In June of 2014, our Moldovan partners from Pro Cooperare Regionala (ProCoRe) visited the Czech Republic. We sat down with one of their Project Coordinators, Caterina, during her time in Prague. Caterina works closely with Diaconia-CRD, implementing our joint project that works to improve agricultural production and market access for famers in northern Moldova.
Hi Caterina! Can you please tell us about your work with ProCoRe?
I work for Pro Cooperare Reginala (ProCoRe) as a project coordinator. I manage the project that Diaconia-CRD is involved with, which works to improve farming techniques and strengthen market access for farmers in northern Moldova so they can better provide for their families. Most of my work revolves around organizing field schools for farmers and communicating with our partners in various villages. Of course, I am also responsible for monitoring the progress of the project and I visit farmers throughout the region. I gather as much information as possible about the trajectory of the project and then send reports to Diaconia-CRD.
How did you start doing this kind of work? You’re a young professional, which in this line of work, is not very common.
It’s a rather beautiful story. Essentially, I’ve been a volunteer for ProCoRe my entire life—in fact, I still am! I’ve been involved with the organization since I was fourteen years old. When I was eighteen, they asked me to manage a very small project. I began to lead some small trainings that met very irregularly. It wasn’t that much work, but after a while some of the leaders at ProCoRe decided to give me more responsibility. They recognized that I already knew what it was like to be a volunteer and that I was very familiar with the working style and mission of the organization, so they asked me to officially come on board as part-time staff. At the beginning, I was worked less than half-time, but it was a great experience. And since then, step by step, I’ve been able to work myself up from volunteer to employee!
What are your plans for the future? Do you want to stay at ProCoRe?
I definitely want to stay at ProCoRe! I really like my job and I am passionate about the mission of the organization, not to mention it’s a large part of my life. Currently I am studying at university and next year I will graduate. I am in the process of weighing my options for a masters degree. The school I am at now focuses on economics. For my masters, I’d rather engage in a field that that is geared more towards farming or agriculture. Ideally, I’d be able to study both economics and agriculture as a dual major.
With your professional experiences working with ProCoRe, you must have a deep knowledge of agriculture. What is your opinion on farming in Moldova?
Agriculture in Moldava is stable, but many farmers are now beginning to farm ‘conventionally’, which means they grow more mono-crops and use a lot of synthetic pesticides and herbicides. Because of this change, people in Moldova are not receiving high-quality produce. At the same time, however, there is an increased demand for organic products. Our government, along with the many nonprofit organizations working in the country, encourage organic growing practices, so we’re hopeful that not all farmers will switch to these “conventional” systems that, quite frankly, aren’t ideal and have large costs.
Moldovan supermarkets offer a lot of produce from Romania and various other European countries and I personally don’t know why. Maybe it is because produce needs to have some measure of quality control which, on small Moldovan farms, is expensive and difficult to implement. But, again, I’m unable to pinpoint the exact reason Moldovan farmers are often blocked from market access. What I can say with confidence, though, is that if one wants fresh vegetables and fruits, one has to go to local markets, not to the supermarket.
What do you see as the greatest problem affecting Moldovan agriculture?
I think the problem is an issue of quality. People should value and take seriously what they do, and others should value and appreciate their work. It’s also an issue of our own health, about what we eat. And, of course, it’s an issue of modernization, which, in comparison to other European countries, we are many years behind. In Moldova people work in the fields and do everything by hand. The have no mechanized help. This is why it is so important for organizations like yours and ours to continue to train farmers and spread as much information as possible.
I would also add that it is necessary to change the opinion of our Ministry of Finance, and to a degree, our Minister of Agriculture. For the past two years, Moldova has had the opportunity to acquire substantial development support from the European Union. Unfortunately, our ministers were unable to agree upon should administer the funds. Because of this really silly debate, they were unable to sign the agreement with the EU. So, there needs to be simple changes at the government level as well.
Thanks for the conversation!
This project is also supported by the Czech Development Agency and the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.