Romania: Sustainable livelihoods and environment
In the 2010 Census, just 2,242 individuals declared their membership of the Czech community in Romania, while in 1992, this figure was 5,800. Most ethnic Czechs are engaged in agriculture and only very few have any experience with any other form of employment or with running their own business. The only way to preserve a community whose members are inclined towards emigration is to eliminate differences in living standards and to provide opportunities on a par with those found in villages in the Czech Republic. In other words, to create places that not only encourage original inhabitants to return but that might even attract new settlers.
People in Need tries to promote the economic independence of ethnic Czechs in the Banat region, to improve their economic situation and level of education, and to prepare them for applying for EU funds. To this end, we have also opened a public fundraiser.
Economic activities are focused on supporting small, often traditional Czech trades and sustainable tourism, which has great potential in the region.
The Czech public associates the Banat primarily with a summer music festival held in support of the local Czech community. Every year, bands and hundreds of visitors travel to the festival from the Czech Republic.
Developing sustainable tourism
In 2005, a plan for developing sustainable tourism was created with input from experts in rural tourism from the European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism, ECEAT. Since then, the project coordinator’s work has focused on the following activities:
• Marketing and promotion of the Banat as a tourist destination (articles, television and radio programmes, press, and flyers).
• Maintaining and updating the www.banat.cz tourism website.
• Workshops for locals offering accommodation services with the aim of increasing the quality of services for tourists.
• Marketing activities for promoting the sale of homemade products (honey, jam, slivovitz, herbal teas, and so on).
• Marking out hiking trails in the vicinity of Czech villages.
• Promoting development of equine tourism with the aim of preserving horse breeding in Czech villages (purchasing saddles for horse owners, renting saddles, marketing, workshops for horse owners)
• Operating a telephone and internet information centre
• Organizing an annual festival of Czech culture in one of the local Czech villages, with the aim of promoting the villages as a tourist destination (www.festivalbanat.cz).
Since 2005, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of local Czech families actively involved in providing tourist services. Many have gained significant experience and have built up established family guesthouses that provide the entire family with income for the entire year. The services are provided directly, without any middlemen. The project is funded in part by donors and all tourism income goes directly to the farmers, making it a strong motivational force. All local Czechs are informed each year of changes or problems that need to be addressed when accommodating visitors. This means that the services provided are constantly undergoing improvement. The project is of a long-term character and all its activities are in line with the project plan. For this reason, it requires the regular planning and expert work of a coordinator.
All activities by People in Need endeavour to preserve as many of the cultural values associated with the Czech past as possible.