Together with national partners and local leaders, the Romanian-American Foundation is working to develop and test market-based solutions for local economic development that will contribute to jobs, unleash economic opportunities and empower communities. RAF also concentrates to foster the scaling for the field-tested solutions that demonstrated small-scale success.
Most of RAF’s investments focus on two niches that we identified as vectors of economic development: support for small farmers and ecotourism.
Today’s rural economy is far from being a prosperity generator for either rural people or their communities. Agriculture is still the basic occupation, but over 95% of the farms are very low productivity, subsistence and semi-subsistence farms. Value-added services or other economic activities are scarce to none and poorly connected to the market. At the same time, rural education is not adjusted to the current labor market needs and perpetuates the vicious cycle of long-term poverty by limiting young people’s access to development opportunities.
Alternatively, rural areas have a great ecotourism potential: approximately 25 % of the country is covered by protected natural areas that, if used responsibly, may contribute to local economic development while preserving natural and cultural heritage.
RAF programs work and contribute to create conditions for local farmers to become more efficient, be able to associate and contribute to the prosperity of their communities; to develop a network of ecotourism destinations that capitalize on local traditions, nature, gastronomy and customs; and to contribute to the development of a new generation of rural professionals through quality education.