UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project

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Cleaning out the stables

Agriculture is a major source of pollution in the Danube River. Farms inadvertently release hundreds of toxic chemicals into its basin daily, posing serious threats to the environment. And few are aware that nutrient pollution from agriculture- for example, from nitrogen - can also be a major problem. Nitrogen is the most important mineral nutrient for plants, playing a crucial role in plant growth and photosynthesis. But in soluble form nitrogen becomes ‘nitrate' which easily travels from soil to water. In excessive amounts it becomes a major source of pollution.

One goal of the Danube Regional Project, financed by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and implemented by UNDP, is to cut the amount of farm pollution that ends up in the Danube. A sub-project dealing with agriculture commenced in October 2002. First it analyzed agricultural policies in the following Danube countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Ukraine. A listing of pesticides and fertilizers used in these countries, and an assessment of their uses, was prepared. The implementation of 15 ‘Best Agricultural Practices' (BAPs) ­- which are recognized procedures for reducing farm pollution - began in early 2006 on eight pilot farms in the Vojvodina region of northern Serbia.

Best practices include constructing facilities to store manure to prevent it from seeping into the soil and infiltrating water bodies. That is expensive, particularly for small farmers. But other measures are cheaper, such as learning how to wash livestock without creating excessive amounts of runoff, feeding livestock rations with the correct nutrient balances, and reducing the frequency that farmers clean out animal stables with water.

The project has already achieved results. The amount of nitrogen applied to land around the pilot farms was reduced by 14 tons, and the quantity of phosphorous by 2 tons. Now trainings in how to employ the techniques are being organized in the Danube countries, with the participation of farmers, local authorities, teachers and students of agricultural schools, journalists, and non-governmental organizations. The project was featured on Serbian television and radio, and articles in several agricultural magazines have been published.


UNDP/GEF Danube Regional Project: Strengthening the Implementation Capacities for Nutrients Reduction and Transboundary Cooperation in the Danube River Basin

Subproject: Reduction of Pollution Releases through Agricultural Policy change and Demonstrations by Pilot Projects

Focus Areas

Geographic Scope

The beneficary countries of the Danube Regional Project are Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine. Participating countries are Germany and Austria.

The project covers the whole Danube River Basin and the project component on Agriculture is primarily focused on the downstream Danube Countries.



Peter Whalley, Environmental Specialist, UNDP / GEF Danube Regional Project


Background and Significance

Ever talk to people whose work involved killing animals? People in a slaughterhouse or in shops selling meat or fish? The butcher sawing the slab of beef, blood on his apron, said to me: “City people look down on folks like me but I do their dirty work.”

He was right. Many urban consumers love picking out fresh-cut steaks packaged in colourful wrapping (with singing cows illustrated on the package?) in clean supermarkets. They might even visit a farm and get their feet dirty. But they won’t kill the cow. They’re consumers, not producers. That’s the farmer’s thankless job. Farmers actually do hundreds of jobs most of us would rather avoid. Some of us even call farmers enemies of the environment – from animal killers to soil spoilers to flood promoters. Take irrigation for example -- it’s been known to spoil the soil with too much salt, or to affect drinking water sources if too much water is taken out. Farmers have also been blamed for replacing floodplains that protect villages from floods with unproductive artificial wheat or corn fields.

In the Danube River Basin, farmers were recently charged as a main water polluter. Is that fair? ...........

Read full background story on Agriculture at the DRP web site 'Danube Farmers are friends, not foes'[1].

Environmental problems caused by agricultural activities

The water quality is especially influenced from agricultural activities by the load of nitrogen, phosphorus, and plant protection products:

  • Residues of plant protection products have different hazardous effects, and can for instance cause disturbed human fertility.
  • Nitrogen (or more precisely nitrate) cause for instance algae bloom in the marine waters, and "blue babies" (methemoglobinaemia).
  • Phosphorus discharges causes eutrophication of especially fresh waters as rivers, lakes and streams. The euthrophication is accompanied by unpleasant nuisances and is endangering health of human and animal as some of the algae and phytoplankton produces highly toxic substances.

Agriculture is not the only source of pollution, but the agricultural sector is typically on of the largest polluters. However, the management of the individual farm is directly influencing the level of the pollution from its activities.

Goal and Objectives

The overall objective of this project “Reduction of Pollution Releases through Agricultural Policy Change and Demonstrations by Pilot Projects” is to minimize pollution from agriculture. This is to be achieved by further developing the process of agriculture policy reform and by implementing pilot projects. There are three key specific objectives:

  • Analyses of Agriculture and related Policies
  • Pilot project about Best Agriculture Practice (BAP)
  • Training of trainers from Lower Danube River Basin countries in BAP

The Pilot project assists the DRB countries (especially in the lower Danube basin) with the development of pilot programmes for agricultural pollution reduction and low-input agriculture, in line with existing and emerging (driven by EU Accession) national environmental legislation. These Pilot projects reflect the concepts developed with the Agriculture Policy objective in a pilot project (Pilot policy and legal recommendations).

It helps to introduce new relationships among national governments, local governments, agricultural community ( including agriculture extension services) and general public (different land users and society in general) in order to improve management practices in agriculture and to reduce nutrient loads. Specific needs to improve agricultural practices and relevant sites for demonstration activities on manure handling are in a process of identification in practical concepts for each DRB country. Focus countries for pilot projects (training and institutional development of best agriculture practice) is on Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Activities such as establishment of Pilot project Office in Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, identification of Local partner organizations and Local experts in the 7 countries of the Lower Danube Basin and identification of pilot project demonstration farms in Serbia and Montenegro have been finalized. All beneficiary groups and stakeholders have been contacted and delivered with information about the project such as governmental institutions, extension services, agriculture enterprises, farmers and media on local, regional and national level.

UNDP's/Partner's Role

Cooperation at regional level among the Danube stakeholders involved in activities to improve water quality is a key of success for protection and sustainable use of the Danube River and its resources.

The Danube Regional Project (DRP) is closely working with the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), which is the project's main "client", besides the Danube and its People. The ICPDR is an international organisation consisting of 13 cooperating states and European Union, implementing the Danube River Protection Convention.

The World Bank Investment Fund and the Black Sea Ecosystems Recovery Project (BSERP) are the family members of the GEF Danube / Black Sea Strategic Partnership, where also the Danube Regional Project belongs. All together, they are addressing transboundary environmental degradation in the Danube/Black Sea basin, the DRP and the BSERP through policy and legal reform, public awareness raising, and institutional strengthening and World Bank Investment Fund through funding investments in nutrient reduction as part of domestic and industrial wastewater treatment, agricultural pollution control and wetland restoration projects in individual countries.

The first phase of the Agriculture project component was implemented by German company GFA Terra. The activities of the second phase are now carried out by Carl Bro and Danish Agricultural Advisory Service in cooperation with a Partner in each of the 7 lower Danube Countries.

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions


.... work on agriculture policy and inventories....

The project considers the handling of manure as a central issue in Best Agricultural Practice (BAP) implementation in the lower Danube countries. Introduction of BAP have positive effects on the environment as well as on the farm production economy. Within the project The 'BAP' was defined as “…the highest level of pollution control practice that any farmer can reasonably be expected to adopt when working within their own national, regional and/or local context in the Danube River Basin."

The project has defined 15 BAP's, which in combination has a big positive effect on the farm production economy and in the same time would save the environment for a big load of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and plant protection products (PPP), and therefore should be able to spread itself as good practices. One of the BAP practices require relatively big investments on the farms (manure stores), while another require availability of machine rings or similar services for spreading of livestock manure with optimal technology. The rest of the practices are cheap and can be implemented by all farms without consideration to their economy.

The defined 15 BAP's does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather to be some basic BAP's that are relevant for all 7 project concerned countries. They are related to Resource economy, Crop production systems, Livestock production systems, Livestock density and Livestock manure management.

Implementation of BAPs - DRP provided trainings, media activites & public awareness raising and pilot projects.


In its first phase the project was implemented by German GFA Terra. The follow-up activities are now carried out by Danish Carl Bro in cooperation with local partners:

1. Bosnia and Herzegovina: Agricultural Institute of Republic of Srpska, Department of Agrochemistry and Agroecology.

2. Bulgaria, National Agricultural Advisory Service

3. Croatia, Regional Environmental Centre and EuroLex Consulting Ltd.

4. Moldova, National Farmers Federation

5. Romania, Fundatia pentru Dezvoltare Rurala din Romania

6. Serbia and Montenegro, “Natura Balkanika” Nature Society

7. Ukraine, National Association of Agricultural Advisory Service of Ukraine

The work of the project is addressed to those who work in the agricultural sector and contribute to nutrient and pesticide pollution in the DRB and to those, who are working to reduce agricultural nutrient and pesticide pollution in the DRB:

  • Farmers
  • Farmer advisory or extension services
  • National government employees involved in:
    • Agricultural policy development and implementation
    • Meeting EU legislation related to water quality
  • Environmental NGOs


Danube River Basin

Reviews and analysis of agricultural policies and their enforcement in DRB countries with particular attention to agrochemicals are focused on the whole Danube Basin. The activities related to development, implementation and testing of Best Agriculture Practices through pilot projects are focused more on the downstream countries.

Serbia - Vojvodina

Vojvodina region as the important agriculture region of Serbia was identifid for implementing BAP pilot projects. It is a representative part of the country where agriculture has a long tradition and hold rural economy almost in whole. The potential for introduction of improved agricultural practices and application of better technology is therefore great. In the region of Voivodina one can find all types of farms which are present in all 7 lower Danube countries, and all realities concerning natural and human potentials, traditional and modern farming practices. All this is present on a small space in Banat region, where modern large farms are close to small mixed-farms of traditional kind, with high productive czernozem soils, salty and sandy soils, heavy clay, dry or those with high water plot, often flooded.

Srednji Banat was chosen in dialogue with the provincial Secretary of Agriculture in Vojvodina because of the area is intensively farmed with maize, wheat, sugar beets, soy beans, and other arable crops. Furthermore livestock production within the area is also representative for the region, especially pigs, dairy cattle and poultry production, which, consequently, produce a large quantity of organic manure as a potential source of pollution. The appointed area is centred on the local centre town, Zrenjanin.

The Pilot Project will hence be designed in order to advice on and demonstrate the Best Agricultural Practices for the farming communities and their advisers within the given frames of nature, policy, and project means. As far as possible it will be based on experience collected in other countries, but it will be adapted to local conditions, and if possible break new ground.

The Project have selected 8 Farms for further BAP implementation: 3 farms with pig production, one medium in expansion and two larger medium farm enterprises, all privately owned and in expansion. 2 dairy cattle farms were also selected – one small and one medium privately owned, both in expansion. 3 farms with mixed production, but mainly cattle dairy family farms were selected. All of these farms were very positive for cooperation with the project.

Danube Downstream Countries (Croatia, Bosnia i Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Moldova.

A large number of trainings and dissemination workshops are being organized in the Danube downstream countries, with participation of farmers, local authorities representatives, employees of extension services, teachers and students from agro-schools, journalists, NGOs, ministerial employees, experts,etc.


The implementation of the Agricultural component of the DRP started in October 2002. The first phase was finalized in March 2004. The project continued from August 2005 and will be finalized in January 2007. As of August 2006, all work related to Agriculture policies has been finalized. The work on Pilot projects, training and results dissemination is still ongoing in all target countries.


The Project is assisting the DRB countries (especially in the lower Danube basin) with the development of pilot programmes for agricultural pollution reduction and low-input agriculture, in line with existing and emerging (driven by EU Accession) national environmental legislation.

The following Tasks are included in the Project and relating to Agricultural Policy:

  • Task 1: Analysis of Current Legislation and Enforcement (Review of the current situation and recommendations on the application of BAP in the basin was elaborated)
  • Task 2: Review of Agrochemical Inventories (Review of inventories on agrochemicals and recommendations for the appropriate use of these agrochemicals elaborated)
  • Task 3: Best Agricultural Practice (BAP) (Concepts for the application of BAP in all DRB countries was prepared)
  • Task 4: Dissemination of new Agricultural Pollution Reduction Concepts (To disseminate the concepts a workshop and farm demonstration in the pilot catchment were organized, as well as an information with construction examples for storage of animal manure and minimising use of agro-chemicals elaborated, and translated to the languages of the lower Danube Countries)

The following Tasks are included in the Project relating to Pilot Projects:

  • Task 5: Preparing detailed work programme for Pilot Projects (A work programme was prepared for a pilot region which was selected on the basis of specific criteria. Practical recommendations for BAP targeting agriculture in the selected catchment were proposed and programmes for water control and field trials established)
  • Task 6: Implementing Agreed Pilot Project. 15 BAPs are being implemented at each of 7 pilot farms:
    • Calculated resource economy every year, latest 1 April for the preceding year, and covering N, P and PPP
    • Soil sampling at least each 5 years
    • Crop rotation and fertilising plans
    • Livestock should be fed with rations that are correct balanced
    • Cleaning of stables with water should be reduced to a minimum
    • Watering of the livestock without spill of water
    • Livestock density max. corresponding to a nitrogen content in the manure of 170 kg N per ha.
    • Storage capacity for at least 6 months production of livestock manure at the farm
    • It must be hindered that rain water can dilute the livestock manure
    • Spreading of manure in the period from 15 October till 1 March should not take place
    • Proper technology should be used for spreading of livestock manure
    • Livestock manure should be incorporated into the soil within 6 hours
    • PPP spaying should be done according to the needs
    • The spraying equipment should function properly
    • Plant Protection Products shall be kept in a locked store
  • Task 7: Pilot Project Training and Demonstration Workshops (Traings and dissemination workshops are going on in all target countries, organized by the partners in countries. Dissemination of BAT and Pilot project experiences to a wider range of experts, advisers, as well as national authorities by the projects Internet site, workshops, meetings, medias, and publications.)

Results and Impact

One of the largest project components of the Danube Regional Project focuses on assisting the DRB countries in designing new agricultural point and non-point source pollution control policies and legislation towards sustainable land use and agricultural practices ("sustainable agriculture"), as well as compliance and enforcement plans in line with the existing and emerging (driven by EU accession process) national legislation.

Within the Phase 1 activities, the agricultural policies and their enforcement in DRB countries was analysed and an inventory of pesticide and fertilizers was prepared and use assessed. The existing situation in policy development and implementation of Best Agricultural Practice (BAP) in Danube countries was reviewed and analysed, and a concept for introduction of BAP was developed. Guidelines for manure handling were developed in national languages.

In Phase 2 of the Project policy and legal recommendations are being developed for DRB governments to reinforce the introduction of BAP and to optimize the use of agrochemicals.

The main focus of this assistance is to identify for each DRB country the main administrative, institutional and funding deficiencies and to develop priority reform measures for policies which are expected to best support the integration of environmental concerns into farm management (BAP), including improvements in the handling of manure and sludge from livestock operations, minimization of the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, promotion of improved tillage methods, management of restored wetlands, creation of buffer zones and farmer education and outreach activities.

Lessons for Replication

Main Results

  • Produced reports on agricultural policies, recommendations and inventories are good background materials for decision-makers and policy makers from authorities at local and national level...
  • BAPs implemented - reduction of pollution from agriculture in the pilot area
  • Large number of stakeholders involved and trained.
  • Direct benefit for the 8 pilot farms.
  • High potential for replication of pilot project also in another regions.
  • Increased public awareness through media & communication activities of the project.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

Timeframe & Status

The recent Danube Regional Project was launched in December 2001, is planned for period of 5 years and is implemented in two phases. The activities on Agriculture will be finalized in January 2007.


See also

External Resources

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

Strengthening the Implementation Capacities for Nutrient Reduction and Transboundary Cooperation in the Danube River Basin

TEST - Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology in the Danube River Basin

Transfer of environmentally sound technology in Bosnia and Herzegovina Danube river basin

UNESCO water portal; The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), case study on Sharing water in the Danube River Basin

Control of eutrophication, hazardous substances and related measures for rehabilitating the Black Sea ecosystem

Declaration on the Enhancement of Cooperation by Danube and Black Sea Countries


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