Imagine you are standing in a beautiful mosaic of meadow and forest habitats – buzzing bees flying from flower to flower. You are in the Zarand landscape corridor in Romania. As well as having rich floral diversity, this landscape corridor provides an element of wilderness through which brown bears, grey wolves and Eurasian lynx can move between the Western and Southern Carpathian Mountains.
However, the Zarand landscape is under increasing threat from new developments and a shift away from small-scale agriculture. This puts local biodiversity and people’s cultural heritage at risk of being lost. Together with Zarand Association, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working with local communities to protect their environment and promote sustainable agricultural practices and other rural business enterprises.
One way we are doing this is by promoting beekeeping, which encourages communities to value and preserve wildflower meadows and sustainably managed forests. This is because beekeepers rely on these habitats for bees to pollinate and produce honey from wild flowers and trees such as lime and acacia.
Beekeeping is already a traditional farming practice in the area with up to 60 beekeepers, but is in decline as young people are increasingly moving away from rural villages to earn higher incomes elsewhere. However, by coming together, beekeepers can strengthen their bargaining power and achieve better prices for their honey collectively than they could as individuals. FFI supports the sale of their honey at a fair price so that farmers can earn an income based on the Fairtrade principle – which seeks to provide local farmers with more favourable prices and improved access to markets for sustainable agricultural products.
Alongside this, we have supported the creation of a unique Zarand brand, which farmers can use to differentiate their products. By marketing with this distinctive brand, farmers can showcase their pure and premium honey derived from the Zarand landscape, and sell their products at a higher price directly to shops and at fairs. This also helps consumers recognise that they are buying a traditionally produced, natural honey of a higher quality than many other products on sale.
The honey is produced in line with EU food safety standards, so while it is currently only on sale in Romania, we are planning to expand into other EU countries in the future. As the Zarand brand grows, we are hopeful that more farmers will join the initiative and therefore have a greater incentive to continue to manage the land in ways that also preserve the beautiful Zarand landscape corridor.
Community Facilitator for the project, Anca Barbu, said: “One of Zarand locals went to Arad and he saw the honey on a store shelf. He said that he knew about the plans of selling honey but he never believed that he will see the honey on a shelf store from Arad. Seeing the honey on that shelf made him believe that the natural beekeeping in the area has a chance to prosper.”