Pilot Projects

Pilot Project in Moldova

Sustainable management of pastures and community forests in Moldova’s first National Park Orhei to demonstrate climate change mitigation and adaptation benefits and dividends for local communities.


Project objectives

The project’s aim is to demonstrate a natural resource management model in the pastures and forests of Moldova which increases ecosystems’ capacity to sequester carbon under pending climate risks, while at the same time retaining biodiversity and economic values. The project targets the pastures and forest degraded lands located in the Orhei National Park area (33,792.09 ha) and its buffer zone. The project will develop innovative pasture and community forest management systems on the whole territory of the park, including rehabilitation of 500 ha of pastures and afforestation of 150 ha of eroded and non-productive lands.

The project will help avert further deterioration of natural resources (biodiversity, land, forest), sequestrate the carbon and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, improve local pasture and forestry resources, promote better understanding of problems related to climate change impacts and contribute to local/regional sustainable development. The project activity is expected to enhance the GHG removals by preventing soil erosion, which is estimated to account for carbon storage in soil of 0.9 tC/ha/yr, accumulation of 0.45 t C/ha/yr of carbon in pasture vegetation and 9.12 t C/ha/yr accumulation in forest vegetation with continuous increase.

General description and abckground information

The Republic of Moldova (RoM) is a small landlocked country in Eastern Europe, among the most densely settled in the region with about 3.6 million people, 58.4 % of which live in rural areas (RoM, 2011a). About 42% of the rural population is affected by poverty, an increase since 2009 (IFAD, 2012), and many of them rely upon the use of biodiversity and natural resources for their livelihoods. There is a high rate of population migration in the country due to lack of job opportunities, and major parts of population is involved in agricultural activities, particularly cattle-breeding and husbandry which serve as the main source of income and livelihoods. The Carpathian Mountains have major influence on the relief and geology of Moldova. The terrain is uneven with sharp changes in topography and soil erosion and landslides are common features throughout the country. About 877,644 ha of lands are affected by erosion in the country (of which 114,165 ha are heavily eroded).

The annual loss of soil from erosion is estimated at 26 million tonnes, equivalent to 2,000 ha of chernozem soil. The impact of soil loss in terms of the lost annual agricultural production is estimated at US$ 53 million. Areas affected by soil erosion and landslides were covered with forest or steppe vegetation in the past, but have been subjected to wind and water erosion, landslide, gully and ravine formation. The soil erosion is observed in the form of mass movement (landslides and soil creep) and particle movement (through-wash, rain splash, rain flow, rill wash and gully erosion) throughout the country. The erosion and unsustainable land use practices contributed to loss of soil organic carbon each year and are a major factor contributing to about 40-60% loss in soil productivity. Considering the very slow rate of soil formation, loss of more than 1 t of soil /ha/yr can be considered irreversible over a period of 50-100 years. On the slopes with inclination above 70O, erosion processes are proceeding very quickly with annual losses of 50 t/ha of soil and 1.5 t/ha of organic matter, equal 0.9 t/ha of carbon loss. The species for afforestation are selected based on suitability to soil and climate and adaptability to the sites. 

The native species (Quercus, Fraxinus) as the recent experiences show, on the degraded lands. Moldova is home to many flocks of domestic sheep, goats and herds of cattle that roam the landscape with their shepherds. Although there are designated pasturelands in most communities, often these resources are depleted and the herds are moved into fragile areas like forests, steppes and wetland edges to forage. All main types of ecosystems (forests, wetlands and patches of steppes) are under pressure of over-grazing and uncontrolled grazing throughout the country. According to FLEG Office Moldova (2010), pastures (lands suitable for hay and grazing) occupy 14% of the total land fund of Moldova and more than 70% of them are degraded or in a very bad condition. A daily productivity of 1 ha of pasture can provide feed to 0.3 unit of large cattle (cow, horse) or 2 units of small cattle (like sheep, goats).


The grazing capacity of pastures is much lower than the number of 625 thousand head of existing livestock in Moldova, which increases pressure on forests, steppes and other natural landscapes. The degraded pastures are the most affected by the climate change factors (e.g. drought) that became very frequent for the country in the recent years. In order to be prepared for future droughts/natural calamities and to promote more sustainable agricultural production and food security, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry adopted an Action Plan for Drought Mitigation Measures in the Agri-Food Sector (2012 -2015). Along with other activities reflected in the Action Plan, special attention is paid to the improvement the management of pastures for reducing the impact of droughts on the livestock sector. The carbon accumulation in vegetation is close to zero in pastures and degraded lands as demonstrated by the absence of vegetation or its scatted nature. Thus, according to information from the Moldova Soil Conservation Project, the average annual productivity of these lands is about 0.1 t C/ha. Lands used presently as pasture and perennial crops represent unbalanced ecosystems, which will continue to degrade.

The unauthorized and often uncontrolled grazing and climate change factors have a destructive impact over the landscapes, even changing the shape of environment and land. Another key problem in the recent years is the energy security of the country. Due to the high cost of imported fossil fuels (mostly natural gas) for the end consumers, demand of firewood in rural areas is very high. The main source of alternative fuel most often comes from wood collected from the environment (forest wood, downed wood in community land, vineyard residues etc.). However when these sources become depleted or are too expensive to procure, many villagers go into protected woodlands to cut their own supplies. This results in the loss of forest area and further fragmentation, which provides stressors to native animal and plant population living here.

According to FLEG Office Moldova (2011), IUCN and some local NGOs, the wood consumption in Moldova is almost twice as high as the authorized harvest in the forests managed by Moldsilva Forest Agency. The rest of the wood comes mostly from forests and protection belts which belong to Local Public Authorities. Local authorities have taken some measures to reduce illegal collection of fuel wood but these efforts are not yet strong enough to be effective. Developing of the forest management plans along with expansion of community forests through afforestation of degraded lands with fast growing species will have a positive social impact on local population and on biodiversity. As one of the steps to halt environmental degradation and address the above-mentioned issues, Moldova has committed to create the first national park, which will serve as a good example for environment friendly activities and will provide benefits for local population. This initiative is implemented with support of a UNDP-implemented GEF-funded project “Improving coverage and management effectiveness of the Protected Area System in Moldova”.


This project is funded by the EU: 535,000 Euro


More information

Breathing Spaces by Climate Adaptation UNDP on Exposure

Contact information

Project Manager: Mr Alexandru Rotaru (alexandru.rotaru[at]undp.org)