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Alternative Food Networks in Romania – Effective Instrument for Rural Development?

Kinga Xénia HAVADI-NAGY*1
* Corresponding author
1Babeș-Bolyai University, Faculty of Geography, Department of Regional Geography and Territorial Planning, Cluj-Napoca, ROMANIA

Abstract. Recent public policies in the European Union foster a new multifunctional agricultural model, which, besides the food production function of farms, address the ecological, cultural, and social services they deliver, so that agriculture may contribute to an overall rural development. These benefits are produced mainly by small-scale farmers, which are less intensive and focusing on diversification. Alternative food networks (AFN) are the result of an amalgam of socio-cultural and economic phenomena, one main aim of these initiatives being the support of smallholders. This study reflects upon the chances and challenges of AFNs in the Romanian context, based on the existing initiatives emerging under the current socio-political and economic circumstances. The objective of the survey is to reveal the growth possibilities of AFNs and their potential contribution to the appreciation of small-scale agriculture and a sustainable, liveable rural area. The survey relies on data from previous research, the up-to-date websites and social network platforms of the investigated initiatives, informal discussions with AFN stakeholders, and the observations conducted by the author as a consumer of AFNs based in Cluj-Napoca. For the applied policies and policy recommendations, we consulted the main national policy documents and rural development strategies. We can conclude that Romania holds significant resources for the implementation of alternative food networks due to numerous favourable circumstances. However, to become an efficient tool of rural development, we see a need of improvement in accessibility, institutional and policy support, as well as in the education of producers and consumers in the spirit of sustainable consumption.

K e y w o r d s: conscious consumption, sustainable food production and distribution, Romania