In the Republic of Moldova, an agrarian country increasingly affected by drought, only 38 centralized irrigation stations operate, ten of which were built with American money. The annual irrigated area, of about 60 thousand hectares, is only “a drop” in the total agricultural land in the country, of two million hectares, reports IPN.
According to the “Waters of Moldova” program, the Republic of Moldova inherited 78 centralized irrigation systems from the Soviet era. After the collapse of the USSR and the abolition of collective farms, 60% of them were abandoned and, over time, sold for scrap. This is what happened to the station at Ștefan Vodă, one of the districts most affected by the drought this year. Valeriu Belotcaci from the village of Copceac showed his cherry orchard yellowed before the weather, with small and dry fruits. The farmer says that because of the drought, he gathers less and less fruit every year. His lands are 40 kilometers from the Dniester river, but it does not reach here.
In the 1980s, in the Ștefan Vodă district, a system considered efficient at the time was built, which irrigated around 23,000 hectares. “In the mid-90s, when chaos began in the country, the system was stopped, the chips were too expensive to operate and the dismantling began”, says the president of the Ștefan Vodă district, Vasile Maxim. According to him, a solution would be for the state to invest in the construction of an aqueduct from the Dniester to the intersection with the road to Căușeni. “From there, we can bring the water, without it being pumped, to tens of kilometers, and, subsequently, economic agents could invest in the renovation of the irrigation stations”, explains Vasile Maxim.
Some of the old systems still work. Several farmers from the village of Varnița, Anenii Noi, consolidated their efforts and managed to save their agricultural crops from drought, rehabilitating the irrigation system in the locality, inaugurated back in 1969. The president of the Association of Water Users for Irrigation in the locality, Dorin Jardețchi, says that he fought with the bureaucracy so that the system was transferred by the state to the management of the association. Then the farmers obtained 250 thousand dollars from the Sustainable Development Fund and repaired part of the facilities. Currently, this irrigation system, which pumps from the Dniester, provides annual water to no more than 400 hectares.
“Obviously they are willing. Unfortunately, we don’t have a driver, we don’t have irrigation machines, there is still work to be done. Our goal is to reach the maximum capacity of our system, which is 1,140 hectares”, states Dorin Jardețchi. The benefits for farmers are obvious. “If you look at the irrigated areas, you see three-meter corn, and on the side of the hill, where the crops had no water, it barely grew,” says the president of the Association of Water Users for Irrigation in Varnița.
Another ten irrigation systems were built through the United States-funded “Compact” program. The largest of these is located in Cahul district and irrigates 2,700 hectares of agricultural land with water from the Prut. It was inaugurated in 2015. “We are the only associate that owns an irrigation system and, at the same time, a drainage system, because we are in a flood risk area. It is an opportunity for farmers, because in the Republic of Moldova, year after year, high temperatures and drought persist”, said the accountant of the “Chircani-Zârnești” Water Users Association, Svetlana Argint.
The ten new systems cost 80 million dollars and irrigate about 13 thousand hectares of agricultural land.