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44 rural localities from ATU Gagauzia and Taraclia district signed 8 Partnership Agreements to enhance inclusive and efficient rural development of their communities.

As an absolute first in Moldova, they will implement the EU LEADER initiative, main EU’s rural development approach, aiming to mobilize local authorities and citizens for empowering local economies and improving access to public services in rural areas. Those communities will be eligible to apply for financing from a range of rural and regional development funds of the EU and other development partners.

EU LEADER approach was introduced thanks to European Union's assistance, in the framework of the “Support for agriculture and rural development in ATU Gagauzia and Taraclia district” (SARD) Programme, implemented by the UNDP.

“LEADER approach may bring considerable changes in the daily life of people in rural areas by supporting the implementation of innovative initiatives for development of localities”, stated Iva Stamenova, Project Manager, EU Delegation to the Republic of Moldova, during the event dedicated to the signing of the Partnership Agreements.

The key actors of all local LEADER initiatives are the so-called Local Action Groups (LAGs) formed by local partners in a bottom-up way. The LAGs are responsible for local governance in development and represent local authorities, businesses and civil society. LAGs decide on the territorial delineation of their activities, establish formal partnerships, prepare and agree on integrated local rural development strategies, and identify and implement local development actions.

All 8 LAGs established with SARD support benefitted from consultancy of international experts and participated in exposure visits in some European countries. Also, all 8 LAGs developed their own 5- year strategy for five years to identify 50-100 local development actions to solve local challenges by accessing EU and other development partners’ funds. The projects proposals are focused both on economic and development and the most feasible of them will receive EU support through SARD programme.

Serghei Arseni, an unemployed resident of the Chiriet-Lunga village, has been actively involved in the activities of the ECO Bugeac LAG, which includes six villages of the Bugeac steppe. He is famous in the region for his musical talent and promotion of traditional percussion instruments in Gagauzia. He is now planning a new project – cow-skin shoes: “Thanks to EU LEADER initiative, I rediscovered my potential and of my peers. Together with people of ECO Bugeac, we decided to establish a tourist center in Southern Moldova to promote sports and rural tourism and to grow organic products in small farms. The European assistance that we can access will be extremely helpful to implement our local ideas", said Sergei Arseni during the SARD LEADER Rural Development Initiative Fair organized within the event.

For Dolina Rodnicov LAG members, the top priority is local economic development and the creation of new jobs. One of their initiatives is to develop local production of traditional Gagauzian sausage (baur).

“I am convinced that this EU LEADER initiative, promoted within the EU-UNDP SARD Programme, will bring a lot to the economic development of rural localities from ATU Gagauzia and Taraclia district, because the priorities and decisions will be taken by people at the local level and will respond to local needs. Together with development partners, we will continue to support this initiative, which already brings good results”, mentioned Rastislav Vrbensky, Deputy Director, UNDP Europe and the CIS.

The first LEADER program started in the EU Member States in 1991. Since 2013, the LEADER approach method has been extended to cover urban and rural areas, entitled “Community Led Local Development”, being extended as well geographically and implemented in the EU pre-accession and neighboring countries with assistance provided by EU and other development partners.

Being financed by the European Union with 6.5 million Euro and implemented by the UNDP, the SARD Programme intends to intensify during 2016-2018 the cooperation between central and local authorities, as well as among regional organizations from Gagauzia ATU and Taraclia district to upgrade the capacities of Local Public Administrations and foster social-economic development of the region and of the Republic of Moldova, as a whole.

Contact for media: Natalia Costas, National Communication Consultant, SARD Programme, Tel.: 069 22 11 41; E-mail: natalia.costas@undp.org

EU LEADER initiative to boost rural development of Gagauzia and Taraclia

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