Photo: Ion Buga

“We haven’t used fertilisers and herbicides in the last three years, none at all,” said Nicolae Micu, 82 years old, agronomist by education and occupation. He has been practicing farming for 63 years now.

This year he handles 94 hectares of rye, a crop he grows by rotation, thus helping the soil to recover and lessening the weeds. At the same time, this is a demanded crop, as rye bread improves digestion. This year’s rainfall brought a rich harvest, as opposite to the previous years, which were quite dry.

Nicolae Micu is a beneficiary of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – UNDP Small Grants Programme via “Organic Value Chain Alliance from Moldova”, the only association of farmers with organic certification in Moldova. He benefited from support to organise compost production both from his own farm and from the households of Olișcani village. Compost replaces chemical fertilisers and enriches the organic matter in the soil, on long term.

“We cannot grow only profitable crops because we deplete the land”

Nicolae shared insights about his journey so far and how he became a promoter of organic farming:

“I went through all stages of agriculture’s reorganisation. I realised that everyone should have a contribution to this world, not just to consume what others produce. This isn’t right.

Moving from conventional farming to organic farming requires you to wish it, to take a decision in this regard and then you will find the methods to put into practice. Crop rotation is one of these methods. We cannot plant only profitable crops because we deplete the land, and we leave this problem as legacy to the younger generation.

I hope it’s not long until we get back to eating as organic as our grandparents did, until we give up on chemicals. We need to plant without greed, only the most precious crops, the ones we really need; we should control the weeds and use rationally what the soil gives us, basically its soul.

We moved to organic farming only three years ago. We try to lead by example and inspire other peers to opt for the only right and rational way of doing agriculture.

Being a beneficiary of state subsidies, you are sanctioned if you use chemical fertilisers. Even if it wasn’t punishable, we never intend to go back to growing crops with fertilisers. It’s inefficient and unhealthy.”

Meet Nicolae Micu from Olișcani village, Șoldănești district. Madino Agro LTD administers 505 hectares of farming land, in partnership with Micu&CO LTD. Experiments are made here – they plant various crops, for different periods, with various density, after various preceding crops, at various depth: “We experiment to see what is more rational to be used, when is better to plant, which density is recommended or what crop is most efficient’, noted Nicolae.

Madino Agro LTD administers 505 hectares of farming land, in partnership with Micu&CO LTD.

Organic fertilisers “work for the crops the year-round”

Cattle is also bred at the farm, so the manure is used as organic fertiliser in the fields: “It is brought in the field. We ventilate it once or twice a year; the temperature is 60-70 degrees, and all weed seeds that are in it lose their power to sprout. This way a concentrated fertiliser is produced, and it will be more rational to apply,” explained the agronomist.  

Around 3,600 tons of organic fertiliser are used yearly, covering 100 hectares. Crops are rotated every year, as are the parcels that fertilisers are laid on.

The farm is equipped with special ploughs/disks that work at 12-14 cm depth, in order not to damage to the soil’s structure and the complex of micro-organisms that “work for the crops the year-round.”

They fight the pests with environmental tools, too: “There are some bugs on the plum trees. We studied them and deducted that we can catch the ground beetle if we put clean water in blue bowls, as they are somehow attracted to this. Many of them come, sometimes we catch half a sack per day. We change the water, and they gather again. This is what I call a successful experiment.”

The farm’s agricultural produce is subject to rigorous certification procedures: “The certificate means that we stick to the imposed rules we produce organically today, and tomorrow and in the future and we can convince others to swich to organic farming,” thinks Nicolae Micu.

“So far things are not fully set with organic farming – neither growth, nor exporting and payment, however where there’s a will, there’s a way,” stated Nicolae.

Nicolae believes that nature forgives no mistakes: “We need to be aware that nature is above any law, which is why we need to adapt our activity to the climate. Before, rains did not come exactly when farmers needed them, but it still rained more or less when needed for the crops, both during springs and autumns. Now, it rains when you expect it the least and not at all when you need it the most. Things are not going into the right direction.

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According to the 2020 Report on the Status of Organic Agriculture and Industry in Moldova, developed by EkoConnect, due to its good soils, 63% of Moldova’s land cover is used for cropping and that’s the highest ratio in Europe.

86% of the land used for cropping land is under arable farming (mostly maize, sunflower and wheat which make up together 80%). 143,000 ha of orchards (mostly apples, followed by stone fruits and walnuts) as well as 126,000 ha of vineyards signify the intensive type of land-use in Moldova.

The excessive use of synthetic fertilisers and chemical pesticides, permanent monocultures, as well as the lack of crop rotation leads to a reduced biodiversity and level of organic matter in the soil.

As a result, the soil degrades and is more vulnerable to climate change effects, such as drought and heavy rains, bringing to the soil erosion from wind and water. Therefore, soil fertility together with its productivity, decreases constantly.

Unsustainable agricultural practices from Moldova amplify the effects of climate change by greenhouse gas emissions. However, the agricultural sector in Moldova is suffering because of climate changes effects more than it is contributing to them.

To strengthen the resilience of the sector and to make it less vulnerable to the new climate conditions and to improve its productivity, it is essential to enrich the organic matter in the soil and biodiversity through climate-smart agriculture.

With the support of UNDP and GEF, platform was developed, as well as a continuous training program – Organic Farming System – which already has 1,930 registered users.

Organic farming combines best environmental practices, a high level of biodiversity, preservation of natural resources and applying high standards of animal welfare.

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The organic farming principles of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements are the following:

  1. Principle of health, according to which organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plants, animals, human sand planet as one and indivisible. Organic agriculture is intended to produce high quality, nutritious food that contributes to preventive health care and well-being.
  2. Principle of ecology, according to which organic agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them. Organic agriculture should attain ecological balance through the design of farming systems, establishment of habitats and maintenance of genetic and agricultural diversity.
  3. Principle of fairness, according to which organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness about the common environment and life opportunities. Fairness is characterized by equity, respect, justice, and stewardship of the shared world, both among people and in their relations to other living beings.
  4. Principle of care, according to which organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment. Organic agriculture should prevent significant risks by adopting appropriate technologies.
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