Children with face paint weave through the crowd at the Stephen the Great Park in Chişinǎu. It’s a rainy, but colourful day - sustainable vendors from all over Moldova have gathered to put their work on display. Not only to sell it, but also to share the idea behind how it is made. That is the premise of the yearly Iarmar Eco, which celebrated its 12th edition on October 8th.
IarmarEco is, above all, a community event. It aims to unite local producers and social entrepreneurs with those people who will be the end consumer of their product. There really is plenty to hear, see, smell and taste for those wandering the different stalls. Local food suppliers offer all kinds of tasty, sustainable produce and meals. Those looking to take home a doggy bag, can find recycled or reusable packaging at other vendors around the corner. And if you came unprepared for the rain, you can buy responsibly produced clothing on the spot.
It is not all about making those transactions, though. For many, it is a way to either showcase or get to know the benefits of social entrepreneurship, and to get acquainted with the impact of sustainability projects on the ground. Children present can partake in educational games while their parents participate in a Q&A-session on topics like waste collection or they can be a part of different tours and workshops.
"It's a unique combination of a fair, networking, creative workshops, interactive presentations and even a multivendor marketplace platform, making it a unique symbol of ecology and social activism in Moldova", says the organization.
“Since its first edition, IarmarEco has opened its door wide to the producer community and responsible consumers and has grown year by year. It has still kept its vibe, mission and feeling of community”, according to the people of Dulce Plai, a local producer of honey based sweets. A feeling echoed by the folks at EduJoc, a social toy making enterprise, also present at the event. “We have been a part of the IarmarEco family since the first edition, where we met our first customers and we established important partnerships”.
For EcoVisio, the main organising partner, this community-driven approach fits into a long standing tradition. Having started as a grassroots organization back in 1999, they have long been building a network of changemakers in Moldova. European funding has provided an extra boost over the last few years. In 2020, they joined the EVPA-led Collaborate For Impact programme, which is also funded by the EU, and which aims to accelerate the impact investing space in the region.
IarmarEco provides an opportunity to showcase the work EcoVisio has been doing with some of its partners. The Local Changemaker School & Accelerator was a program that took place between October 2021 and March 2022, and aimed to help young people learn about social entrepreneurship and start developing their own enterprise. "Beneficiaries from this Accelerator were among IarmarEco's exhibitors again this year and we could continue to see their growth as impactful and social entrepreneurs. Their outlets are growing in numbers, and the diversity of their products and services keeps increasing."