Photo: UNDP Moldova

Two years ago we at UNDP embarked on a journey to revitalize Moldova’s South, known administratively as ATU Gagauzia* and Taraclia district**. And this was a real challenge, considering the social-economic realities of the region.

As part of the EU-funded Support for Agriculture and Rural Development in ATU Gagauzia and Taraclia (SARD) Programme, we committed to an ambitious goal, to help people from ATU Gagauzia, Taraclia District and neighbouring communities benefit from improved development opportunities in their communities.

So, how to meet people’s aspirations in a short period of time and how to ensure the sustainability of the investments? On one hand we thought to empower the communities, and on the other hand to support the entrepreneurship initiatives, to develop the small and medium enterprises, to rehabilitate social infrastructure, and to promote cooperation between communities.

Local development strategies were developped in a participatory manner

Given this complex set of challenges, we started by involving people, from ordinary citizens to business representatives and mayors in the development of social-economic development strategies. We supported this process for 41 communities. Women and men’s voices were heard and their opinion was taken into consideration when selecting the funding priorities: what is more important to rehabilitate to ensure the community development, i.e. a local kindergarten or a cultural facility.

Initially, we planned to implement a maximum of 20 infrastructure projects, but due to a high interest from the local communities, fueled by the results of the needs identification and strategy development processes, we increased the projects’ number up to 40. We understood that we are on the right way when the communities expressed their willingness to financially contribute and when their contribution exceeded 20% of the necessary amount for implementing a project – which never happened before.

All communities from ATU Gagauzia and Taraclia benefitted from support to renovate social infrastructure

The regional authorities often say that our cooperation motivate them to get involved and inspires them. “This intervention has awakened Gagauzia” is being mentioned by the ATU Gagauzia Bashkan Irina Vlah during all public events. “This Programme became like a much-needed breather for all of us and we understood that the south of the country can breathe now easier”, mentions the Chair of Taraclia district, Chiril Tatarli.

At the beginning of our cooperation in the region, the private and public sector and civil society were isolated one from another. Therefore, we proposed an innovative solution – the LEADER approach, piloted for the first time in the country.

All stakeholders from 44 localities were mobilized in 8 Local Action Groups (LAGs), which benefited from necessary support to be able to draft own development strategies. As well, LAGs were assisted to identify social, economic, cultural and environmental projects by accessing EU and other development partners’ funds. The most feasible project proposals have already benefitted this year from the EU support through the SARD Programme.

78 projects will boost rural development in ATU Gagauzia, Taraclia and neighboring localities, in the framework of LEADER initiative

And now, in less than two years, we already have 26 localities which can be proud of their modernized infrastructure site and over USD 2 million invested in local communities.

We didn’t catch the fish for them, we taught them to catch the fish! As besides the grants amounting for up 18,400 Euro, all those 30 entrepreneurs – beginners or experienced once, that were selected based on an open contest result, benefited from mentorship for business development and promotion.

With our support, at least 180 jobs will be created in the region, and new products and services will appear on local markets. On the other hand, 120 women and men from Gagauzia benefited from qualified support for starting up and developing a business or for employing people within some specialized workshops.

Businesses created as part of SARD Programme generated 150 workplaces

The empowered LAGs via the LEADER approach will play a leading role in the local development process, ensuring sustainability for the projects implemented jointly by EU, UNDP and other development partners in the region. For utmost importance is also the fact that our experience will be useful for institutionalizing the LEADER approach in the country.

Seeing that people get involved, harness the experience that we obtained until now and come up with new resources and projects, we know that we are on the good path.

* The Administrative Territorial Unit of Gagauzia (ATUG) was established in December 1994, soon after the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. The Law on the special status of the Gagauzia (Gagauz Yeri) granted ATUG a special status of autonomous territorial entity within the unitary state of the Republic of Moldova. The Gagauz Autonomy is an example of successful transfer of central powers to the region. Gagauzia is administratively divided into one municipality, two cities and 23 communes incorporating 28 villages, thus consisting of an overall 32 administrative units . It has a population of 161,900 inhabitants (59% of which living in rural areas).

** Taraclia District is located in the South of the Republic of Moldova and borders with the Administrative Territorial Unit of Gagauzia (ATUG) to the North. The district is administratively divided into two cities and thirteen local communities incorporating eleven villages, thus consisting of an overall twenty-six administrative units. The district population of 44,000 inhabitants is equally distributed in urban and rural areas, and the majority of the residents are Bulgarians – 65.56%.

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