To Moldova and Back: A Sustainable Partnership in the Making
Nestled between Ukraine and Romania near the edge of the Black Sea lies a country made up of 2.6 million people, a quarter of whom work in the agricultural industry, toiling some of the richest soils in the world. The Republic of Moldova and the state of North Carolina formed a multifaceted partnership in 1999 with an emphasis on medicine, libraries, computer resources and aid. Last year, that partnership expanded into agriculture.
The Moldova Rural Competitiveness and Resilience Activity, funded by USAID and facilitated by Chemonics International, opened the door for an academic collaboration between North Carolina State University and Technical University of Moldova (TUM). This collaboration launched with reciprocal visits by North Carolinian and Moldovan delegations. Alongside the North Carolina Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall, NC State sent a representative to Moldova last fall to lay the foundation for collaborative efforts in three key areas: sustainable irrigation, climate-smart agriculture and agtech.
Chadi Sayde, assistant professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, represented NC State on the visit to Moldova in large part because of his expertise in irrigation and agricultural water management. Originally from Lebanon, Sayde says his motivation for visiting Moldova stems from his understanding of what agriculture looks like in other parts of the world as well as what is possible when the right “support structures,” as he calls them, are prioritized as they are in North Carolina. Sayde is also motivated by bigger, more existential questions of climate change and food security.
Sayde’s expertise in agricultural water management is particularly relevant to the Moldova partnership. The amount of irrigated agricultural land in Moldova has decreased tenfold since the Soviet era. Moldovan farmers face similar climate pressures as those in North Carolina while also growing and exporting a similarly diverse set of crops. Moldova’s top products include fruits, vegetables and grains as well as livestock. Moldova even has a robust wine industry.
“There is a deep historic and cultural wine-making tradition in Moldova, but they have to compete with the big producers in France, Spain, Chile, you name it. They have figured out ways to make a business out of wine making, and I think we can learn from that because we have a growing wine making industry in North Carolina as well,” says Jose Cisneros, director of international programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State.
Where Sayde saw an opportunity for NC State’s expertise to lift the Moldovan agricultural sector was in bridging the gaps between education, applied research and extension. One of the key takeaways for the Moldovan delegation that visited NC State in November 2023 was the importance of investing in these support structures.
“The primary aim of this visit was to explore how NC State integrates education, research and extension within its land grant mission. This insight is particularly relevant for TUM as it seeks to reform its agricultural curriculum, enhance its applied research initiatives and better integrate extension and outreach into its educational framework,” Sayde says.
Sayde’s visit to Moldova culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for further collaboration, kicking off with a speaker exchange program this spring. NC State will welcome four Moldovan visiting faculty while also sending four NC State faculty to TUM. Sayde says the speaker exchange program provides an opportunity to exchange cultures and commonalities as well as ideas. His hope is that faculty from both universities will collaborate on grant proposals to provide seed funding for further collaboration.
Another component of the MOU includes stakeholder workshop in Moldova facilitated by NC State to map out a path for integrating education, applied research and extension in Moldova based on stakeholders’ needs.
“We are determined to support the development of rural communities in other countries, but the approach has to be what we call CREdO: Connecting Research, Education and Outreach,” Cisneros says.
By connecting stakeholders across sectors, from academia and government to agricultural producers and private industry, the CREdO method brings the right people together in a two-way exchange of ideas. NC State’s role as a facilitator is to help partnering countries find solutions that work for them while also learning from their expertise.
“We are seeing the future already — how there will be huge pressure on agriculture to produce more food for an ever-growing population while reducing the environmental impact of our intensive production,” Sayde says. “This is a global problem that we cannot solve only in the U.S. We have to address it globally and we have to address it together.”
Our partnership with Moldova will continue to grow as more opportunities for CALS faculty to get involved become available. Please email Jose Cisneros (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be kept up-to-date of future opportunities with our friends in Moldova and around the world.