The LEADER approach has been implemented in the Republic of Moldova since 2016, and the LEADER National Network is the organization that represents the interests of the Local Action Groups (LAGs) at the national and international levels. The activity of the LAGs is based on the Local Development Strategy (LDS) developed participatively by the active people from the local communities represented by the public, entrepreneurial and civic sector. In order to achieve the objectives set out in the Strategy, LAGs become micro-funding agencies and provide local funding. Thus, the residents of the LAGs systematically implement projects in various fields that contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in rural areas, to the emergence of new local services that meet the needs of the inhabitants, as well as to the creation of new jobs. Several development partners are involved in this process, and the main one being the European Union under its EU4Business Initiative.
Today, 32 LAGs are active in Moldova, and another 15 are now at the end of the creation process. The LAGs involve around 438 administrative-territorial units, 732 localities or 50% of the country’s rural localities, with a population of 1.007 million.
Two recent success stories illustrate the results of introducing good European practices and the ensuing changes in Moldova’s rural areas.
Valentina Gisca’s idea of launching a rural Bed&Breakfast called La Bunica, came from her desire to establish a business in her hometown Chiscareni. Her rural retreat’s character and charm is partly due to the fact that the entire family is involved: her grandmother cooks traditional country dishes for guests, while Valentina, her husband and children take care of developing the business, logistics and promotion.
“It's a beautiful, special place to spend free time,” says Valentina Gisca. “My parents' house is located near a forest, with a lake nearby, so there’s lots of greenery, fresh air and space. All those who visit La Bunica want to come back!”
Developing a business meant investing money for the Gisca family, and when the Hora Ciulucului LAG issued a local call for grant applications in 2019, Valentina applied in order to be able to build a gazebo in La Bunica’s back garden. The family was able to set up a wood-fired oven to cook polenta and steak, a BBQ grill table, and tables and chairs so that guests could dine in the garden and enjoy meals al fresco.
The gazebo construction cost EUR 2.974 with the Hora Ciulucului LAG contributing EUR 1.289, and the own contribution was 1.685 euros.
“We have to try,” says Valentina. “We need to promote the beauty of our country. That’s the only way we can keep our families at home. By promoting our hometowns and our parents’ home, we can also grow. When we develop the countryside, the entire country wins.”
The LAGs, depending on the objectives of the LDS, provide funding in various fields. Even if priority is given to rural economic development, there are also projects in the field of arts and music, local services, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, music. The Hasnas children's marching band has benefited through the Valea Cuboltei LAG in the village of Hasnasenii Mari, Drochia. Every time events are organized to bring together LAG members, the Hasnas band is invited to entertain the visitors with its rousing songs.
The civic sector submitted a project idea to develop and promote traditions, support cultural activities as part of the Valea Cuboltei LAG’s Local Development Strategy. It cost EUR 5,410 to equip the orchestra with musical instruments, with the band contributing EUR 2,436 and the Valea Cuboltei LAG contributing EUR 2,974.
Based on their Local Development Strategy (LDS), Moldova’s LAGs have implemented some 700 local micro-projects aimed at fostering SMEs, improving local infrastructure, developing missing products and services in villages, and much more. Micro-projects implemented using the LEADER approach have generated 402 new jobs in rural Moldova. Most, 228, were generated in the business sector, the rest in the civic and public sectors. What’s more, these local micro-projects have motivated several individuals who received funding to register their businesses.
The National LEADER Network’s mission is to represent the LAGs and cooperate with different organizations in promoting the LEADER approach in Moldova for sustainable rural development. The LEADER approach is being implemented since 2016 with the support of development partners in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment of Moldova.