KARACHI: Recognizing the coexistence in the region of large-scale mechanized farming alongside more traditional family farms, the FAO Regional Conference held in Bucharest this week endorsed two over-arching initiatives for FAO to pursue in 2014-15: strengthening family farms and smallholder agriculture, and improving agri-food trade and regional trade integration.
Other major areas of work in the region will be: controlling agricultural pests and diseases and food safety hazards, managing natural resources including fisheries and forests, coping with climate change, conserving plant and animal genetic resources.
How to reduce the amount of food being lost or wasted along the value chain “from farm to table” was a key topic throughout Regional Conference Week in Bucharest, which started with a consultation of civil society and private sector representatives, including producer organizations.
The group conveyed its positions and recommendations to the Conference, to ensure that non-governmental perspectives were taken into account by the Regional Conference.
The need to build “inclusive and fair value chains” for food and agriculture trade in region was taken up by the FAO European Commission on Agriculture, which held its two-day session immediately preceding the Regional Conference.
The Commission encouraged FAO to provide legislative policy advice on cooperatives, and develop the capacities of farmers, processors, politicians and others in connection with strengthening cooperatives and similar organizations.
The Commission highlighted the need to develop policies and strategies on drought risk management – within countries, and along entire river basins.
It drew attention to a significant gender gap in access to land, resources and extension services, called for training targeting women working in the agricultural sector, and encouraged FAO to work with member countries on better collection data disaggregated by sex.
The future challenges and potential of family-based farming throughout the Europe and Central Asia region was emphasized repeatedly by all participants in Regional Conference Week.
In the words of FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, “the quest is on now for truly sustainable farming systems that can meet the world’s future food needs. And nothing comes closer to the sustainable food production paradigm than family farming.”
In other business, the Conference decided to strengthen FAO’s presence in the region by opening a fully fledged FAO Representation in Uzbekistan.
The 29th FAO Regional Conference for Europe was opened by Romanian Prime Minister Viktor Ponta, and chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Daniel Constantin. It was attended by 46 national delegations and the European Union, 36 observers and 13 non-governmental organizations.