Agro-ecological Knowledge Hub

Romania

Case study: Transylvania and Maramures Area

Permanent crops and grazing livestock combined. Mosaic patches of semi natural grasslands created and maintained by traditional livestock grazing systems (sheep, cattle of local breeds), small plots of cultivated land with low intensity/extensive management.

Production: Cattle - (dairying, rearing and fattening) and mixed farms with permanent crops

Key challenge

Economic viability of small-scale farming and better economic solutions for smallholder farmers, maintainig traditional farming systems and preserving the cultural landscapes, finding a balance between development and biodiversity conservation.

Key Dilemma and key reseach question

Farm level reaserch questions:

1) How to increase the economic viability of small-scale farming system while preserving the cultural landscape and biodiversity?

2) How we can create economic benefits and how we can reward smallholders for contribution to biodiversity?

Territorial level reaserch questions:

3) How we can increase the focus of national authorities on the development of infrastructure for processing of agricultural raw materials from small-scale farming system in order to obtain finite products with added-value?

4) How can Transylvania will continue to provide its people with quality and healthy food, a cultural identity, as well as harbouring ecological treasures? Are smallholders longing for modernisation, or would they prefer to maintain local customs and traditions?

Potential barriers to be addressed

* Agricultural intensification, high investments (Transylvania’s high farmland biodiversity results from there being a variety of land cover types, which are used at low intensity and arranged in a small-scalemosaic.Both agricultural intensification and land abandonment would threaten biodiversity because these processes are associated with landscape simplification)

* EU policy (The rules and structures imposed by the EU often do not fit local realities, and may need to be adjusted in the future)

* Limited sales opportunities from some crops

* farmers don’t have access to storage and processing infrastructure and are thus forced to sell their raw materials (meat, milk, vegetables) at very low prices to industrial processors in Romania or abroad, who then mix them together, thus wasting all the qualities of produce obtained from environmentally-friendly farming, while the producers remain anonymous and at semi-subsistence level

* a lack of consumer awareness regarding the benefits of organic foods, or healthy foods from extensive farms, a lack of consumer trust in organic products due to previous false or misleading claims
 

Short description of key characteristics

Case study in Romania will focus on Maramures and Transylvania Highlands, 2 distinctive geographic regions but having multiple common landscape and socio-economical elements (eg fragmented agricultural landscape, mosaic patches of semi natural grasslands created and maintained by traditional livestock grazing systems: cattle and sheeps, small plots of cultivated land with rather low intensity/extensive management). Transylvania’s land cover mosaic results from the long-term application of low-intensity, and often traditional, farming practices. In addition to such practices supporting a diverse land cover mosaic, they also have other benefits for biodiversity. First, the input of pesticides and fertilisers is low, while the amount of manual labour to work the land is high. Many farmers still plough their land with the help of horses (Fig. 7.5), weed their crops by hand, and manually cut hay for their livestock. While being labour-intensive, these techniques enable plants to spread their seeds and animals to survive within thecultivated land. Second, traditional silvo-pastoral techniques have created wood pastures, which host diverse ecological communities. In wood pastures, both forest species and grassland species thrive because of the combination of woody vegetation cover and grassland. Third, traditional livestock herding techniques are adapted to mitigate the risk of predation from bears and wolves. The use of guarding dogs, in particular, reduces livestock predation and thus facilitates a relatively peaceful co-existence of humans and carnivores.

Traditional practices thus have many benefits beyond the creation of a heterogeneous land cover mosaic.The high biodiversity in Transylvania is tightly linked to the structural diversity and the specific management practices that can be found in that landscape. However, like many cultural landscapes, Transylvania is changing rapidly, which poses a range of challenges for sustainability in general, as well as for biodiversity conservation in particular.

Transylvania landscape in general, is dependent on continued traditional management by small-scale farming communities, and on cattle farming to maintain haymeadows. As long as traditional management provides decent local incomes, incentives will maintain the management and the farmers will preserve the habitats and associated species, as they have done for centuries.

Key actors involved

  • Adept Foundation: Fundația ADEPT is carrying out an integrated programme linking economic and social benefits with biodiversity conservation, and raising local capacity for good management in the future.
  • Local Action Group Association „Târnava Mare”: The Local Action Group Association Dealurile Tîrnavelor was established as a public-private partnership in 2007 in the sense of the LEADER program, engaging with developing a Local development strategy
  • Leuphana University Lueneburg: The Sustainable Landscapes Group is an academic research team at Leuphana University Lüneburg (Germany), authors of 3 of the most important books about the sustainability of Southern Transylvania (Sustainable landscapes in Central Romania, The future of people in Southern Transylvania and Balance Brings Beauty: A Shared Vision for Southern Transylvania
  • The Mihai Eminescu Trust Foundation: The foundation has dedicated itself to the protection of the historical Transylvanian heritage, managing all the heritage preservation and village revival projects.
  • Association APA VIE Valeni: Actively involved in promotion of HNV landscape and HNV products in Historical Maramures.
  • Producers Association of Traditional and Ecological Products Maramures: Actively producing and promoting traditional and ecological products from Maramures (honey, orchard fruit, cheese, meat products) participating in open markets in Romania
  • Maramures Museum Sighetu Marmatiei: Actively involved in promotion of traditional practices (agro-forestry), architecture in Maramures
  • Local Action Group Mara-Gurai-Creasta Cocosului: Promotion of traditional, ecological agriculture and providing finnacial
  • support via National Rural Development Plan 2014-2020, Leade IV Axis (local LAG strategy)
  • Maramures County Council, external relations office: Synergic initiatives as they implement a project Food Chains for Europe (Interreg), where they target promotion of traditional products (including food)
  • EcoLogic Association: Manager of ecotourism destination Mara-Cosau-Creasta Cocosului, much interested and actively working for promotion of traditional products, HNV landscape

Expected Results

  • Several EU relevant sustainability issues are addressed in the case study, including rural development, soil degradation, biodiversity, landscape
  • Expected results of casy study:
    • Improved understanding of the sustainability (strengths/weaknesses) of conventional vs organing farms of different sizes
    • A mapping of challenges in agroecology pathaways