New partnership set to prove the business case for sustainable farming

Jun 22, 2017

One of the country’s leading entrepreneurs, Delco Baltovski, is turning his talents for innovation to exploring new ways of making his flourishing wine business more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

At fifty years old, Baltovski is already the largest private wine producer in the Strumica region, with vineyards covering some 450 hectares. Through his widely acclaimed range of Dalvina wines, he has succeeded in putting Strumica on the world map, winning a number of awards in national and international competitions.

A strong supporter of good agricultural practices, Baltovski has always been concerned about protecting the environment. Now he has taken this concern a step further and decided to partner up with UNDP to test out innovative approaches to more sustainable farming on his vineyards.

As part of this project, Baltovski will invest 700.000 EUR in piloting new methods of farming on 25 hectares of his land for table grapes. UNDP experts will be providing the technical know-how for the project.

New solar pumps will soon be installed on the vineyard, expected to generate electricity savings in the amount of 5,000 EUR per year while also cutting 1,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

Optimal conditions for plant growth will be achieved by placing sensors to monitor the soil and by introducing pest management and control systems, thereby saving water and reducing the use of pesticides. This is expected not only to increase yields but also significantly reduce costs.

The first results will be seen this time next year.

This pilot project is of great significance for the region. If it proves successful it can be replicated by other farmers and help prevent further deterioration of the ecosystem of the Strumica River Basin and preserve drinking water for the population.

“This approach will show exactly what is needed to maximize yields and minimize harmful effects on the environment,” says UNDP Project Manager Dimitrija Sekovski, adding that expert calculations predict this pilot project will demonstrate the benefits of precision agriculture in the space of less than one year.

The Strumica River Basin has long been the country’s main agricultural region, owing the fertility of its soil to the River Strumica, which also provides farmers with the water they need to irrigate their crops.

Farming practices in this region have remained very traditional, however, with farmers typically growing only a single crop all year round and still using methods of irrigation and fertilization that rely largely on guesswork.

This haphazard approach has led to excessive, inefficient and harmful use of agrochemicals and water. Over the decades, these unsustainable practices have caused large-scale pollution of the groundwater and worsened the quality of water in the Strumica River.

Given the vital importance of agriculture to the region, tackling the problem of unsustainable farming practices is now a key priority in the Basin, especially in the context of climate change.

This is why a comprehensive 3 million EUR programme “Restoring the health of the Strumica River Basin” has been launched to modernize agriculture and train farmers to grow and rotate different crops and to irrigate and fertilize more efficiently.

The programme is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and is being implemented by UNDP.

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