For more than 30 years, every day, the market from Slobozia Mare gathers people from the Lower Prut Meadow region and even from the border communities from Romania. People buy the local products they need, and the villagers earn some money as they have customers for the products from their households.
In addition, the village has a huge touristic potential because it is located near Beleu Lake, has a museum with over 10,000 exhibits and locals are ready to accommodate tourists. Although it seems that the village has all the necessary ingredients for a sustainable economic development, the income of the population continues to be low and about 30% of the village population left abroad to work.
It is not easy, but we want to work at home
“Before going to Italy to work, we produced pork and sold it at the market. We worked abroad for 10 years and when we came back, we invested all our money in the same type of business. Now we raise 200 pigs for people from the southern part of the country. Although we had everything in Italy, and our friends continue to ask us to come back and start a business there, we decided to continue the business here, in Slobozia Mare,” say the Brovcenco spouses, pork producers from Slobozia Mare.
There are other 1396 householders like Bravcenco family who produce milk and cheese, fresh meat, vegetables and fruits, grains and nuts, products from leather and fur, handicraft items. All these products attract annually about 12,000 people from the southern part of the country and from Romania. The large presence of the population here requires good conditions, particularly in the context of the pandemic.
“We don’t have conditions to sell meat and for this reason we rented a store outside the market to be able to sell the meat in safe and sanitary conditions. The construction of a modern market hall would help us to sell in better conditions even in the market, where all the buyers come. We are sure that even more buyers would come. It is not easy, but we want to work at home,” says Elena Brovcenco.
Saranciuc family sells at the market an unusual product — “cavurma”, a delicious meal made from lamb and chili peppers. The family has a flock of over 100 sheep and during the summer they produce sheep cheese, while during autumn — cavurma.
“We have been producing and selling cavurma for seven years. This is our business. Selling the meat would be very cheap, but we have a product with commercial added value, which allows us to pay the salaries of our employees who help us to take care of the sheep. It is a relatively easily perishable product and it would be great to have adequate conditions to sell the cheese and the cavurma — a modern hall with refrigerators, air conditioning,” says Alexandra Girnet.
The cross-border market: the lungs of local economy
To boost local economic development, UNDP and Switzerland support Slobozia Mare and other 24 communities to consult people about local priorities, which will further be included in the local strategic documents and implemented.
“In the summer of 2019, for the first time in the history of the village, we sat together at one table to discuss — we — the local public authorities, local business entities, small producers and the diaspora. We discussed about how to revive the local economy and we came to the conclusion that we have many producers and a market that has over 30 years and that the goods we produce locally are demanded in the entire region and in the cross-border communities from Romania. If we support local producers, we will increase the number of jobs and personal income,” says Valentina Carastan, mayor of Slobozia Mare village.
During the first local economic forum, those approx. 100 participants in the event approved a roadmap for the economic development of Slobozia Mare village. The participants in the forum — manufacturers and merchants from the village were consulted regarding the concept of the market, one of the economic development priorities they chose.
“For decades, we have been growing vegetables and flowers in greenhouses that we sell at the market, but no one ever asked our opinion. In 2019, the mayoralty and the hometown association gathered us, and we discussed about the concept of the market and about our community in general. We voiced our opinions and we are even ready to donate money and to help with works in order to build the market as fast as possible,” says Elena Mitablinda.
The success is contagious
Thus, people joined their efforts and started to build a new market with money obtained from various sources: MDL1.5 million from the local budget, the Government of Switzerland offered MDL1.14 million in the framework of the “Migration and local development” UNDP Project, the Cahul District Council offered MDL400,000 and the Government Program DAR 1+3 offered MDL250,000. MDL114,000 needed to be fundraised as well to reach a total budget of MDL3.4 million. So far, 72 individuals donated about MDL72,000.
“We donated money for the market. I want to go shopping in good conditions. If we do not develop this village, who else will do it. We are proud that out village will be the most developed village in the Lower Prut Meadow region. I want us to have guest houses, well arranged touristic places and tourists who will spread the word about our village,” says Liudmila Arbuz, born in Slobozia Mare, now living in Italy.
The construction of five rustic cottages is almost over. Local beekeepers, two local craftspeople, flower breeders and local winemakers will be able to sell their products there.
Afterwards, the territory will be paved, the spots for producers that sell their products from the cars will be marked and the road to this market will be built.
“Given that everyone is waiting for conditions that will allow to sell perishable products, a modern agri-touristic hall with over 20 places for selling lamb, beef, pork, goat meat and dairy products will be ready in 2021. Also, a pavilion with 25 stands for producers of vegetables and fruits will be ready at that time. Five booths will be built for industrial products. As the market is the most visited location in the community, we will transform it into a platform for the promotion of tourist destinations. We will install tourist signs and information boards. Our goal is to develop locally to be able to move the country forward,” says Valentina Carastan.
Small wins for great results
Now, the number one priority of any community is economic survival. No community in the country will manage to survive from a social and demographic point of view without a healthy local economy. Those 900 local economies from Moldova are different in terms of size, specialization, dynamics and development perspective. The economy of certain local communities is based on industry, while of others — on the agriculture.
“We work with mayoralties and we provide counselling and financial support to help them implement local economic development interventions. This would allow to change the dynamics and, first and foremost, to set optimistic trends in the local economy. Only examples of success can change this paradigm. Cooperation and good understanding between the mayoralty and people with entrepreneurial mindset is a key precondition for success. We are confident that this model will be rapidly replicated by other communities in the country,” stated Andrei Darie, Programme Specialist, UNDP Moldova.
The revival of local economies depends on the involvement of citizens who need to stop being witnesses and become part of the transformation progresses.
“We decided that this change should be accompanied by small steps and quick-wins that are continuously monitored. Once certain objectives are achieved, we should continue to set new short-term objectives. The works at the rustic cottages are currently being finalized, the construction of the hall is in full swing and we registered 10 more quick-wins that represent the road to Slobozia Mare — a growth pole in the south of the country and an unique tourist destination,” concluded Valeria Carastan.
UNDP developed a guide about economic development for local public administration, for a better understanding of the operational mechanisms of local economies. It also proposes tools and leverages that local elected officials could use to advance certain local policies of economic development: attraction of investments, support for existing businesses and incentives for new local entrepreneurs.
Text: Tatiana Solonari, UNDP Moldova
Photo: Ion Buga