Moldova: More Trees Means More Food
Planting trees in Moldova - Soil Conservation Follow Up Project
August 8, 2013
Soil erosion is a serious problem for about a third of all the farmland in Moldova. And in a country where most of the rural poor work the land, the quality of the soil they farm is crucial.
Moldova's land is three-quarters agricultural, and as the fertility of the soil has fallen, so have crop yields. In some villages, yields have fallen by more by than half. And that can mean the difference between eating and going hungry.
Thin topsoil and unstable ground are two problems here.
Around this village there were a lot of eroded hills and there were landslides.
Only 11% of Tree Cover
Only 11 percent of Moldova's land is covered by trees; tree roots stop the erosion caused by water and wind. With support from the World Bank, Moldova is planting trees with the goal of increasing forest cover to 15 percent. The idea is to stabilize the ground, protect vital watersheds, and improve the quality of the air.
In Hirtop, people support the plan, says the village's mayor, Vladimir Medoni. "The main benefit of this is that the degraded land is improved, and the people here benefit from the trees and improved pastures."
Gheorghe Rabei, a councilman from Cobusca, agrees, saying people can easily see that the project helps them. "Since we agreed to improve these lands, erosion has lessened. And in the future we hope that people in the village will be able to get fuel wood from the trees." Other ideas include beekeeping, pheasant hunting, foraging for mushrooms in the fall, and using the new forests as a place to simply relax.
Reclaiming "Refused Lands"
Village leaders are planting trees on the so-called "refused lands," which are owned by the community but not used for farming or anything else. Drought-resistant white acacias grow quickly and the land here is dotted with small clusters of the trees. Elsewhere, forestry officials are also planting stands of oak, pine, and poplar.
"The more forest we plant, the more we slow climate change," says Mihai Plamadeala, of the Moldova Soil Conservation Project. "The summers will be less hot, the winters less severe, it is good for the population."
Fodder for Village Cows
Part of the project aims to put once-dormant pastures to village use, planting alfalfa as fodder for cows. Tudor Corlateanu is a vegetable farmer and dairyman. "The best thing about the program is that I don't have to search for feed for my cows all over the fields anymore. The alfalfa crop has doubled my cows' milk." He adds that the villagers with cows all plant alfalfa on the same field, so they can rent a tractor and harvest it together, saving money and time.
The goal is to plant over 30,000 hectares, in addition to the government’s larger-scale forestation program of about 60,000 hectares. About half of the project’s plantings will be on small, patchy pieces of “refused land,” once neglected and now vital to Moldova’s soil, water and air.