EU LEADER rural development initiative brings promising results in ATU Gagauzia and Taraclia district

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    78 projects will boost local rural development in ATU Gagauzia, Taraclia and in neighboring districts. The projects are supported by the European Union in the framework of LEADER initiative. The Local Action Groups (LAGs), responsible for the projects’ development and implementation, met today at a conference combined with an open-air fair to present the results of their activities, to exchange experience and to promote local products. The event was organized in Chisinau by the “Support for agriculture and rural development in ATU Gagauzia and Taraclia district” Programme, financed by the European Union and implemented by the UNDP.

    A regional festival of local carpets, an enterprise for producing condiments and medical plants, cultivation of strawberries in greenhouses, construction of a rural market, equipping of some playgrounds, establishment of a touristic boarding house with national peculiarities – these are few examples of projects implemented by 8 LAGs, created last year within SARD Programme. The LAGs cover 44 rural localities from ATU Gagauzia, Taraclia and neighboring districts. The LAGs are formed by representatives of local authorities, private sector and civil society from rural localities.

    To fulfill the 78 projects of social-economic and environmental development of villages, selected under a grants’ competition, each LAG was awarded 30,000 Euro, with European Union’s support. 20% of the project’s budget is covered by the LAG, with cash or in kind.

    Ambassador Peter Michalko, Head of EU Delegation to the Republic of Moldova, who attended the event, mentioned:Agriculture and rural development аrе one of the key sectors for a steady and sustainable economic development. LEADER programme is designed to help rural actors consider the long-term potential of their local region. A strong focus on partnership and experience exchange networks is necessary to be built across and within the regions of the country. This programme, implemented within the EU financed SARD project, helped Gagauzia and Taraclia in creating new businesses and job opportunities for the population”.

    The participants at the event tackled the benefits of EU LEADER approach for wider rural communities, as well as the extension of this initiative at the national level.

    Our advantage is that we benefit not only from financial support, but also from mentorship and technical assistance at every stage, including study visits, so as to successfully apply the LEADER initiative at local level. This enabled us to identify the local problems and to find the best solutions for solving them, to harness the local potential and resources, just like we saw it in many European countries”, says Mihail Esir, active member of the LAG „Eco düzYalpujel”, covering five local communities from ATU Gagauzia.

    Local traditional products from ATU Gagauzia and Taraclia district were presented at the fair organized during the conference. The visitors had the possibility to taste traditional products, such as baur, gozleme, cavirma or banita and could buy various handcrafted products, money that will be donated to LAGs.

    According to Valentina Caichi, Mayor of Chiriet Lunga, President of “Eco Bugeac” LAG, LEADER approach provides for integrated and multi-sectorial actions and creates a sustainable, inclusive and innovative decision-making mechanism for local development actions, which is based on bottom-up principle. All of them represent serious premises for fulfilling the general strategic goal of every LAG – to create jobs, to improve inhabitants’ living conditions, to attract tourists and investors into the villages.

    The European expert for rural development, Marta Marczis, mentioned during the event that the experience accumulated within the SARD Programme contributes to the process of implementing the European LEADER methodology at the national level by the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment. It also represents a model for national NGOs piloting this methodology in other regions of the country. “The guideline and the methodology for implementing LEADER initiative, which were developed under the SARD Programme, as well as the study for identifying the legal form for registering the LAGs in the Republic of Moldova were already distributed to all interested parties. All the experience accumulated until now in relation to LEADER implementation will inevitably lead to the social and economic development of rural areas,” mentioned the expert.

    Those NGO initiatives, which have employed the method aiming to enable local communities to establish LAGs in other regions of the country, were also invited to the Chisinau LEADER event. Their participation provided the first opportunity of networking for the Moldovan LAGs.

    As Kirsten Birke Lund, Council Member of the European LEADER Association for Rural Development (ELARD), one of the conference speakers said, networking is one of the key tools to make the LEADER initiative stronger at the local level by providing opportunities to LAG members for knowledge exchange, for communication with relevant governmental stakeholders and for developing common projects.

    During the event, Dafina Gercheva, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in the Republic of Moldova, noted: “I am happy to see that the experience of piloting the LEADER approach within the EU-funded SARD Programme implemented by UNDP, was instrumental for the establishment of other LAGs in the Northern and Central part of Moldova. Today’s event will lay the groundwork for the establishment of a platform that will enable the implementation of the LEADER approach across all regions in Moldova. It will also provide ample opportunities for knowledge and experience sharing, networking and partnerships building amongst all actors involved in the design and implementation of rural initiatives in Moldova”.

    The first LEADER Programme (Links between actions for the development of the rural economy) was initiated in the EU Member States in 1991. Since 2013, the LEADER method, entitled “Community Led Local Development” was extended to cover urban and coastal areas, as well as at the geographical extension, has been implemented in countries going through EU pre-accession period and neighbouring countries, with the assistance of EU and other development partners.

    Being financed by the European Union with 6.5 million Euro and implemented by the UNDP, the SARD Programme intends to intensify during 2016-2018 the cooperation between central and local authorities, as well as among regional organizations from Gagauzia ATU and Taraclia district to upgrade the capacities of Local Public Administrations and foster social-economic development of the region and of the Republic of Moldova, as a whole.

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