No Place Like Home

Linking rural youth in Moldova with finance, technology, and business skills

About 57% of Moldova’s 2.6 million inhabitants live in rural areas, where the majority of farmers are smallholders.

With limited access to credit, training, and technology, agriculture is not perceived as a viable business option for the younger generations, which often leave the backcountry to seek employment in urban centers or abroad. Rural areas are therefore particularly affected by outward migration: two-thirds of all migrants come from these areas, who leave the country in their most productive age, depriving the country’s rural sector of its precious human capital.

The IFAD-financed projects in Moldova provide targeted support to encourage young entrepreneurs to develop their business within their country’s rural areas, empowering them to be the protagonists of the modernization and the development of Moldova’s agricultural sector, all while remaining close to their hometowns and their families.

The Inclusive Rural Economic and Climate Resilience Programme (IRECR), active from 2013 and expected to complete in 2021, has successfully empowered more than 1,500 young women and men to invest in the development of their own businesses. .In partnership with the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), IRECR supported young entrepreneurs in making their dreams come true: in addition to loans and grants, the project provided them support in the elaboration of business plans, and nurtured their learning journey through workshops, and local and international study visits. IFAD’s support inspired those young entrepreneurs to adopt innovative agricultural practices while encouraging them to capitalize on high-quality agri-food products for the domestic and the regional market.

The other IFAD-funded project in Moldova, the Rural Resilience Project (RRP) is also aimed at increasing employment opportunities for young entrepreneurs in rural communities. As of September 2020, the project has provided financing for 17 youth-led enterprises, which was invested to develop irrigation systems, set up greenhouses and beekeeping farms, purchasing bakery equipment and food drying machines, and much more.

Octavian Curjos and his brother are two young IRECR loan beneficiaries. After working abroad for many years, they decided in late 2019 to set up a vineyard in the village of Andrusul de Jos, their hometown. Octavian says that you can adapt to living abroad pretty well, but “bread tastes much better at home”, so he and his brother came back to Moldova to build a business of their own.

While they had to invest an important amount of their savings, the Curjos brothers decided it was still worth to try. As two enthusiastic young entrepreneurs, Octavian and his brother could rely on their most valuable asset: a modern and innovative vision of agriculture.

We come with a new vision of what agriculture means today. We think it is a profitable business, where you can grow and develop. We invested in the vineyard the money we earned abroad, but we also looked for other resources from which we could benefit“.

This is when they found out about the IFAD-funded loans for young entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, it is complicated for young people to access credit from commercial banks. We are at the beginning of our career and do not have enough experience nor an active business, so we cannot comply with their conditions. But IFAD believed in the potential of our business and gave us a chance to develop it”.

The loan the two brothers received from IFAD allowed them to purchase grapevine seedlings, poles, and wires to set up the vineyard. The project also supported Octavian and his brother in developing an investment plan, to utilize the new resources in the best possible way.

We understood that we have to invest in quality, not on quantity. If we want to be successful, we need to produce high-quality products, which will be easy to sell. Our next step would be to set up a storage facility and a sorting and packaging line, which would allow us to export our grapes to the Russian and Romanian market“.

Climate change is also taking its toll on Moldova, with increasingly frequent droughts that may jeopardize the country’s agricultural output.

We are facing several droughts, and without water, we will not be able to grow the high-quality products we aim at. However, we re-invested some of our revenues in a drip irrigation system for our vineyard, and soon we will finalize the construction of a water storage lake“.

The Curjos brothers are still at the beginning of their journey, but their optimism and enthusiasm do not make them step back from the many challenges they still have ahead.

I think that success comes from small but safe steps. Of course, we need time to see the fruits of our work, but with a good dose of ambition, we have the potential to achieve outstanding results. I hope our story will make people understand that agriculture is a profitable sector full of opportunities and, most importantly, that one’s best place is in his hometown, next to his family“.

Ana and her bees: passing on a family tradition through generations.

Ana Arnaut is a young RRP grant beneficiary. She received her first beehives from her father at the age of 13. Twenty years later, Ana owns 150 beehives and has ambitious plans for her future.

In the beginning, beekeeping was just a hobby. Today, my bees have become part of the family. I do not regret for one second choosing to make a living out of beekeeping. I can`t imagine my life without my bees.

Ana is very proud to continue the work that her father handed down to her.

From my father I learned how to take care of the bees, how to protect them from diseases and pests. Now, besides all these memories, we also have a working business, since we can make a good living out of beekeeping. Frankly, this is also why I never thought of going abroad“.

Ana managed to achieve outstanding results thanks to an IFAD-funded grant, which proved to be key for the development of her business.

In 2019, IFAD organized a workshop where I discovered that, as a young woman running an agri-business, I could apply for a grant of 89.000 Lei (around US$ 5,000). Thanks to the support I received from IFAD staff, I could prepare a good grant application form. I used the funding to purchase 50 more hives. Most of the hives I had were damaged, so I could finally replace them with brand-new wooden vertical hives. They are a very important asset if you want to produce high-quality and healthy honey“.

Ana mainly sells her honey to local retailers, but some of it also ends up being exported.

The best advertising is done by satisfied customers. We receive orders from Moldovans working abroad, who ask us not to forget about them. Their appreciation strongly motivates us to keep doing what we love, despite all the hardships. This year has been particularly difficult, but we will not give up, and together we will overcome every challenge”.

Octavian and Ana are just two of the many young people whose lives IFAD has changed. We give young innovative entrepreneurs the opportunity to make their ideas come to life. We invest in their potential and in their enthusiasm, empowering them to be drivers of the development of their native rural communities. Because, in their own words, there is no place like home.