Thousands of perfectly aligned and copycat trees shape up an orchard that stretches as far as the eye can see on the hillside.
Looking from far away, one may get the impression that the trees got caught up in a dance to hide a deep lake in the middle, just like a blue eye bathed in sunlight.
This is what the cherry orchard belonging to brothers Gheorghe and Vasile Grosu nearby Fundul Galbenei village, Hincesti district looks like. Six years ago, this place was covered with fallow land and vineyards, forgotten by all. The Grosu brothers decided to set up a modern cherry orchard and bought 15 ha of land, being attracted by the beauty of the scenery and the advantageous location of the agricultural fields, with good water discharge in case of heavy rains. They knew from their own experience that access to water is the most important thing for a farmer, especially in the conditions of the Republic of Moldova, which is severely affected by drought. While this place allows collecting easily rainwater for irrigation, just as they have seen at some successful producers in Europe.
It took them three years to plant the entire orchard with cherry seedlings brought from Italy, digging meanwhile a water storage basin. Although the basin would be full of water after every rain, the farmers did not succeed to use it fully, as it would disappear in the ground. It was only this year when their dream to implement an innovative orchard irrigation technology came along, thanks to the technical expertise and a US$30,000 grant awarded as part of a public call for proposals conducted by “Promotion of climate change and disaster risk reduction solution in the water and civil protection sectors for enhanced rural resilience” project, implemented by UNDP and financed by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) with funds of Austrian Development Cooperation.
The basin has been recently launched into operation and the farmers from this area already look longingly at the “treasure” from the cherry orchard, with is endowed with open-and-shut hydro-technical equipment, a geomembrane ensuring waterproofing when coming into contact with the soil, water pump, etc. Built with money awarded via the grant and their own contribution, the basin has an area of 3,000 square meters and a capacity of 5,000 cubic meters of water, being able to ensure the irrigation for an entire orchard. The specialists have estimated that the water stored in the basin would be enough to maintain the fertility of the orchard even during the driest year.
“The principle for our irrigation system operation is very simply, efficient and cost-effective: the rainfall water gets naturally stored in the basin, and after being settled and filtered, it is pumped in water tanks on the crest of the hill, and from there, it reaches under pressure and through pipes the entire territory of the orchard. It is an environmentally friendly practice, which allows us giving up wasteful practices,” says Vasile Grosu, one of the two owners and founders of the GG Prim Ltd Company.
Drip irrigation ensures not just a rich harvest, but also the quality and necessary shape of fruits. And that’s because the rainwater represents a cheap and reliable source of clean water, substantially cleared of salinity. The trees heavily loaded with fruits serve as a real evidence in this respect. Although it is still a young orchard, Vasile Grosu estimates that this year they will harvest about 12 tons of cherries per hectare.
“Nowadays, the quality of fruits is the main factor ensuring sales and determining the price. Some years ago, we took the decision to plant a cherry orchard, as there was deficit of such fruits on the market, meaning that there were more buyers than sellers. Today the things got reversed and only those who offer qualitative goods win,” mentions the entrepreneur.
Harvesting will start in several days, engaging up to 300 seasonal workers. The big, fleshy and sweet cherries will take the road towards Russia, and a part will be exported to European countries. “Our fruits are very popular in Russia. We hardly succeed to cope with the high demand. Besides being so tasty and nice looking, our cherries meet all the quality standards,” says the farmer.
To ensure the corresponding quality, the owners strictly observe several simple rules. First of all, they look after the orchard all over the year, and to do this, they have bought a milling machine, which saves time and resources for hoeing. Secondly, they use only natural fertilizers, spray the trees with bio solutions, form and maintain the crown of trees according to a technology taken over from some foreign farmers. Recently they bought an anti-birds cannon – a special device which produces strong sounds to scare the unwanted birds.
“Have you seen the nicely blooming roses planted at the end of every row of cherry trees? They are like an indicator for us that the orchard is healthy, the roses’ leaves get immediately stained if a disease spreads over the trees”, says Vasile Grosu.
According to him, all these factors determine the quantity and the quality of fruits, but water is in the top of the list and plays a determining role. “We are very pleased with the expertise and the assistance provided by the project. In this way, we will be able to develop our business and harness the huge investment made until now and, at the same time, we will be able to help people from the neighboring villages,” tells us Vasile Grosu. This is because the rainwater storing basin has one more objective: it will serve as a water supply source, if needed, for the intervention vehicle of the community-based rescue and firefighting post.
The rainwater storage basin of the GG Prim Ltd Company is one of the 10 basins built with the financial assistance provided by the Austrian Development Agency from the Austrian Development Cooperation funds in Cantemir, Criuleni, Hincesti, Leova and Ungheni districts. The basins are built in the framework of the “Promotion of climate change and disaster risk reduction solution in the water and civil protection sectors for enhanced rural resilience” UNDP project, as an efficient and sustainable measure for rural communities’ adaptation to climate changes.