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Moldavian Culinary Routes: model consolidation and multiplication. Advocacy, promotion and investments for complete, integrated rural tourism product. Certification of food processing for micro-entrepreneurs.

This project is a continuation of several years’ work by the Polish Development Policy Foundation (DPF) in the Calarasi region, in collaboration with local NGOs (EMM, Casa Parintaesca) as well as Moldova’s central administration (Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Regional Development, AGEPI, Ministry of Agriculture). This work focused on the removal of legal barriers to regional products (GIs EU) and their promotion, and on building up local tourism potential based on those products (culinary tourist routes, bicycle routes, the community kitchen), which revealed a number of practical problems hindering the development of rural tourism and diversification of rural communities’ income (including lack of knowledge in, e.g., modern, low-cost applications of environmental and construction technologies).

The Moldovan authorities look upon tourism, including rural tourism, with high hopes (Tourism Strategy 2020). At the same time, what rural tourism in Moldova has to offer is still a product that fails to meet customer expectations: the offering of lodgings is underdeveloped (24 lodgings organisers in the entire country; the entire rural tourist traffic is estimated at 24,000 people per year) and largely includes unheated camping sites (accommodating guests throughout only 15 per cent of the year) that cater primarily to youth group camps, i.e. they offer little added value. There is a lack of quality B&B or agri-tourism options that remain open year-round. The exceptions are the agri-tourism offering in the village of Butuceni in the Orhei V. region (beneficiary of practically all international projects implemented in cooperation with the Tourism Agency of Moldova) and the vineyards of EtCaetera and Purcari in the Purcari region. The latter region, however, lacks tourist routes and offerings for individual tourists due to its focus on organised agency tourism; its offering is limited to wine tasting and does not include accommodation. Additionally, the country lacks local bicycle rental points, thematic routes and guided tours (environmental, culinary and cultural tourism). The project sought to bridge the gaps in the existing tourism offering.

The Calarasi region already has cycling routes and a culinary tourist route (DPF), but it lacks good-quality accommodation (year-round guest rooms).

Moldavian Culinary Routes: model consolidation and multiplication. Advocacy, promotion and investments for complete, integrated rural tourism product. Certification of food processing for micro-entrepreneurs.

The project was implemented in the Calarasi and Purcari regions with the aim of creating two fully functional rural tourist products, based on the Moldovan Culinary Routes model. It filled the gaps in that offer and developed the existing tourist product. Before proceeding with its implementation, DPF representatives consulted with the Ministry of Agriculture of Moldova on the project.

The main barrier to the development of food processing in Moldova is the lack of regulatory simplifications available to micro-producers that would enable them to sell their products on a finite market (e.g. within the territory of a given region or local market). This makes promotion of culinary tourism offerings practically impossible. The project responded to this problem in two ways: through certification of the Calarasi “community kitchen” for marketing processed products (securing the relevant certificate, adding the legally required infrastructure, e.g. changing rooms) and promotion of the above-mentioned simplifications and exemptions, following the EU regulations applicable to marginal, localised and restricted activity, as well as those applicable to agricultural retail sales (ARS), so as to enable local processors to engage in legitimate retaining of their processed products (in compliance with the food safety/AA/DCFTA rules).

The measures implemented in the Purcari region included the creation and equipping of three tourist routes (an environmental and a cultural cycling route, and a waterway route), thus complementing the hitherto available tourism offering. The Calarasi region received the first year-round guest rooms, located at the Casa Parintaesca museum. In addition, the existing “community kitchen” received certification so that it can market products manufactured by individual farmers in compliance with the applicable sanitary regulations.

At the same time, the project has advocated the simplification of the sanitary regulations applicable to individual farmers processing agricultural products and offering them on their local and regional markets, in accordance with the rules in force in the EU/ Poland (ARS and marginal, localised and restricted activity), in order to support the development of Moldovan rural tourism.

The implemented measures were addressed to various recipients:

- officials of central administration offices, in particular the State Agency on Intellectual Property (AGEPI), the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Regional Development, and of the institutions that report to them (including the National Food Safety Agency), who are competent in matters of regulation of food security, regional development, development of rural tourism as well as building and promoting potential based on GIs;

- students of architecture, young architects and construction enterprises selected because of their capacity to disseminate best practices in rural architecture, including the use of modern technologies applicable in rural areas, and due to the educational nature of the project workshops and training materials, which can strengthen the competences of these participants in relation to the labour market;

- representatives of the rural communities of the Purcari and Calarasi regions, chosen for their potential to co-create the local tourist product, including people previously involved in the activities of cultural institutions operating in village communities (including Casa Parintaesca and the PURCARI Heritage Group), with sufficient competency and capacity to co-create the tourist product (points of interest for tourists, participation in the creation of regional products, co-creation of regional handicrafts and cultural/tourist product offers);

- tourists who will take advantage of the complete tourist products in the Purcari and Calarasi regions and benefit from lower prices (individual tourism, family tourism);

- readers of the so eas+y portal (a Facebook group), mainly young people representing the private sector and NGOs, seeking information on best practices and the most interesting global (including Polish) technological, architectural and design solutions.

Moldavian Culinary Routes: model consolidation and multiplication. Advocacy, promotion and investments for complete, integrated rural tourism product. Certification of food processing for micro-entrepreneurs.

The following goals were achieved under the project:

- one complete tourist product was created in Palanca – Calarasi, which involved the creation of year-round accommodation in the Casa Parintaesca museum;

- the existing tourist infrastructure of Purcari was supplemented with two thematic cycling routes and equipment, as well as an online and an offline application;

- refurbished for the purposes of introducing regional products to the market, the Palanka community kitchen obtained certification;

- 12 young architects and designers took part in an architectural workshop, which promoted the best aesthetic and technological solutions applied in rural tourism in the EU and Poland;

- the co-creators of the tourist products in Purcari and Palanka (20 people) took part in workshops focusing on skills improvement, environmental tourism, creating culinary routes and regional products, individual/family tourism and the application of modern design, marketing and technologies in their activities;

- a conference promoting the best European practices in the field of GIs (based on the experience of Poland, Austria and Italy) and discussing the use of the Central European Initiative funding in Palanka and Calarasi was held;

- a meeting took place between Polish and Moldovan experts devoted to the analysis of the content and application of the law and the possible scope of its simplifications, and on the Polish best practices in relation to food security, agricultural retail sales and agri-tourism;

- the promotion of regional products was organised in Palanka.