Community-led development means better quality of life
For the first time in 20 years, 76 year-old Mihai Druta does not have to carry water 1.5 kilometres to his house. The rancid smell of the household garbage no longer fills his lungs. His back bent with age seems to have become a little straightened. He now has water in his home, sewerage, and garbage is collected regularly in his neighbourhood.
Public services were a luxury for most residents of Telenesti, a town of 9,000 people in the centre of Moldova, where water supply and sewer systems had not been repaired in 20 years.
In response, the local government in Telenesti teamed up with community members to prioritize the most pressing development needs and come up with projects to address them. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported local authorities to formulate the town’s development strategy together with the community.
“We created more than twenty new jobs and laid the basis for an infrastructure to provide public services,” said Vadim Lelic, mayor of Telenesti, which used to be one of the poorest towns in Moldova.
Though absolute poverty has decreased from 30.2% in 2006 to 21.9% in 2010, many towns and villages, where 70 percent of Moldova’s 3.6 million inhabitants live, still face poverty. UNDP assessments show that local public authorities are the most important institutional structures vulnerable people can rely on for support. At the same time, they do not have real autonomy and experience when it comes to ensuring equitable local development. Territorial fragmentation and heavy dependence on centralized financial resources lead to a weak administrative capacity of the local public authorities.
- The National Decentralization Strategy is the only public policy document in Moldova that has been widely consulted with central and local governments, civil society, minority and women’s groups, academia, and think tanks.
- Vulnerable and marginalized groups such as elderly, persons with disabilities, benefit equally from the decentralization reform, with women and men enjoying opportunities and rights alike.
- More than 350,000 citizens from 70 towns and communities participated in identifying and solving their development needs.
- 100,000 most vulnerable people benefited from public illumination, education, water supply and sewerage and improved access to social, health and education services.
- Over 10,000 locally elected officials (over 80% of local governments in Moldova) were trained how to set priorities together with community members, manage more efficiently local resources and generate their own incomes.
In the last 5 years, Telenesti succeeded to attract investments to rehabilitate its basic infrastructure: from street illumination, water supply, sewerage system, waste management to roads and parks. UNDP helped mobilize funds to purchase equipment for waste disposal, and to renovate the water supply and sewage systems which make Telenesti the first town in Moldova where all residents have access to sewerage system.
Other seven neighbouring villages joined efforts to create an inter-municipal solid waste management system with Telenesti leading this process.
The transformations in Telenesti are part of a nation-wide decentralization process undertaken by the Government of Moldova since 2009 with the support of UNDP and UN Women in the framework of the Joint Integrated Local Development Programme.
Moldova’s decentralization strategy approved by the Parliament in April 2012 gives more autonomy to local authorities when it comes to providing improved public services such as water, waste collection, sewage systems and infrastructure. The strategy promotes people’s participation in taking decisions, providing equal opportunities for women and men, as well as vulnerable and marginalized groups such as the elderly, and people with disabilities. Over 10,000 locally elected officials were trained how to set priorities together with community members, manage more efficiently local resources and generate their own incomes.
“Telenesti’s successful experience is already replicated by other 70 towns and communities in Moldova as this is the only way to strengthen local autonomy", said Victoria Cujba, Government representative in charge of decentralization.
She sees the results in people’s tears of joy, such as Mihai Druta. "I would have not been able to connect my house to water or get rid of the garbage and bad smell," Mihai Druta said who feels proud that his voice on the need to develop a sanitation service was heard. Together with other residents, he was involved in setting the fees for the services where he suggested the mayor to allow socially vulnerable people to pay in instalments. "It's a change that makes our life easier. The price is reasonable and the service is good", Mihai said.