This is an interview first given to Active Watch mid February 2011.

Reporter Maria Popa.

Main Topics: Dana Bucur business activity, România, agriculture and rural development, creativity and innovation.

All of it has been then published further by:

Dana Bucur has 17 years of agricultural experience. Sometimes she worked even 14 hours without having a break. She started from the ground, building up from scratch a viable farm and now she has her own agribusiness company providing ag consultancy, including solutions for sustainable agriculture and organic farming. She graduated Economics, a Quality Master and 2 agribusiness MBAs (one in UK and the other a joint-venture between România and Germany). These are some of the reasons the sustainable community media decided to take an interview.

Reporter: What kind of problems the Ro agriculture confronts with?

Dana Bucur: Lack of branding, of business style in agriculture. Yes, there isn’t a proper business style implemented and/or accepted in the ag community. And yes, there isn’t proper updated education and information, there are many things to work out there at the foundation.

Rep: Do you talk about our country or is about an overall issue of the ag industry?

D. B: This is a general problem in the ag universe. More likely in România, where more support is needed on a macroeconomic basis. We need a critical mass of the ag performers. The actual Românian ag society is based on a few large farmers and thats all. We need people-catalysers, as I say. We need dynamic ag players with a business vision ready for action or in action. Romania lack at the moment of such people either at the microeconomic level or macroeconomic level. In România, the public ag stakeholders need to sense the presence – if not involvement at the moment – of a competitor. Otherwise, we are going to depend on a bureaucratic governmental body where no proper structure, consistency, osmosis in place. It would be necessary that type of buffer partners i.e. the ones who connect the ag stakeholders from the private market (for-profit and not-for-profit) and the politicians.

Another interesting topics for me out of the ag business services, which I am very much fond of, is the one of the ag training, ag education, a subject which I reflect a lot on lately and also working on designing educational programmes, for both the university and post-university levels.

What is durable to the villagers

Reporter: When you go to the Romanian rural communities, how do you explain to the local people what is sustainable agriculture and organic farming, how do you make people to think of?

D. B: First of all, it is important to ask them who they are, what are doing, if they want to practice agriculture and if they would like to consider other types of agriculture. Then I talk about sustainable agriculture, because they face surviving issues in agriculture, such as subsidies coming late, no money for ag inputs, no real market for their ag products – this is what they have to cope with, but to think to further development. Often enough, they consider the sustainable agriculture or organic farming a niche industry, something high-class.

The ecologic farming (the organic farming) means ecology (organic). Finally, ecology means to take into consideration all factors, business-wise and environment-like, and to create a balanced osmosis amongst them. Which, if we don’t first do it with ourselves, we cannot do it with our life environment. Ecology means organic, natural, naturist, means to use as little as possible pesticides (if not at all), means to react or not mechanically and many other things – depending on the geographical concept.

The sustainable agriculture means agriculture practiced not only for our children, but for our nephews and so on. An ever-lasting agriculture, in a simple way.

Reporter: What would it happen if the people from the rural communities would be more receptive?

D. B: It would be totally different, first of all, as they would protect their rights. But most of people from the rural society have to put up with lack of living infrastructure (water, electricity etc). It is difficult to live in the country side, where not even a proper local infrastructure exist. The young people run to the urban spaces or they leave the country. If there isn’t an authentic vision, a well-thought strategy with good impact in the future – probably all these shall be ‘placed in’ by the foreign ag investors with financial and know-how resources.

Reporter: You mentioned about balance in the practice of the sustainable agriculture. What do you mean with this?

D. B: It is about the fact, for instance, that the prices of organic products are very high, hopefully this shall be adjusted in time. And all of the sudden, everybody is into organic farming for this commercial interest. Not always are truly respected the quality standards for both, sustainable and organic farming. People want to save some time, to launch quickly the products in the market, to catch up these fantastic prices, which may very well in time fluctuate.

Reporter: What is the long-term risk?

D. B: This behaviour may produce a huge unbalance. Farmers will end up with lack of finances, with no capacity to produce, they will long-term loose.

What does it mean to learn from the others

Reporter: Could you please tell us a few things about your professional experience.

D. B: I have more than 17 years of professional experience. Till 2006 I was employed to public and private entities. I worked in the university and academic environments. I started from the bottom, step-by-step, from the PA to manager and then office director and work-place manager and so on. I built up work places from zero, something in fashion today –the way I did it in the past was in fact: you move in the local rural community, you live there for one week, or one, two or maybe three months till you are accepted socially by the local people. You eat like them, talk like them, sleep like them, spent the time as they are used to, and after a while you are accepted and everything comes naturally.

Till 2006 I had the ambition to work internationally, including on tractors. Yes, I know to drive and work on a tractor, but I know much more than that. I earned ag business experience in UK, Western Australia and other European countries, where I learnt a lot, from the vital aspects of an agribusiness venture/project to making real money, to value an ag brand and to be proud with the right professional attitude by the added value you bring to the business you are involved in.

Reporter: I understand it was important the international experience you gained.

D. B: I owe a lot to the abroad experience, and I respect it a lot. I had a great chance to work in the anglo-saxon ag environment, where it is very hard to make money, you work a hell of a lot, sometimes more than 14 hours without eating anything or allowing yourself too much. But all this experience thoughen me therefore I do not give up too easily or at all. I work very hard. You sacrifice your private life, your weekends, holidays, sometimes some of your living rights. I wanted to finalise my PhD, but I had to stop. There are some life aspects you have to give up or you temporarily suspend. I won’t pay anymore this price.

Reporter: And from the Australians what did you learn?

D. B: I lived and worked amongst them for almost 3 years. They appreciate a lot the effort, the hard-working people. I worked not only in farming but also in management and consultancy ag industry. Aussies are very open, they like to listen, they have this mentality to encourage you, to help you. When I managed to adapt to the local life I really enjoyed flowing of ag business ideas and solutions, they really like it and support me. They put a great value on creativity and enthusiasm. Us Romanians we are quite rigid when we face something like this. There, it is encouraged to think and enlarge your perspectives, in the work brake people chat to each others, eat, enjoy the sun, the flowers or colours. Then they go back to the office, in a relaxed working environment. I dare to say that there is a real vocation to progress together.

Entrepreneur in consultancy

Reporter: Since 2006 you work on your own i.e. www.agrimanagement.ro. What kind of services you provide?

D. B: Amongst others, I launched my online ag business activity, at the moment not being too many ag players focusing on-line. From 2006 to 2010 I worked consistenly and continuously online and in parallel I continued to increase internationally the awareness of my business brand. Internationally, I have many references, 99% of my portfolio being international ag stakeholders.

AgriManagement offers agricultural consultancy. I help everybody who wants to invest in agriculture. I also help all the ones who need my help, either in farming or livestock, actual production or services.

Reporter: What made you to invest in a Românian ag business?

D. B: This question is addressed to me so often. Working in UK, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain etc etc, here and there I could discover some common aspects down to social and business life related to România. In all these countries I managed to build up my business identity. It is very important to work abroad, as most of the large ag players in România are multinationals so therefore easy to connect with the international built-up ag expertise.

But something was missing. Wherever you are born, there are some living moments which are caught in the human being cell memory. Either you let them dominate you or you dominate them. I chose the first one. The life roots brought me back. I want to help my country and my people and I hope to get there.

Reporter: Who are the people from your team?

D. B: They are people with ag education and/or experience who also learnt to manage the administrative side of the business. I collaborate with agronomists or people educated in agribusiness, management and marketing.

Online Agriculture

Reporter: You mentioned about your online activities. A few more words please.

D. B: From time to time, I talk about various subjects depending on the online group I am affiliated to. I add my expertise to the online debate or sometimes, as I am the group founder I mediate the relationship between different ag players.

Other times, I launch new debates, I challenge the dialogue, which is not that persistent in the ag universe as we are very busy with the farm work. We talk on for instance the business infrastructure in Ro, or the ag investment opportunities, why to invest in Ro and not in other countries, how can we increase the performance, where we can find investors, finances, the right people etc.

Reporter: There are such online ag communities in România?

D. B: Recently Romanians are interested to the online debates. Multinationals have a very good track record on this direction with more than 10 years experience.

Reporter: With your online activities do you manage to increase the number of your ag clients?

D. B: This is one of the business aspects I focus on, but not only. In agriculture the most important is to work face to face, and in România this so critical, including with the foreign ag players which run their businesses here.

Reporter: What are the clients after? What do they need the most?

D. B: People are coming either with a basic question, or asking to find the right solution, or sometimes even for some help. For instance, when they don’t know to organise best their budget in order to get into profit, I can help them. Or they want to increase the value of their ag investment or business or find better prices to their products. ‘I have a large farm with many hectares. Do I make good money long-term by myself or shall I find a business partner? Who could help me in this sense?” – to such people I can offer reliable tailored agribusiness solutions. I can connect ag suppliers to clients. I am present wherever my help and expertise is needed. This is the most important aspect.

This interview is part of a resource collection of the sustainable community, the first community in practice for sustainable agriculture in România. Comunitatedurabila.ro is a collaborative tool to learn about sustainable development, where experts and managers from diverse domains, are all interested to develop the sustainability of the projects they run.

This community is the result of the project „Partenership for sustainable development” co-financed by European Social Fund via 2007 – 2013 HR Operational Sectorial Development Programme ”Invest in people!” initiated by Association ‘Salvati Dunarea si Delta’ in partnership with ActiveWatch and implemented with the support of Ecopolis Center for Sustainable Politics

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