A seven-year-old fruit and arable cooperative finding ways to overcome various challenges including those posed by COVID-19.
Key words: Apples, plums, fruit trees, cooperative, value chains
Name of the initiative? Verifruct Business Cooperative
Country Republic of Moldova
What kind of initiative Farming/production, Marketing, Processing, Environmental
In 2013 we joined four other peasant households to form a cooperative, C. I. Verifruct. Together we manage 121 hectares of agricultural land around the city Hânceşti: 68 hectares of apple and plum orchards and 50 hectares of arable land. (Three hectares are secondary roads.)
In the agricultural year 2020-2021, the Spring works started in February, a month earlier than usual. It had been a warm winter, so the vegetation period came much earlier. We cut the dried trees and collected branches for chopping. It was 15th March. We had finished cutting the branches, when the COVID-19 pandemic meant that a quarantine status was decreed in the Hâncești district.
“We had finished cutting the branches, when the COVID-19 pandemic meant that a quarantine status was decreed in the Hâncești district.”
This brought a new challenge for the group of fruit producers and for the whole economy, as we expect disruptions in the activity and the commercialisation of fruits (a decrease in consumption and difficulties in sales).
As a result of this quarantine it was impossible to mobilise workers to complete all the Spring works we needed to do. A decisive role was provided by the founding members of the cooperative: through collective actions we mobilised the efforts of our family members to carry out all the works and to prepare the orchard for the flowering period.
“A decisive role was provided by the founding members of the cooperative”
Insufficient moisture at the beginning of this year in the Republic of Moldova, including the Hâncești area, has meant a yellow drought code. A success of the Verifruct Cooperative under these difficult conditions is the implementation of conservative agriculture for the entire orchard area. By using a permanent soil cover of vegetable debris, we’ve reduced the direct impact of raindrops, thus reducing soil erosion. It stops a crust forming on the surface and prevents the appearance of weeds. We save on mechanised works because the soil is less pruned (less slack) which reduces our fuel consumption. The vegetable debris improve the organic matter and nutrients in the soil, providing a beneficial environment for organisms such as worms and myrrh pods. It also reduces evaporation, and water leakage as well as moderating the soil temperature.
This season specifically will be challenging, because the vegetation began earlier than usual, then during the period 1st-3rd April 2020, temperatures dipped below –7°C, even as low as -11°C, freezing the inflorescences to the early fruits, but these losses are not catastrophic ones.
All these difficulties and obstacles have not prevented the strategic and sustainable development of the Verifruct Cooperative, because we have started the implementation of two important projects for the development of value chains:
First, the Cooperative Management successfully applied to the project ‘Performing Agriculture of Moldova’, where we have been selected as beneficiaries in implementing the Cooperative certification at Global AGP and we will benefit from assistance for the international certification process to ensure access to European market.
Second, the Cooperative for the producer groups prepared the file for the MAC-P project, financed under the Grant Program ‘Facilitating Access to Retail Markets’. The investment project offers support for the assembly of cold storage and a drying room where we can store and process fruits. This will develop and improve value chains, adding value to the commercialised fruits.
“Only together, through collective actions, all the members of the cooperative will be able to achieve the purpose and the objectives set for the current year”
The members of Verifruct have a rich experience of activity together over the past eight years and are optimistic. Only together, through collective actions, all the members of the cooperative will be able to achieve the purpose and the objectives set for the current year – the implementation of the production programme, the projects and the sustainable development of the fruits producer group.
www.verifruct.md (under construction as of May 2020)
Repository compiled in March 2020 by: Lucian Gaina and Andrei Zbanca
E-mail contact: email@example.com