Bio Danubius is concerned with creating and promoting the standard of organic farming and protecting the Biosphere of the Danube Delta and the surrounding area by addressing the following issues related to environmental sustainability reported by the cluster:

  • Eutrophication: due to the excess of organic elements (mostly N + P compounds) in water and soil;
  • Emissions to soil, water and air, many types of manure in addition to pesticides, chem- icals, etc. ;
  • Contamination: heavy metals, pesticides, other harmful substances, also waste of vari- ous types;
  • Erosion: largely caused by human activities, such as upstream dams, widening and deepening of Delta canals for navigation, lack of land cover and inadequate crop rota- tion, etc .;
  • Waste: different types and causes, insufficient waste management;
  • Water management: insufficient management;
  • Loss of biodiversity: extinction of local species, emergence and multiplication;
  • Invasive species (especially fish);
  • Global warming.

The social development threats considered by Bio Danubius are:

  • Depopulation, very strong in the area;
  • Poor infrastructure: lack of running water, sewerage, roads, irrigation systems;
  • Rural depopulation: lack of young people willing / able to develop agriculture or aquaculture in a sustainable way. Lack of job offers, the possibility to start agricultural activities;
  • Too slow conversion of producers in organic agriculture and aquaculture;
  • Lack of support for smallholders, lack of financial support (training, etc.) to facilitate access to agriculture and development;
  • Support for small participants: Stakeholder dialogue needs to be stimulated.

The solutions that the cluster analyzes: Protection of areas with high conservation value in the Danube Delta through organic farming - actors and actions

The Bio Danubius Cluster is made up of a group of producers from the region surrounding the Danube Delta (DD) in Romania, who consider organic agriculture and food production as a system based on a sustainable use of natural and human resources, respecting their natural cycles and minimizing the negative impact on these cycles. With the support of the organization of organic products chains "Inter-Bio" where he is a founding member with Spiru Haret University and the Bioterra Association, Bio Danubius launched the project to develop an operable standard of organic producers and processors. Based on good international practice, the instruments will contribute to the protection of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (RBDD) and the surrounding area (Tulcea).

Bio Danubius considers that the active participation of organic producers and processors with sustained efforts in actions initiated at regional, national or international level for RBDD protection is important for sustainable management of the Danube. The experience gained in the project can be replicated in other regions worthy of protection. The Bio Danubius cluster aims to make the voice of organic producers heard through this project.

The employment of organic operators (farmers and processors), documented by a credible certification, will have a positive influence on the active insertion of organic agriculture in efforts to maintain and develop the DDBR area, to improve the image of the organic sector in Romania, encourage exports and stimulating producers from other parts of the country (and even outside Romania) to actively engage in the protection of valuable sites. It will document the positive role of organic farming in terms of issues such as climate change, global warming, deforestation, biodiversity loss, etc. It will contribute to the inclusion of organic farming in projects with relevant regional, national and international stakeholders.

This project focuses on the solutions offered by organic and sustainable agriculture to solve the problems related to environmental protection and sustainable management of one of the most important wetlands in the world, the Danube Delta. The project seeks to orient human activities in the area towards sustainable goals based on the core values of organic farming and the bio-economy and circular economy.

Bio Danubius and Inter Bio believe that agriculture and aquaculture based on the principles of sustainability can actively and effectively contribute to the protection of DDBRs. Adherence to the major principles of sustainable development can be documented by implementing a standard that promotes best practices in agriculture, as follows:

Activities planned within the implementation of the standard

Impact assessments and measurements

Certified organic farmers and processors in the RBDD buffer zone, as well as in the Tulcea area, should measure the impact of their activities (crop management, energy consumption, waste management, etc.) on water, soil and air, in order to detect weaknesses and to prevent or at least reduce the negative impact to acceptable limits. Indicators will be defined, figures resulting from the use of the analyzed indicators, corrective measures taken where the need is detected.

Measures to encourage organic diversity and soil fertility

Authorized farmers and processors will define measures to promote the biodiversity and fertility of the soil in the buffer zone or in the surrounding area, in order to protect local fauna and flora, in particular relevant local species and endangered species. They will strive to develop new innovative cultivation methods, such as: agro-forestry, simultaneous agricultural crops (intercorps), mixed crops, permaculture, testing of new varieties adapted to organic farming and others.

Communication and administration

Certified farmers and processors will:

  • Contact stakeholders such as potential partners (eg farmers in neighboring provinces, fisheries and tourism and aquaculture branches, etc.) to develop synergies in optimizing good practice and to take appropriate measures to encourage development rural etc.
  • Consult, regularly, local and national authorities, management authorities in the region, DDBRA, Research Institute, NGOs, etc. and managing contacts.
  • They will address institutions, companies or farmers in regions upstream of RBDD, which are considered to have an impact on the region, for example in relation to emissions leading to eutrophication, sediment problems, multiplication of invasive species, etc. In particular, the contribution to the problems in the RBDD of local actors upstream with the ultimate objectives of identifying the cause of the negative phenomenon and mitigating them or even working together on control systems and solutions should be addressed.

Use of advanced technology

Manufacturers and processors will strive to use high-tech tools such as G.I.S. in order to optimize the sustainable management of resources and measures against crime, being in discussions in this regard with the "Danube Engineering Cluster" in Ploiesti.

Next steps

The initial phase that started in October 2019 is over: the idea of the standard was discussed with relevant stakeholders in Romania, Germany and Switzerland. In several meetings, we received feedback from all stakeholders consulted (attachment 2) and were able to integrate comments into the draft standard, completed in January 2020. The standard was developed, formulating risks and requirements for wetlands. It focuses on agriculture and organic processing in Tulcea County as a supply chain certification. At Biofach 2020, the project was announced, and Costin Lianu and Laurent Vonwiller discussed in detail the standard with the people in charge of the Bio Danubius Cluster (Petrișor and Alexandru Petrescu): structure, risk analysis, requirements. Implementation details were also looked at more closely, such as:

  • Systems for measuring N and P emissions in soil and water;
  • Irrigation management: good practices, opportunities and difficulties;
  • Waste collection: good practices and difficulties;
  • Promoting biodiversity, measuring energy consumption, reducing emissions, etc .;
  • Stakeholder dialogue, in particular support for the standard by local authorities.

During the Biofach Fair, contacts from FIBL (Research Institute for Organic Agriculture), SECO (Swiss Office for Trade Development), as well as with Certification Bodies active in Romania allowed to obtain additional feedback on the concept of the standard and discussions on implementation, as follows:

  • Starting a pilot project with producers and processors in the relevant areas of the DDBR and the area surrounding the Danube Delta Biosphere which can be a preferred option in the medium term with the following objectives:
    • To help develop standard tools (control and certification rules, checklist, guides for farmers, auditors and certifiers, advanced tools such as GIS-based mapping, etc.), risk assessment and priorities in the control;
    • To complete the entire standard, including all tools.
  • Development of standard training documents for producers and auditors.

After evaluating the results of the pilot project, together with stakeholders and partners, we should move towards the full implementation of the standard in the region. After this extension of the standard to aquaculture, fishing and tourism it is recommended:

  • Using the standard in other provinces in Romania surrounding the Danube Delta;
  • Inclusion of standard criteria in labels for sustainable local products from the province of Tulcea and / or from other counties of Romania.

Partnership and financial options

So far, the project has been based on self-financing from Bio Danubius operators and partners such as Inter-Bio, the Interprofessional Association of Organic Agriculture Operators and USH Pro Business, the Spiru Haret University Entrepreneurship Center that supports the cluster. Their ability to continue the project with additional funds is very limited. The budget and timetable can be drawn up as soon as funds have been allocated. In the preparation phase, but also in the implementation phase, it will be important to think about opportunities to expand the scope of the standard and to create synergies and extensions, as mentioned above.

Facilitating access to funds is a crucial issue. For this, we may have several awareness campaigns such as:

  • Workshops with local partners and international partners in Tulcea during March-June 2020;
  • Financing the project through national program (PNADR) or local (ITI);
  • Promoting the project to possible funding institutions in Brussels through the European Commission, FIBL, EU IFOAM etc.