FAO plows US$ 1 million in efficiency savings into priority food and agriculture needs across Europe and Central Asia

When the announcement was made that FAO regional offices around the world would each receive an additional US$ 1 million to advance food and agriculture priorities, the technical team in Budapest wasted no time in putting forward proposals for Europe and Central Asia.

Available thanks to FAO efficiency savings worldwide, US$ 5 million in savings was used to create a Multidisciplinary Fund, allocated in equal parts to Africa, Asia and Pacific, Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia. (An additional US$ 5 million was invested in FAO strategic programmes worldwide.)

The rules for applying the funds were simple: short-term interventions that responded to emerging issues, that aligned with country priorities, and that tested new approaches for possible later upscaling. Six projects approved for Europe and Central Asia are now coming to a close.

“This was a unique opportunity to focus extra energy and resources on promising activities in several countries in our region,” said Raimund Jehle, FAO regional programme leader for Europe and Central Asia. “We worked quickly and effectively, and in several cases opened the door for expanding or replicating activities with partner financing.”

“This was a unique opportunity to focus extra energy and resources

on promising work in several countries . . . We worked quickly and effectively, and in some cases opened the door for expanding or replicating activities with partner financing.”

Raimund Jehle

FAO Regional Programme Leader for Europe and Central Asia

Some of the results achieved in Europe and Central Asia thanks to the Multidisciplinary Fund are highlighted here:

School food and nutrition in Albania

Food security in Albania has improved in recent years, but more than 6 percent of families in Tirana’s poorest suburbs are still moderately or severely food-insecure, and the figure runs as high as 13 percent in certain rural areas. Children are the worst affected as malnutrition undermines their physical and mental development. The situation was ripe for introducing a school food and nutrition programme.

Working with national partners, FAO studied the legislative and policy environment for a school meals programme, and reviewed worldwide experiences with school food and nutrition programmes. It produced information materials, organized awareness-raising sessions, and studied the feasibility of engaging local small-scale and family producers as food suppliers. It also conducted a nation-wide survey to assess nutrition knowledge, attitudes and practices among schoolchildren, parents, teachers, and local authorities. Finally, it assessed the nutrition levels of Albanian children based on anthropometric data.

Albania’s ministries of Education and Agriculture will now introduce school meals in several schools in the capital city of Tirana and three other municipalities that volunteered to pilot the programme. The pilot initiative will go forward on a sound basis thanks to groundwork laid by FAO, and a commitment from the Government of Hungary to allocate US$ 200,000 in financing.

Forest pests in Georgia

Boxwood moth, red palm weevil and chestnut blight are serious threats to the forests of Georgia’s Abkhazia region. A project financed by the Multidisciplinary Fund assessed forest health in Abkhazia and helped develop a strategy for managing pests and preventing future outbreaks.

Working with local partners, FAO established a pheromone-based trapping system for palm weevil, surveyed and treated infested palms and boxwood trees, and initiated a survey for chestnut blight.

Research was conducted in China, in regions where boxwood moth is native, to identify natural enemies that limit the destructive potential of the boxwood moth. The resulting report proposes a full classical biological control programme against boxwood moth.

Further work on palm weevil eradication, and establishment of a nursery to help with conservation of boxwood tree species endemic to Abkhazia, will continue with funding from the European Union.

Preventing land degradation in Tajikistan, Moldova

Preventing or even reversing land degradation is a priority for both Moldova and Tajikistan. Agro-ecological systems are promoted by FAO here and across the region. By combining traditional and scientific knowledge, agroecology ensures that agriculture works in harmony with the natural environment. With financing from the Multidisciplinary Fund, training and farmer field schools were expanded to reach many more farmers and extensionists.

In Tajikistan, 18 demonstration fields were established and training sessions and field days organized. More than 600 farmers learned how to intensify their crop production using sustainable practices: natural pest-control methods, and sowing wheat without tilling the soil, for example.

“In rainfed land, soil moisture and sowing time are very important,” said Muhammadiev Samad, a participating farmer. “Wheat in our demonstration field is growing well, and compared to other fields is better and earlier. I am very glad and definitely will apply this method in all my rainfed land.”

In Moldova, 153 farmers and extension specialists also increased and shared their knowledge of innovative pest-control tools. Ten demonstration plots, field days and training activities were used to strengthen knowledge about organic farming and sustainable, agroecological practices.

Other initiatives

The Multidisciplinary Fund financed three other projects in Europe and Central Asia. These covered land tenure guidelines in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, agrifood value chain development in Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and the labour market in Turkey for Syrian refugees and their host communities.