In 2002, while working on an agribusiness project in Constanta, Romania, we were invited to visit the biodiversity rich medieval wild flower meadows of the Saxon Villages of Transylvania. This led to us becoming increasingly involved in an innovative project linking the conservation of this amazing biodiversity with economic development for the community. Much national and international recognition of our efforts followed, including a delegation led by the Indonesian Deputy Minister of Tourism who was interested to learn how we had promoted tourism in a rural area that generated significant benefit for the community. Carlo Petrini, the founder and president of Slow Food visited in recognition of our work to promote local food and the concept promoted by Slow Food of good, clean and fair. These innovative efforts were further recognised in our award by British Expertise in 2006.
However by 2008, we realised (brought into focus by the financial crisis) that the conventional, donor supported approach to private sector development projects was not working and was not sustainable. One of the the main problems was that projects were of short duration, met the funding criteria of the donor rather providing the flexibility needed by the enterprise and expenditure was monitored against the original budget which was often out of date (the typical project cycle can take many years from inception to implementation).
We developed our own approach based on lessons learnt from around the world and brought this together in a robust business plan that combined conservation of the environment, social impact and sound commercial management. In late 2009, the Food Development Company Ltd (FDC), was established to promote this impact investment, putting into practice what BMC consultants had in fact been writing about for decades. The process attracted twenty three like minded, private investors from the UK, Romania, Australia and the USA (with BMC a major shareholder). The operational company is a social enterprise, the Transylvania Food Company Srl, which is designed to deliver financial return but also to generate positive social and environmental impact. Our range of jams, juices and sauces are sold under the brand Pivnita Bunicii - Grandma’s pantry or larder.
We are pleased to announce that following our second annual audit by DQS Romania it has been confirmed that we again meet the requirements set out in the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety (Issue 7), Global Markets Programme, an entry level programme specifically designed for smaller and developing sites. We are the first micro-enterprise in Romania to achieve this status.
To learn about our philosophy and about the area in which we work watch our documentary.
Turnbull was interviewed about his work in Transylvania for the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme broadcast on Sunday 5th September 2010.