Using the market to catalyse community cooperation in the threatened farming villages of Transylvania
Transylvania's small-scale farming communities need to cooperate to survive. We have inspired cooperation by using market innovations.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania
Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Romania: Tarnava Mare rural area, town of Sighisoara, cities of Sibiu, Targu Mures and Cluj-Napoca.
The traditional farming communities of Romania are not typical for Europe. Farm sizes are very small. But at the same time the landscape is rich in nature, and provides food and employment combined with sustainable use of natural resources. It is miraculous that these farmed landscapes still exist in Europe. They are a model of sustainability for other countries. But they are threatened. New ideas are needed to make them economically viable. This project shows successful models for the future.
These farmed landscapes are rare in Europe. They offer space for nature, have many other environmental benefits (pollination, water management etc.) and are also productive of food and offer high local employment. They are worth protecting. ADEPT has implemented new ideas (such as better links to the public, innovative marketing, income diversification) by working with and raising the capacity of village communities, so they become communities economically viable.
ADEPT has helped the local associations to get government support for common grazing - the village of Viscri in the Tarnava Mare area is the only village in Romania receiving such support, because ADEPT solved the paperwork problems involved. This brings over 40,000 Euros per year to the association. To achieve this, we needed to establish good management of the common grazing land: once they had an incentive, the farmers were willing to work together. We will now spread this more widely.
Common grazing is one of the key traditions threatened by lack of income, and lack of trust within communities. By offering economic incentives, and impartial advice on good management of village associations and innovative ideas for better incomes, ADEPT has started to solve these problems.
Villagers working together, making hay for winter feed for their cows, in Tarnava Mare area, Romania. This type of communal work became less popular, as a reaction against communism. But in the modern world, small-scale farming communities need to cooperate to survive - otherwise they cannot be competitive and economically viable. ADEPT's projects have managed to reverse this trend, with a new approach bringing real advantages and re-establishing trust within community groups.
ADEPT established village milk collection points in 8 villages. The relatively small investment required (50,000 Euros each) has led to higher milk prices and increase in local incomes of over 30,000 Euros in each village each year. This extraordinary result has come from using unconventional solutions to the problem of low milk sales and low milk prices: achieved through a combination of modern equipment and milk hygiene training, and setting up effective quality control managed by the group.
ADEPT has carried out milk hygiene training in the 8 villages in Tarnava Mare where new, improved milk collection points were established. Women were usually the most interested and active participants. The hygiene training has improved milk quality, and has DOUBLED the price received per litre, which has had a big effect on family incomes.
NEXT STEP: to process the milk locally, into yoghurt and cheese, to add value even more.
A milk hygiene handbook has been distributed to all farmers in the area, and has enabled farmers to meet the standards required by processors. The processors will buy the milk only if it meets the basic quality standards. Increases in quality above the basic standard are rewarded by higher prices, according to the contract negotiated with ADEPT assistance. The farmers' association did not have the experience to negotiate at first, but now they have confidence and can negotiate themselves.
Individual farmers, with very small herds mostly under 5 cows, bring their milk twice a day to the new cooling tank which is owned and managed by the village association. Here the milk quality is tested. It is in the association's interests to maintain good quality - so the association itself checks and maintains quality. Milk quality of individuals is published each week on a notice at the milk collection point, so individual farmers have a self-respect incentive to meet the standards.
Fundatia ADEPT has successfully introduced genuine farmers markets, where producers themselves can meet consumers and describe and sell their products to them. ADEPT has developed a regular farmers market in one town (Sighisoara) and had helped the development on 3 cities. This adds to the income of the small-scale farmers, and also to the awareness of consumers of the importance of their farming tradition for providing healthy food for their families.
We were encouraged to develop the milk associations by the success of the 100 km mountain bike trail we made in 2012-14, linking 8 villages. The network has attracted visitors to the area. 70 guesthouses and other service providers are actively involved in coordinated services for the visitors. More important, this project acted as a catalyst bringing the community together in many ways, some of them unexpected: increased local pride, community cooperation, young people staying in the area, etc.
ADEPT has combined innovation with tradition to revive the economy. We don't want to lose the benefits of tradition and community, but we need to make it viable - and interesting for young people- by using innovation. We use smartphone apps in order to link small-scale producers to markets, and directly to consumers.
ADEPT organises classes at farmers markets and festivals, at which children are encouraged to taste and discuss local products, compare the taste with intensively-grown products, and so learn to appreciate the links between traditional land management, sustainable production, good taste of food and healthiness of food.
ADEPT organises classes in the field, at which children learn to about the links between nature and traditional/sustainable farming, how they mutually support each other, and how this combination of nature and low-input farming helps provide local employment, quality of life and healthy and tasty food.
ADEPT won top prize in the EU, in 2014, for the best project bringing local benefits to communities within a protected area. This shows that our ideas work. Mainly, this is through having an open mind, and seeking practical solutions to problems that require action at level different levels: equipment, training in production and sales, community-based work to establish cooperation, training in good transparent governance of associations to establish trust between members, and policy work.
HRH The Prince of Wales often visits the work of Fundatia ADEPT in Transylvania. He is interested in the landscape, as a model for Europe that is productive and sustainable, offering local employment and local food. This is not an idealistic idea ... it actually works. These small-scale farming areas offer higher employment AND higher food production per hectare that larger industrial farms (official figures from the EU, Eurostat, confirm this.)
This film shows the links between nature, farming, local incomes and food quality.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Tarnava Mare area, 85,000 ha, is a farmed landscape of global importance, from natural and cultural points of view. It supports over 30,000 people living in small-scale farming communities. But most people are living below the poverty line, and young people are leaving the area. The small-scale farmers need to be inspired to work together, to breathe life back into these communities, make them economically viable. Milk, the main source of income, is no longer profitable. Better milk prices can offer a future.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
ADEPT analysed social and economic problems, which were linked and required multi-disciplinary solutions. Main innovation was to solve the problem at several different levels at once working with local farmers and communities to improve quality of production by micro-producers; improve the way micro-producers work together to achieve quantity and quality required for marketing; improve management of village associations, so that members trust each other; improve the benefits of associations (discredited under communism) so that farmers had incentives to participate; use associations as channels for marketing and for information; improve government support for associations.
So ADEPT used environmental, production, marketing and political skills at the same time so that individuals had incentive and trust to cooperate.
NEXT STEP: local processing (cheese and yoghurt) by associations, to improve incomes and social cooperation, achieving economic and social sustainability in the area.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
1. Association gained access to common grazing payments: 54 farmers receive an extra 75,000 Euros/year
2. Milk hygiene training improved milk quality. Village milk collection points allowed villages to offer quantity as well as quality to processors
3. Negotiation with processors doubled the milk price received by villagers - an extra 150,000 Euros/year for 200 farmers in 5 associations.
4. Villagers are now keeping more cows, becoming more prosperous and proud of their products
5. Higher incomes, young people staying, better atmosphere in the villages because of cooperation
6. Grasslands again under sustainable management
7. Branding has improved markets, improved consumer awareness of importance of the area (cultural heritage) and links between local/natural food, and healthy food for your family. This has given rise to further market opportunities
8. Education projects for over 250 children have made the importance of nature and good nutrition clear to the next generation.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
The initiative is supported by a range of donations and business income:
1. Individual donations or gifts 5%
2. Grants 60%
3. Corporate CSR donations 20%
4. Earned income 15%
We have used a variety of funding sources, which reflect our multi-disciplinary approach: EU, Norwegian and Swiss green enterprise funding; CSR funding from Orange Romania and other companies; private donors. We like corporate funding as corporates have a practical/results-oriented/economic approach.
Our experience with phase 1 of the project shows that income from higher milk prices provide sustainable farm communities. Our discussions with retailers show that cheese production will be even more profitable once initial investments have been made.
See also under 'How is the initiative funded' section below.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
We have an open mind about solutions: we are a conservation organisation but use commercial and social means to achieve holistic solutions. We ensure that nature conservation actions bring local benefits.
We won first prize at EU level for best project bringing socio-economic benefits to communities in a protected area.
Only one village in Romania getting grants for common grazing - by our policy work.
We combine innovation with tradition e.g. use of smartphone apps to market tradition.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
Before 2004, we had worked in more conventional conservation organisations. But local benefits were low, local people were 'consulted' but not really involved. In 2004 we realised that local support was essential to protect these farmed landscapes; so we worked with local communities as the main means of achieving the triple benefit of ecological conservation, sustainable production and shared economic benefit.
The "Aha!" moment : seeing the failure of conventional approaches which push for either conservation or local economic development. There is no conflict between these: they are mutually dependent.
From this, we began to work really actively with local communities and opinion leaders. A dam was broken. We were no longer seen as trying to impose an ideal solution from outside. We were seen as genuinely working in partnership with local communities for their benefit.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details
Activities are centred on the associations, to build their ability to manage themselves: training includes good transparent financial management to overcome distrust among members; how to market and negotiate on behalf of members; how to deliver useful things for their members, such as training courses and farm visits, as well as better prices for members. This creates a virtuous circle, because trust and genuine benefits increase membership numbers and active participation, leading to even more trust and benefits, and so on.
ADEPT has carried out 2 or 3 training courses, 2 or 3 days 6 hours per day, for 5 farmer associations each year, in three years 2015-7. We developed the courses in consultation with the associations to make sure they were relevant. Courses are given in each village, sometimes on a farm (where practical production methods are demonstrated) and sometimes in the village hall. Each association has average 40 members, so we have directly trained over 200 farmers who represent their families (average 4 in a family so we have indirectly benefited 800 family members) . Trainings are carried out by financial/marketing/production specialists, who develop practical solutions to real problems in each community; usually by ADEPT staff, and also by outside specialists who ADEPT brings in for certain modules. The trainings are popular, because they are useful. The associations, once trained, will become self-sustaining and can continue the work in the future.
We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.
ADEPT focussed on farmer associations as the ideal channel to deliver a range of economic and social benefits, which are shared equally by all members. So far, 200 farmers/800 family members enjoy improved access to market - but there are wider benefits, see section below. The project has:
1. improved access to market for milk: improved ability to negotiate with processors doubled milk price - extra 150,000 Euros/year for 200 farmers in 5 associations
2. assisted economic development by increasing support payments - 75,000 Euros/year for 54 farmers. Now we have created the precedent, this will spread to other villages in next years
3. as a result of increased public awareness of the unique characteristics of the area, from publicity, marketing, and festivals we have arranged in the area to celebrate local products, visitor numbers have risen from 2,000 in 2012 to 10,000 in 2017, bringing 250,000 Euros/year extra income to a range of villagers including jam/honey makers, guest house owners, craftsmen.
4. women are empowered as they often are involved in association management, and are income earners specially through guest houses, sales of local products. Women attend training courses, and are often the most innovative thinkers
5. there is a broader impact on nutrition as consumers widely in Romania get access to better quality milk. We plan to develop other dairy products linked to the area image, such as yoghurt and cheese, which will contribute to healthy eating.
Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
A key point is that the local economy is based largely on dairy products. 90% of villagers own a few cows, depend on milk for their income. Problems with milk sales affect the whole community. Working together is the solution.
In our training of associations, we have stressed to the managers that equitable sharing of benefits, and transparent management, are key to the survival of the associations. Early on we experienced failure/collapse of an association owing to lack of trust: other associations saw that it was in everyone's individual as well as community interest for the associations to succeed.
In impact section above we described direct economic benefits - increased sales and increased prices. Through the project, direct and indirect benefits are spread widely in farming communities, as a range of knock-on effects occur: more visitors to the area; increased sales of local products and of guest house and guiding services, and increased community cohesion and optimism.
How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?
Finance section above shows analysis of current funding.
Our future financial sustainability plan is to shift from grants/donations to earned income. We can do this because the up-front costs are training, and basic equipment for milk processing/cheese-making; once these costs have been covered, the business side will be sustainable and will not rely on external financing. But these village enterprises are small scale, and profits relatively small. It is hard for such enterprises to secure loans. So it is key to have the initial seed money donated or lent on an easy repayment basis. The role of the NGO is to help the communities get past initial development stage, get access to seed funding, and reach sustainability without debt burden.
How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?
If we could win the CSV prize, it would be a big bonus for our regional and global recognition. We would use this to spread our model more widely, not just in Romania, but also in other countries. We think that our ideas are unique in the way they are put together. Other projects assist small enterprises, or communities, but our project links business/sustainable incomes, communities, equitable sharing of benefits, sustainable development/land use, public recognition of traditional farmed landscapes/healthy food. It is this mixing of different aspects, in a way that they all support each other, which we will spread more widely using CSV prize as a vehicle for dissemination.
How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?
If we were able to win the CSV prize, we would use it to kick-start the next phase of the project, which is to establish a micro-cheese plant. The initial cost is high, but if we could fund the start-up costs (training and equipment) it could serve a wide area, offering higher prices for milk that was produced in a certain way, further raising the profile of the area and other income sources, and further strengthening the identity and community cohesion of the area. This would create a wonderful model for community-based sustainable development, which could be replicated more widely. We plan to move these products from 'niche' to mainstream, by dealing in a creative way with supermarkets/large retailers. Nestle connection will assist this.
Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?
The first step is to get the 5 communities in our current project fully self-sustaining, based on acceptable income levels and good management. We have achieved this in one of the communities, and this needs to be consolidated in the other 4, in next 2 years.
At the same time, we have already been invited to replicate our village-scale milk enterprise ideas in other parts of Romania and internationally. We are seeking funds to enable us to do this. As we mentioned, the role of the NGO (ADEPT) is to help the communities/farmer associations to get over the initial governance/training/investment hurdles: once over these, they can manage themselves.
We plan in Romania to create a family of enterprises under an umbrella 'High Nature Value farming' brand which has already been designed and registered. Thus, new small-enterprises based on the model will benefit from market and advisory support from other members of the High Nature Value 'family'.
Move products from niche to mainstream.
Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?
Team consists of 12 full time employees: executive director, finance director, technical director, 4 marketing and farm advisory specialists, and 5 support staff.
These are supplemented by outside specialists who deliver modules on more technical subjects such as accounts and hygiene legislation.
The range of skills is uniquely inter-disciplinary for such a small team.
11 of the 12 team members are from Transylvania, and 8 of the 12 are from the Tarnava Mare area, which is why the project enjoys local trust and is so responsive to local needs.
Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?
For its unique local and interdisciplinary approach, ADEPT won first prize at EU level for innovative farmer advisory services (2012 and 2013) and first prize at EU level for best project bringing socio-economic benefits to communities in a protected area (2014).
ADEPT also won several prizes in Romania for best national CSR project, 2010-2017.
Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?
ADEPT has become one of the most influential farmland conservation NGOs in Europe, partly because of its successes with local projects on the ground, and partly because it has broken down the barriers between farmers and conservationists, which have blocked policy reforms and innovative sustainable farming initiatives in the past. We are a leading exponent of conservation/sustainable land use supporting (not hindering) community development; of innovation supporting (not damaging) traditional management and communities; and of modern marketing supporting quality of products.
ADEPT has been active at EU level, and national level in Romania, advising on policy formation. We are also in dialogue with supermarkets about mainstream marketing.
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018
Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018