We apologies for a lack of feedback but for the last two years we focused on developing the farm. As you can imagine it is not an easy task since none of us have a background in agriculture, therefore we had to learn while developing the project. We can say that this is a hands on project literary, we dug, we planted, weeded, harvested, build, while making sure that the activities in the shelters continued as usual. If you remember we were very happy to open another shelter in Cluj, but soon we discovered that even though motivated the action is an extra burden because now we have to travel 5 hours to make sure that the program in Cluj is as successful as the one in Pitesti. It’s not our intent to complain, but to rejoice at the opportunity to resolve new challenges. We grow.
The first 3 hectares of lavender that we planted at the beginning of the project were ready for harvest last summer and we obtained 4.6 liters of essential oil, not bad for the first year. In addition we planted 4 more hectares that will be ready for harvest in 2020. Great! That will give us the time to implement the marketing strategy. Beginning of 2018 we had the opportunity of meeting a team of young professionals from “Creativa Nova” and together we produced a professional business plan for the farm. That was the moment when we realized that developing the farm and the final product to ensure our self-sustainability requires…well, allot of work! We decided that we need an addition to our team but now we have to prioritize between fundraising to cover the wages or working hard to follow the business plan. We decided to continue to develop the program even if we have to stretch a little bit. Together with the team form Creativa Nova we brainstormed about the name of our final product and the marketing strategies, but we will give you all the details next month. The important thing is that we found the market for all the quantity of essential oil resulted from the first harvest. This year even though the quantity of the lavender flower was double than last year the essential oil obtained was only 5,2 liters all other lavender farmers experienced the same problem because we had a very rainy summer in Romania and as you know lavender prefers drought. But the good news is that as soon as the oil is matured it’s already sold.
Good news for this year’s harvest is the little tractor that we purchased which makes things much easier and the back pains more endurable. Next milestone in our project would be the training of the former victims. As always the reality comes with surprises. As we have mentioned before in the last 3-4 years the age of the girls decreased dramatically. At present our beneficiaries are between 13-16 years old. These are basically children and adolescents and we need allot of patience in order to obtain the results that we foretasted. On the one hand they are too young to start work and on the other hand they are totally untrained in any work field. Therefore they come to work on the farm on a volunteer basis and the ones that are interested in farming the lavender are given extra training and attention. This year all the beneficiaries in the Pitesti shelter spent summer on the farm, and three of them decided to finish school and come work on the farm. Working with the land proved to be much easier in this case.
Our main problem in this moment is the fact that unless we address the gaps in the system that allow children to be exploited in the sex industry at such a young age, we will successfully develop the farm but it won’t be enough. More and more children will be exploited. We need a bigger team in order to lobby and successfully put pressure on the government to take measures. Reforming the education system doesn’t take allot of money. Reforming the Child Protection System doesn’t take allot of money. Eventually it will save money and lives!