|In Romania, the first examples of agri-environment schemes under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are operating alongside non-governmental projects to maintain traditional farming systems, which provide a landscape extraordinarily rich in wildlife.
The Romanian agricultural landscape is populated by large numbers of small-scale farmers. In 2010, more than 90% of the farmes and over 30% of the agriculture land in Romania are managed by subsistance and semi-subsistence farmers. Many of these use so called High Nature Value (HNV) farming systems and traditional farming practices, sustaining remarkable wildlife and landscapes.
In many areas these systems are threatened by abandonment or intensification. Although they maintain crucial environmental benefits, they are not sufficiently rewarded economically so the farming practice is becoming increasingly unviable.
Agri-environment payments and Natura 2000 payments are one possible solution. The Romanian Government has designated areas with over 50% of permanent grassland as eligible for grassland support through HNV payments and agri-environment measures designed to protect threatened bird species and their grassland habitats. This has allowed the introduction of different schemes where farmers are required to limit stocking levels, nutrient input and comply with different mowing dates. For a higher payment level, use of machinery is prohibited. Since these schemes were introduced, hay meadows are being brought back into operation and grazing rotation is more rigorously maintained, bringing security for the wildlife that depends on this type of management.
However, 45% from the existing farmes in Romania have an area of less than 1 hectar and are excluded from support (agri-environment payments and direct payments) because of their small size. In areas like this local partnership projects are extremely valuable along with trainings and information seminars for farmers for a better understanding of the agri-environment payments.
Organizations as the Romanian Ornithological Society/BirdLife Partner in Romania Fundatia ADEPT (Agricultural Development and Environmental Protection in Transylvania), Fundatia Civitas and others have been running local projects in Romania in different Natura 2000 sites designated to protect the semi-natural landscape of exceptional value. These organizations are working with farmers to bring them into support schemes. Together with Government, these organizations work to improve scheme design to ensure accessibility for small-scale farmers.
During the period 2007-2011, through “Measure 214” agri-environment payments were made in the size of 733,4 million Euro (out of an allocation of 996,4 million Euro for the period 2007-2013). Although it is early days for agri-environment in this corner of Eastern Europe, the signs are promising and show that the farmers become interested in this type of support. With the right delivery of the right schemes, Romania’s hugely important farming systems can be maintained into the future.
SOR (BirdLife partner in Romania)
Lavinia Raducescu, lavinia.raducescu(at)gmail.com