2014 Photo Contest, Observed Portraits, Stories, 3rd prize

Transylvania: Built on Grass

Photographer

Rena Effendi

INSTITUTE for National Geographic magazine

19 October, 2012

Dunca Vasile (53) has been a shepherd since the age of nine. He has never been able to afford his own flock, and is constantly on the move—a reason, he says, that women have always left him.

In Transylvania and other remote areas of Romania, many people farm on a small scale, in ways unchanged for centuries. Their farms have among the lowest yields in Europe, but also some of the highest levels of self-sufficiency. Lack of money and suspicion of unfamiliar methods mean that few chemicals and artificial fertilizers are used. Farming families can expect an income of around €4,000 a year, often supplemented with earnings from other sources. Many are abandoning their farms for at least part of the year to work in cities abroad. Romania’s 2007 entry into the European Union also threatens this traditional way of life, as farmers cannot compete with European imports, and the small size of farms means they are not eligible for EU subsidies.

About the photographer

Rena Effendi

Rena Effendi was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and grew up in the USSR, witnessing her country’s path to independence—one marred by war, political instability, and economic collapse....

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