In Moldova: Reducing the Risks of Wild Weather
June 19, 2014
Land-locked and tucked away in southeastern Europe, Moldova’s geographical location allows for a renowned winemaking industry. Moldovan wines are prized throughout the region. But geography also makes the country prone to severe weather patterns, like frequent droughts, which threaten both Moldova’s prized vineyards and the country’s economy as a whole.
During the past ten years, Moldova has suffered through six severe weather cycles: massive floods in 2008 and 2010, and extreme droughts in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Experts calculate those disasters did about US$ 1.2 billion’s worth of damage.
So, for Moldova, a country where agriculture makes up about 15 percent of GDP, a disaster risk reduction strategy is key. Working with the World Bank, Moldova’s government is developing a national disaster risk management system that can mitigate the impact of extreme weather on the country’s economy and on farmers’ lives.
Protecting Farmers’ Crops
Ion Baban grows grapes for Moldovan wine. He is one of 53 farmers who received a grant to help him adapt to harsh weather conditions. With over 20 years’ experience in farming, Baban also runs the “Basan-Agro” Cooperative in Cimişlia, about 60 kilometers [40 miles] south of the capital, Chisinau. With the grant money, he built a 4,000-square-meter-wide water basin, which contains enough water to irrigate 25 hectares of orchards and vineyards.
“We learned our lesson in 2012 when a severe drought left me with a ruined harvest,” Ion Baban recalls. “Now, with this big investment, we see that it bears fruit; in 2013, though we had more rainy days, our own irrigation system allowed us to see a 40 percent increase in our yield. And it improved both the quantity and already high quality of our grapes. And better quality means better prices for our fruits.”
Farmers are using these competitive grants, ranging from US$ 5,000 to US$ 20,000, for constructing irrigation and microclimate control systems as well as installing anti-hail nets in their fields. All these improvements are being used, as demonstration projects to educate others and promote the climate mitigation measures and techniques that are applicable in Moldova.
In the village of Satul Nou, which also lies in a climate-vulnerable area, residents cope with winter frost and strong rains with hail and, sometimes, flooding. Nicolae Chistol operates six greenhouses with a total area of 450 square meters. With his grant money, he’s added heat and air conditioning to two of his greenhouses, and last year he grew a record-breaking harvest of 18 kilograms of cucumbers and 14 kilograms of tomatoes per one square meter.
“The system allows me to plant tomatoes, cucumbers and radish much earlier,” Chistol says. “I start selling my vegetables early in spring and they last me until late autumn as they are well protected from frosts, floods and droughts. I now have two advantages, heating in cold weather and ventilation in hot summers.” He’s so pleased with his climate-controlled greenhouses; he’s planning to expand his business.
The disaster risk management project works closely with Moldova’s National Hydro Meteorological Service, because accurate weather forecasts help farmers, and others, prepare for severe weather. A new alert system, which operates with Moldova’s agricultural marketing information system, is called ATMOS-AMIS. It’s an early communication and information-sharing network.
The new alert system has over 1,100 direct subscribers and more than 60,000 who rely on its web app. Subscribers get daily weather forecasts and alerts, which are often coupled with mitigation recommendations. Users can also choose to receive countrywide prices for vegetables, fruits, sunflower oil, and cereals.
Climate change will continue to worry the farmers of Moldova, as weather patterns grow more extreme. But how Moldova manages emergencies and coordinates disaster response in the future depends on decisions made now. The scale of the impact depends on the choices the country makes now as to how its farmers grow their food, and whether they will be more vulnerable to disaster or more resilient.
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