Last week my program manager asked me to write up a short summary of a project that my partner organization completed throughout this spring, summer and fall; so I thought I would throw it up here on the blog as well with a few small changes.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union Moldova’s small rural farmers have struggled to develop profitable agricultural operations with the limited amount of land available to each farmer.  There continues to be a great need for farmers to work together with pooled resources and knowledge in order to create agricultural enterprises that can support rural communities, achieve economies of scale, and compete for international demand.  Approximately 5 years ago in our village–a community of 2500 people close to the Moldova-Romania border–a group of 9 farmers came together to form a vegetable and table-grape growers cooperative.  Their goal was to produce and collectively market quality products.

Since forming the cooperative, the farmers have found it challenging to successfully put all the pieces of the production and sales processes together.  Three years ago they renovated a refrigerated storage unit and planted 6 hectares of new table-grape vineyards; however as time has progressed, the cooperative’s members realized that consistently producing the quality grapes expected by international markets is difficult. To help address this issue, the cooperative’s manager and I developed a plan to train local farmers on proper methods of vineyard care, procure equipment that would help produce quality grapes, use existing equipment more effectively, and sell the grapes at a more profitable time.  Our plan included holding several seminars throughout the summer with a national expert in growing and exporting table-grapes, purchasing a sprayer to help apply protective compounds (a euphemism for chemicals) to vineyards, preserving grapes in the cooperative’s refrigerator, selling the grapes later in the year when prices are higher, and achieving higher profits for all participating farmers.

Overall the project achieved many of its stated goals.  With the help of a $3000 grant from USAID (your tax dollars at work) the cooperative manager, Victor, and other cooperative members purchased the sprayer shown below.  Shortly thereafter the cooperative held its first seminar which was attended by approximately 25 farmers from our village and a neighboring village.  After several more seminars and caring for the vineyards all spring and summer, the results have been a great harvest of beautiful and marketable table grapes.  Unfortunately most of the grapes have already been sold, while only a small quantity were actually stored until prices are higher.  The most notable success has been with the ‘Moldova’ grape variety which has yielded approximately 20 metric tons per hectare as compared the 2008 and 2009 district averages of 4.2 and 11.7 tons reported by www.statistica.md.  Although all of the grapes have not yet been sold, it is clear that the additional costs incurred to better care for and protect vineyards will easily be offset by increased revenue from higher yields and higher quality products, the ultimatel result being higher profit.

Vasile from the “Grape Growers and Exporters Association of Moldova” leading a seminar on how to properly care for vineyards.

Two of the early table grape varieties (Codreanca and Arcadia) just after being harvested in early September.

What an average bunch of Moldova variety grapes look like when NOT properly cared for.

What Moldova variety grapes look like when properly cared for.

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