Solutions needed for Romania’s all too frequent droughts

Regardless of what one thought of its communist political system at the time, Romania invested extensively in irrigation systems. However, they were designed to supply water to state-controlled land areas and to levels that needed heavily subsidized energy. It was a state-organized operation that assumed long-term land control. In agriculture the ability to invest for the long term is imperative, especially with infrastructure investments like irrigation. Lose the control and the investments can/will be jeopardized.

A Romanian well on a small farm

Whatever the politics of post-1989, the culprit that caused the loss of Romania’s irrigation and drought-management systems was land-privatization. It gave no regard to the needs of agriculture and food production. Every government since has inherited the agricultural problems derived from the fragmented land structure created by privatization. The still-far-too-many, outstanding land-transfer and cadastral issues only makes matters worse.

Smallholders have been significantly impacted by resultant droughts. For them it is not about income, it is more about their household food supply. Many are also aged with little opportunity to leave to find alternative income sources to survive. This group of society is large and it includes pensioners and those deemed as ‘self-employed’ in agriculture. The smallholding is a major part of the pension and social-support system in Romania and it is a safety-net that has enabled many of the poor to survive. With this safety-net failing in this time of austerity, one fears for the future of many rural dwellers.

It is imperative that the food supply for drought-impacted smallholders is fully assessed. Given that ‘austerity’ has not been accompanied by real reforms (it is easier to blame the international crisis), there is no imminent economic revival. The social crisis in rural Romania has largely gone ignored and now it might just die out, literally.

Taken from original article by Stuart Meikle

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About Stuart Meikle 29 Articles

Stuart Meikle is an agricultural management and policy specialist, an economist, a writer and an advisor. He was brought up with agriculture and studied at the University of London. He joined the faculty on graduating and spent several years teaching, researching and consulting. His last 25 years have seen him advising governments, the World Bank and the IFC, NGOs, universities and private businesses in places as far afield as SE and Central Asia, the Caucuses, the Levant, SE Europe and the UK. Over the years he has developed a particular focus on agricultural and food sector strategy at the national and regional levels and linking rural development initiatives with the consumer through the food supply chains. He first arrived in Romania to work on a Commission project in 1997 and he lived in Transylvania for more than a decade from 2002; a location to which he was appointed as the United Kingdom's first Honorary Consul. Nowadays he and his family live in the Republic of Ireland.