministry of Environment and Forests. Its vision is to achieve biodiversity conservation at a landscape scale not primarily by creating protected areas, but by working with small-scale farmers to create incentives to conserve the semi-natural landscapes they have created.

ADEPT is focusing on an 85.000 ha area, Târnava Mare, a semi-natural landscape of remarkable biodiversity. It has recently been designated a Natura 2000 site both under the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive. But this designation alone will not conserve the area for its biodiversity and broader public goods benefits. Only local small-scale farmers can conserve the landscape, an objective which can be achieved primarily through the National Rural Development Plan.

Table 5: applications for registration of dairy cattle farms in terms of herd size (APIA, 2009)

Herd size Com.
Bunesti
Com.
Vanatori
Com.
Danes
Com.
Albesti
Com.
Laslea
Com.
Biertan
Total
≤5 69 30 33 20 67 17 236
5-10 31 5 8 13 40 8 105
10-50 26 9 7 13 37 5 97
50-100 2 0 3 0 3 3 11
>100 0 1 1 0 1 0 3
Total 128 45 52 46 148 33 452

In the Târnava Mare area, 52% of registered holdings (those of more than 1 ha) have fewer than 5 cows. If holdings smaller than 1 ha were included, this figure would be around 90%. Similarly, the average holding size of farmers who have applied for agri-environment payments in the Târnava Mare area is 8.2ha (source: APIA), a figure which also excludes all holdings under 1 ha. (See Table 5)

1: Agri-environment payments

Romania has designated eligible areas for its grassland agri-environment payments on an assessment of HNV grassland distribution in Romania – see Figures 1 and 2 below. This is an effective way of targeting support towards the HNVF landscapes which provide public goods, and is to be applauded.

In 2005-6, ADEPT carried out a pilot agri-environment programme in close cooperation with the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (MARD). These were the only grassland agri-environment agreements in Romania at the time. SAPARD 3.3 revealed a number of design problems that impeded small-farmer access: complexity of forms to be completed electronically, complexity of supporting documents required, need for repeated visits to the regional capital to deposit the forms, etc. Under the pilot measure, ADEPT employed 3 staff members full-time for 6 months to promote the scheme and to help farmers complete and deliver the forms, in 6 out of the 8 communes of the Târnava Mare area. This proved to be very effective: 97 farmers and 1,980 ha entered the pilot agri-environment scheme SAPARD 3.3. The ADEPT Farm Advisory Service (FAS) was also effective in raising longer-term awareness in the area of the benefits to small farmers of the agri-environment scheme.

MARD responded to lessons learned under the pilot project by simplifying the application process for the equivalent grassland agri-environment measure launched in 2008, Measure 214. This helped take-up of the measure in the project area, much higher than for SAPARD 3.3 (see Table 6).

Table 6: overall take-up of SAPARD 3.3 and Measure 214 in Târnava Mare area

Târnava Mare area
No. participants in SAPARD 3.3 (2006) Area covered by SAPARD 3.3 No. participants in Measure 214 (2008) Area covered by Measure 214
97 1980 967 7940.48

Also, as a result of ADEPT’s farm advisory actions, participation of Târnava Mare area farmers in Measure 214 was 6.6 times the national average, in terms of number of participants, and 3.8 times national average in terms of area. It is significant that a larger number of smaller-scale farmers participated (as shown by average size of applications) as a result of farm advisory actions. See Table 7.

Table 7: comparative take-up of Measure 214 in communes in which FAS was active, compared to other communes in Mures county, 2009 (data from APIA, Romanian payments agency)

Mures county Nr. of participants in Measure 214 Area covered by Measure 214 Av. size of application
Av. per commune in the 5 FAS communes in Mures county 200.6 2020.8 ha 10.07 ha
Av. per commune for the 45 other eligible communes in Mures 30.4 537.6 ha 17.68 ha

Impact: in the eight communes of the area, 1.390 small farmers on 17,641 ha are receiving a total of over €2.5 m/year through access to agri-environment schemes. Expected figure without FAS support would be €658,000. Positive impact on conservation management of land under agri-environment grants can be seen already; this applies especially to scrub clearance, which is being carried out by land-owners in order to pass inspections by the national inspection agency APIA.

2. Supporting common grazing through agri-environment payments

Common grazing is an important element of traditional land management in Transylvania, and continued common grazing is essential to the survival of small-scale dairy producers in the region. However, continued common grazing is threatened by breakdown of the discipline and owner contributions of free labour to maintain common land (scrub clearance etc.) and by the fact that such access to agri-environment payments is a problem. Applicants need to own, or have a 5-year lease, of such lands to be eligible.
In Seica Mare, a village 50 km west of Sighisoara, imaginative measures have been adopted locally in order to give the common land users access to RDP Axis 2 Measure 214 agri-environment payments.
The Seica Mare project has enabled around 100ha of communal grazing land normally managed through the Town Hall to be leased for 5 years by the village grazing association unlocking access to agri-environment payments. The grazing association has agreed to maintain the land properly which has secured the future of 27 cattle, sheep and goat farmers while preserving the habitats and landscape.

Impact: 1,000 ha under lease to the grazing association, giving €180,000/year to the 27 cattle, sheep and goat farmers, which they will invest in common projects including a milk collection and processing unit, and a village abattoir which will add value to local agricultural projects and create further employment.

3: Dairy sector

Small-scale dairy production is key to the survival of the HNV landscapes of Romania. Over 50% of registered producers (that is, excluding those with under 1ha of land) have fewer than 5 cows. Over 75% of registered producers have under 10 cows. The small-scale farmers, who have created these landscapes, depend mainly on dairy cow or ewe products for their income. Small producers all deliver to one or two milk collection points in villages, from which the processors take delivery. These communal milk collection points have quality problems, since some farmers are less careful than others.

In the Târnava Mare area, as in all of Transylvania, there is a collapse in the market for milk and therefore a collapse in cow numbers. Without a market, agri-environment payments alone are obviously not sufficient to halt this collapse. Surveys show a reduction of cow numbers of 25% in the last year alone, 2008-2009. Total number of cattle in the 6 communes of Târnava Mare area for which we have figures was 5701 in 2008, but fell to 4200 in 2009. See Table 3. This could be disastrous for traditional land management, especially for the survival of the area’s traditional wildflower-rich hay meadows.

The cause of the loss of market is that small farmers cannot guarantee the quality and quantity necessary to attract the milk processors. Although EU-standard milk hygiene is not obligatory in Romania until January 2011, milk processors are already using these standards as a commercial yard-stick. They can import good quality milk, in convenient large quantities, at a competitive price, from neighbouring countries such as Hungary. Villages have been left without any milk collection by processors. Village producers are generally unable to organise a combined response to solve the problem
In 2009, milk processors stopped collecting milk from many of these community-use milk collection points, since milk quality and quantity was not sufficient. The processors can import good quality milk, in convenient large quantities, at a competitive price, from neighbouring countries such as Hungary. Suddenly there was no market for milk, threatening the economic survival of these communities. Many villages were left without any milk collection by processors, and the small-scale dairy farmers were unable to solve the problem.

This threatens the very survival of small-scale milk producers in the HNV areas of Romania.

ADEPT responded by helping three villages (Saschiz, Daia, Danes) to improve their milk collection points, as well as other actions to improve hygiene, and to improve discipline at the communal milk collection points, through workshops with farmers, discussions with village dairy associations, on-the-spot testing and naming-and-shaming of poor-quality producers (by posting up daily test results), and negotiations with processors to complete the link to the buyers. See Figure 2.

Impact: within 6 months, three villages have had their milk collection reinstated, giving €5.000/month monthly turnover again to 35 small-scale farmers per village, and reversing the fall in cow numbers. (See Table 8)

Fig 2: milk hygiene training brochure used in small-scale farmer workshops

Table 8: ADEPT Milk collection point in Daia Village

Cost of new milk collection point No. of farmers No. of cows litres of milk/day Euros/ litre Initial monthly turnover
€12.000 25 78 725 l. €0.23 €5.000

In the villages with new milk collection points, the number of cows and number of owners supplying the points are already rising now that a profit motive has been restored. Therefore the turnover and profitability of the milk collection points are also expected to increase.

4. Adding value to agricultural products

In 2005 ADEPT began a processing and marketing programme in the Târnava Mare area. This shows how branded local products can evolve with effective marketing.

First, ADEPT identified 20 producers of cheese, jam and pickles who were interested in participating in a marketing exercise. ADEPT wrote production protocols and trained producers to follow these and maintain consistent quality and hygiene standards.

ADEPT also developed a local brand and labeling (see Fig 3).

Fig 3: examples of branding and packaging for local marketing.

Sales and associated skills have now increased to a point where the original 20 producers travel to farmers markets without assistance from ADEPT (often sharing transport at their own initiative). See Table 9.

The producers are now commercially sustainable, and ADEPT is encouraging more farmers and farmers wives to join the informal producer group, the Târnava Mare Producers Association. Once the first producers clearly derived useful profit, others asked to be included. This in general is the case: talking about potential benefits is met with scepticism: demonstration of profit elicits immediate participation from others.

Table 9: trends in sales, Târnava Mare Producers Association

Year Value of direct sales (cheese, jam, pickles, baskets) Value of sales thro’ Tourist Information Center
2005 - -
2006 €3600 -
2007 €15900 €2500
2008 €75000 €8500
2009 €31500 €12161

ADEPT also developed farmers markets (only the producers themselves are permitted to sell at these markets). Transport was paid for initially, but this support is no longer necessary. ADEPT also offered them the opportunity to sell jams and pickles in the tourist information centre. The “Saschiz Jams”, unknown in 2005, are now sought after in farmers markets in several Romanian cities.

ADEPT led the establishment of Targul Taranului Roman in Bucharest in 2007 and the Targul Roadele Pamantului in Brasov in 2009, which are both highly succesful. We are now developing other markets nearer the project area: see Table 10.

Table 10: development of farmers’ markets, Târnava Mare Producers Association

Location Established Frequency No. of producers Estimated people/event Revenue /event Products
Sighisoara Dec 09 and Mar 2010 quarterly 15- 20 700-1000 €4-5.000 Meat/oils/preserves/ cheese/bakery/pickles
Medias May 2010 first one of its kind 25-30 1000-1500  €8-10.000 Mostly cheese, plus other products
Sibiu July 2010 first one of its kind 15-20 4000-5000 €8-10.000 Meat/oils/preserves/ cheese/bakery/pickles

ADEPT is getting increasing demand for organizing and promoting these events. ADEPT is also creating links between producers and major hotels in nearby cities.

Impact: €43,661 extra income in 2009 for 25 producers (jam and cheese), in direct sales by producers mainly at farmers markets facilitated by ADEPT, and sales through the Tourist Information Centre established by ADEPT. 15 trained women involved in jam-making in the summer months. Over 100 Roma seasonally employed.

5. Helping to solve food hygiene threat to small-scale producers

The sale of these products in farmers markets was threatened by inconsistent interpretation of EU hygiene regulations, especially those relating to authorisation of premises for small-scale production and of points of sale (especially farm-gate direct sales).

ADEPT and NGO partners WWF and Milvus have worked closely with the state food hygiene agency ANSVSA to clarify that a flexible approach should be applied to direct sales by small-scale producers in marginal areas: so long as food safety is retained, traditional production methods should often be allowed to continue. This message was published in a booklet supported by EU Delegation funds, in 2007, in order not only to reassure small producers, but also, equally importantly, so that local (DSVSA) representatives of ANSVSA receive clear signals from Bucharest that this is an approved approach. See Fig 4.

We are pleased to say that farmers markets selling local/traditional products are now becoming a feature in major Romanian cities this would not have occurred without active MADR and ANSVSA support.

These kinds of activities are eligible for support under various NRDP measures, such as Measure 123 Adding value to agricultural and forestry products (although 50% co-financing is a problem for small producers), and 142 Setting up of producer groups (although thresholds are too high to help small groups in initial stages).

Fig 4: booklet on food hygiene for small producers, available freely in Hungarian, Romanian and English.

6: Development of agro-tourism in Târnava Mare area

ADEPT has also promoted diversification in the Târnava Mare area, which has witnessed an extraordinary growth in the number of visitors, according to records taken by the Tourist Information Centre that was opened by a ADEPT in partnership with the Town Hall. Of the visitors, 60% were foreign, 40% Romanian. (See Table 11.)

This growth in numbers has occurred in spite of a fall nationally and globally in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis. The tourists are attracted by a varied offer of cultural and nature-watching pursuits developed by the NGO: guest houses, meeting producers, guided nature walks, etc.

Table 11: trends in Târnava Mare tourism income

Year Tourism (accommodation, meals, activities, guiding) No. of tourists, Târnava Mare
2005 - -
2006 €15000 350
2007 €25000 2120
2008 €38000 5970
2009 €62457 6328

Impact: €62,000 extra income in 2009 to 30 guest house owners and service providers.

ADEPT achieved this growth of numbers by carrying out a number of agro-tourism training courses, very practical in their content including basic English and explanation of visitor expectations. For example, potential guest house hosts were often concerned by lack of television and of supermarket food, quite opposite to the concerns of guests whose main concerns were cleanliness and some degree of privacy – requiring little investment. Perceived barriers were removed by such explanations.

Similar to the jam development experience, the initiative came from ADEPT, but once a small number had derived an income, ADEPT has received many spontaneous demands to become involved.

This diversification could be funded under 313 Encouragement of tourism activities, although lack of confidence and of co-financing are barriers to small-scale farmers wishing to diversify.

7. LEADER

ADEPT has recognised LEADER as highly relevant to smallholder communities, and has promoted the establishment of the Târnava Mare Local Action Group (LAG). This is already operational, although Axis 4 funding for LAGs has not yet started. As a result, small-scale farmers are participating in LEADER-type meetings, which helps ADEPT and others understand local concerns and priorities.

ADEPT has deliberately proposed the Târnava Mare LAG to cover the same area and include the same communes as the Târnava Mare Natura 2000 area, since these two measures (one for local involvement in sustainable rural development, and the other for biodiversity conservation) will assist each other in an innovative way. See Figures 3 and 4 below. The LAG will become a very useful tool to involve local people in the management of the Natura 2000 site.

The LEADER process will be used increasingly in guiding local rural development policies. Once Axis 4 funding starts, small-scale farmers will contribute directly to encouragement and initiation of local development actions, including new products and marketing systems, modernizing the traditional activities by applying new technologies, etc.

An example of new technologies relevant to village needs is the Public Access Information Points (PAPI) initiative referred to above. There are 2 in the 8 communes of the Târnava Mare area. Use is free, and assistance is available, for access to funding projects, internet banking etc., and there is a small charge for personal use. Although to begin with (2008) the PAPI was used mainly by younger villagers, it is noticeable now that many middle-aged villagers are using the PAPI for access to banking, downloading of forms etc., especially for NRDP-related IACS maps and grant claim forms. PAPI is a World Bank project, but the system could be eligible for NRDP support, for example under Measure 322 Village renewal and development / basic services for rural economy.

8. Natura 2000

ADEPT led the process of designation of the Târnava Mare area as a Natura 2000 site, which took place in 2008. Under NRDP Measure 213, holdings within Natura 2000 sites will receive additional payments. These payments will not start in Romania until sites have management plans with obligatory measures, and the costs of these obligatory measures can be calculated.

Natura 2000 plays an important role as the EU’s flagship for biodiversity conservation, but it is important to take into account that public goods including biodiversity are derived to a large extent from semi-natural agricultural landscapes outside conventional Natura 2000 sites. Significant opportunities to secure biodiversity conservation and other public goods will be lost if the protection of semi-natural landscapes is ignored in favour of Natura sites. The HNV concept argues that high biodiversity should be recognised and protected by looser, more flexible tools than targeting areas with strict boundaries and formal designation: tools such as agri-environment payments. This is the area of overlap of DG Agriculture and DG Environment. The more closely they work together in policy development, the better.

These examples illustrate that

CONCLUSIONS

The Romanian Government understandably sees the need to increase competitiveness in the agricultural sector, because EU membership will increase exposure to competition from lower-cost and better-established producers in Western Europe. However, in parallel, the Public Goods approach to policy analysis suggests that more action may be justified to support the continued traditional activities of Romania’s approximately 4 million small-scale farmers, rather than thinking of them simply as a sector to be restructured. These traditional management systems are important for delivering a whole range of vital public goods – water quality, flood prevention, resistance to effects of climate change, water and food security – which have a large economic value. The EU has tools in the NRDP the support these HNVF landscapes and communities: however, there are barriers to access in policy design and delivery.

Policy design: the target of NRDP Pillar II Axis 1 is the 8% of SSF holdings 2-8 ESU in size, not the 91% of SF holdings under 2 ESU. And measure 112, Setting up of young farmers, has a minimum threshold of 6 ESU, which is a barrier to young farmers. The target of NRDP Axis 2, and Pillar I area payments, is the 54% of holdings over 1ha in size, not the 45% of holdings under 1 ha2. In other member states thresholds are lower for receiving these payments.

Could eligibility for be enlarged in Romania? This would present administrative challenges – for example, aid secured by a farm applying for say 0.5ha under agri-environment may be disproportionate to the administrative cost to deliver & control such support, and there would also be the additional administrative burden of a huge increase in the number of eligible beneficiaries. But, when wider economic, social and cultural benefits are taken into account, in terms of public goods, this might be considered justified.

Delivery: this case study suggests that improvements in consultancy services will deliver much improved results on the ground, in terms of uptake by farmers. The study also shows that if the range of NRDP support measures is combined in an innovative way, it can be very effective in supporting small-scale farming communities. The challenge is to broaden such activity from localised, patchy implementation to wider, national-level implementation. For this, highly trained and motivated advisory services are required.

Romanian subsistence and semi-subsistence farmers will rely on good advisory services for many more years owing to their unfamiliarity with the process of grant applications. However, state agriculture advisory services are patchy, in some areas ineffective. State advisory and inspection services often lack training and basic equipment, such as vehicles to allow farm visits; such capacity is required to improve uptake of measures, and to improve the impact of measures through proper inspections.

This case study also shows that the role of NGOs can be significant, by helping government agencies to deliver policy in a very cost-effective manner, and by providing feedback from farmers to guide modification of NRDP measures where suitable. Perhaps the potential role of NGOs could be given greater policy recognition and financial support, for example by expanding and making more flexible NRDP Measure 143 (Providing farm advisory and extension services), so that local/regional NGOs can gain access to funding for such a role.

The ADEPT project works in a semi-natural landscape of European biodiversity importance, in which conservation of the area depends not only on community support, but also on active community participation in the form of continued traditional management of the landscape. Without community participation the area cannot be conserved; conservation practitioners can never replicate artificially the mowing, grazing and general management of tens of thousands of hectares of mosaic landscape.

Under these circumstances, the community must rediscover commercial and moral incentives to continue to manage the area traditionally. The role of scientists and conservation NGOs is, in this case, to help local people to understand the importance of the landscape in which they live, and to encourage them to take an interest in why it works as an ecosystem, and to help give them the capacity, and long-term economic incentives, to continue to conserve it themselves.

The importance of the area from a biodiversity point of view is clear. The inclusion of the Târnava Mare area within the EU’s Natura 2000 network offers perhaps the best means to protect the landscape in the face of economic and social pressures, especially since Natura 2000 will take into account the interests of local people, and make them eligible for special grants and funding.

But it is also clear that this is not a wilderness conservation project, but essentially an agri-environmental one. We are seeking prosperous small-scale farming communities in sustainable and diversified rural economies. Local people are therefore at the heart of these processes. They created this landscape, and only their continued management can preserve it.

In the project, all methods are being explored by which the biodiversity importance of the landscape can be given a market value, which would bring local benefits and therefore create positive, long-term, market incentives for conservation.

EU payments for habitat and species conservation (under Natura 2000) and for agri-environment (HNV grassland management payments) are not a long-term solution, but they do give time and financial opportunity to establish those essential long-term commercial incentives.

Adding value to food and other local products, through area branding and through quality/organic certification and branding, are key to this longer term process.

Acknowledgements

We would like to express our thanks to the following:

last but not least the many local people who have supported ADEPT with such enthusiasm, without whom we could do nothing.

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1 The economic size of farms in the EU is defined as Economic Size Units (ESU), where 1 ESU = an annual turnover of approximately 1,200 EUR

2 It is worth noting that land in holdings under 1 ha can be eligible for SAPS payments since the applicant for SAPS is not the owner, but the user of the land. If a farmer uses several parcels from several owners, and is using at least 1ha in total, he/she can claim SAPS even if individual ownership of the parcels of the land he is using is under 1 ha.