Past, present and future of common grazing land in Transylvania, Romania
Laura Sutcliffe1, Nat Page2, Christoph Leuschner1, Rainer Marggraf3
1Institute for Plant Sciences, Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany; 2Fundatia ADEPT, Romania; 3Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Georg-August Universit of Göttingen, Germany
In comparison to many Western European countries, in Romania the use of common pasture remains the norm, strongly linked to the predominance of subsistence and semi-subsistence farming in much of the country. Although its importance varies across the country, an estimated 50 % of all permanent pasture is under state or community ownership.
However, the role of the common pasture in the community is changing. The number of active users is decreasing, and those who have more animals are increasingly grazing their animals on long-term leased or private land and thus effectively no longer participating in the commons. This is encouraged by the current system of relatively low prices for agricultural produce and EU agricultural support payments, which for smallholders and larger farmers alike are now the main factor for the financial viability of farming in Romania.
Although the sale of publicly owned land is currently not an issue due to legal restrictions, lease periods are becoming longer (five years or more) and more land is being leased by single tenants as this arrangement facilitates the application for payments. Thus, it seems that actual land-use may be changing gradually but inexorably towards a private use model.
One positive development against this trend has been the formation over recent years of cattle grazing associations made up of member users, which receive the payments for and maintain the common pastures. This relatively new institution could provide a sustainable solution to the problem of the disconnection of the community from the common land, however, multiple issues with lack of trust and insufficient regulation must first be overcome.
Using the case study of the Tarnava Mare region of Transylvania, the aim of this paper is to discuss whether the political and socio-economic situation is really eroding the concept of common grazing in Romania, and whether this presents a threat to not only the appropriate management of the grassland but also the livelihoods of smallholders.