UNGHENI DISTRICT, MOLDOVA – Hundreds of people came together from May 19-25 to celebrate Moldova’s Beech Forest Nature Reserve during the second annual “Beech Festival—Culture and Tourism” event. Attendees enjoyed food, arts, music, and educational events promoting the natural heritage and local culture and folklore of the local forest and the people who live there.
“It was amazing to see so many people celebrating the forest and all that it means to them,” said Aurel Lozan, ENPI East FLEG national coordinator and program consultant. “This forest is a hot-spot for biodiversity and one of the eastern-most stands of the beech, a symbolic species of the area.”
Local craftsmen showcased wood carving and other wood works and artists exhibited a variety of artwork at the festival. FLEG sponsored an art contest and joined with the nature reserve to sponsor a food contest where the dishes used local forest products such as mushrooms, fruits, honey, and medicinal herbs.
“The event is another occasion for local communities to promote their traditions,” said Galina Norocea, a senior consultant with the Moldova Ministry of Environment. Norocea went on to explain how the festival can help the conservation of the beech tree “through better promotion of the beech in the culture of locals as well as of the ecological significance of it as species.”
FLEG also helped organize a number of events to educate participants and local leaders on the value of forests, challenges facing them, and economic opportunities that come from sustainable, healthy forests. FLEG took part in a field discussion with main stakeholders gathered in the area including representatives from the Ministry of Environment, Agency Moldsilva, Nature Reserve, local public administrations of surrounding villages and communities, and members of the media.
Covali Victoria, a protected areas consultant of Agency Moldsilva said festivals like Beech Festival can help the heath of beech forests in Moldova, “but only if species’ importance in promoted at local and national level; also, if beech regeneration is favored and the pressure on beech forests is reduced, such as grazing, illegal logging, waste pollution, unauthorized recreation.”
“Once the public is informed about the importance of a plant, tree or animal, slowly the attitude will change,” said Lucia Tăut, a redactor with TV Moldova 1 Channel who attended the event. “Eventually, the [conservation] goal can be reached, sooner or later.”
FLEG organizers also helped lead excursions through the forest and to lakes where participants could discuss the forest biodiversity and ways to use forests as a platform for eco-tourism. On Biodiversity Day, organized on one of the days during the festival, ENPI-FLEG representatives worked with schoolchildren to help them learn about the forest.
“The festival was an excellent opportunity not only to celebrate Moldova’s beech forest, but also to bring people together to talk about ways to keep the forest healthy and to use it in ways that will have long-term benefits for the people who live here,” said Lozan. “The festival is a way to raise awareness about the conservation and rational use of forest resources, and in many ways the success of the festival went far beyond the excellent foods and arts everyone got to enjoy.”
The “Beech Festival – culture and tourism” was held at the Nature Reserve “Beech Forest” in the Ungheni district of Moldova and was organized by the Ungheni District Council, local division of culture and tourism, local community Radenii Vechi, Nature Reserve “Beech Forest” (local name is “Plaiul Fagului”) and Agency Moldsilva with assistance from the ENPI East FLEG in Moldova.
The Nature Reserve harbors circa 680 species of vascular pants and 211 species of vertebrates and numerous species of invertebrates, including 27 species of plants and animals in the National Red Book data. The area is a living laboratory and a bastion of biodiversity.
The Nature Reserve is named after the beech tree (Fagus sylvatica), which is native to Moldova and represents only 6% in the tree composition of the reserve area. Most importantly, it is on its east limits of the range and is a protected species in the country. The beech is an indispensable component of local forest ecosystems. It provides various goods, wood and nuts as food for birds and other animals, and it can also be used for various medicinal purposes.