Monday, June 30, 2008

The Moldovan farmer's plight

We are now well into the growing season and I have had multiple opportunities to observe farming here in Moldova. The vast majority of farms are family owned plots scattered throughout the village and its surroundings. Due to the way the lands were apportioned after independence, each plot is impractically small and of differing quality. There really is no rhyme and reason to the distribution. Instead of one large field of wheat, there are five small fields of corn, wheat, animal feed and grapes. Contributing to the inefficiency of the system, the tractors that everyone relied on were also parceled out. Very few have farm machinery.

What does this mean for the average farmer?

With gasoline and rental prices so high and given the employment market, labor costs low, the only viable solution for many is to work the land by hand and grow all the necessities. It is very hard work, especially during the summer under the hot sun but working families rarely starve. There is usually enough food for the year, with a small surplus that can be sold. Although it is difficult to accumulate wealth and advance under this system, under favorable conditions, families can live relatively comfortably.

Of course, favorable conditions are rather the exception than the norm.

Weather can be inimical to productive farming. Last year, drought caused sharp drops in output from agriculture. Families without salaried members had difficult times and suffered. Fruit and vegetables did not grow well and could not be sold on the market.

Sometimes, families do not even have enough able bodied people to work the fields. Pensioners, disabled persons and families with problem members are prone to labor shortages and live even poorer than the rest of the community. They do not have the ability to cultivate their lands. Often, the solution is to sell their land or to let it lie fallow. The lack of income and produce from their lands hurts greatly.

The current situation is rather insupportable and needs to change if improvement is to occur.

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