Agricultural economists need a thorough understanding of micro and macroeconomic techniques – such as economic modelling, econometrics and qualitative analysis, as well as knowledge of the institutional environment – to address the many complex challenges facing modern farming and rural development. These range from the optimisation of land use and increasing sustainability, to gauging the effects of public funding and agricultural policies.
Amid this backdrop, the EU-funded ENHANCE project tackled key questions facing Romania’s agricultural sector, which accounts for around a quarter of the country’s jobs – one of the highest rates in the EU. By providing access to innovative tools, techniques and training, it is set to have significant long-term impacts on Romania’s agricultural economics research and education, in turn supporting future rural development and farming.
‘Agriculture is a key component of the Romanian economy that provides fertile ground for innovation and development,’ says project coordinator Gina Fintineru, vice-rector of the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (USAMV) of Bucharest. ‘As a result of the ENHANCE project, we are implementing the methods and tools needed to foster sustainable agricultural and rural development, training future researchers and decision-makers, and increasing our capabilities and visibility in the field of agricultural economics research.’
Supported by three partner academic institutions in Austria, Germany and Switzerland under the EU’s Twinning programme, USAMV has benefitted from knowledge-sharing, staff exchanges, collaboration and training opportunities, as well as access to tools at the cutting edge of agricultural economics research.
The collaboration generated notable studies on topics such as land consolidation patterns, the effects of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and the potential advantages of adopting precision agriculture using satellite and drone imagery to map land use and crop damage.
The studies lay the foundations for ongoing research and development to benefit Romania’s more than three million farms – the vast majority of which are small family holdings – boosting productivity and sustainability in the sector, while opening avenues to further international cooperation far beyond the scope of the project.
Bucharest as emerging hub
Over the course of the project, ENHANCE partners organised three summer schools that attracted external participants from more than 15 countries, many of them early stage researchers.
‘The summer schools have given USAMV the opportunity to increase our international visibility by acting as a regional hub for prestigious scientific events,’ Fintineru says.
A key success of ENHANCE has been to raise the profile of USAMV and strengthen research links, helping the institution attract high-level funding and play a more prominent role in international collaborations. The impact is already being felt through an increase in the number of research papers published by USAMV researchers, greater involvement in international conferences, and more applications for participation in international research projects.
‘Through ENHANCE, we’ve raised the visibility USAMV in Europe and internationally, and also consolidated our role inside Romania as a driver of local and regional development through strong connections with Romanian stakeholders and policymakers,’ Fintineru says. ‘It is obvious that research plays an important role in creating prosperity, and the foundations of outstanding research results are researchers with outstanding training contributing to the enhancement of education and science, and, indeed, the economy and society in general.’