Fernanda Guerrieri: "The Cooperation Of FAO With Armenia Is Excellen


MAY 10, 2010

YEREVAN, MAY 10, ARMENPRESS: Ms. Fernanda Guerrieri, Assistant Director
General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia Food
and Agriculture Organization of the UN gave interview to "Armenpress"
news agency.

Ms. Guerrieri, the organization is led by the slogan "Helping to
build a world without hunger". How do you assess the efforts of the
organization to reduce the poverty in the world?

More than one billion people are undernourished worldwide. FAO
estimates show a significant deterioration of an already disappointing
trend witnessed over the past ten years. The large increase in the
number of undernourished people in 2009 underline the urgency of
tackling the root causes of hunger swiftly and effectively. To the
date efforts to coherently address the multiple and interrelated risks
to food security at the international, regional and national levels
emanating from the food and financial crises have been insufficient.

FAO, in collaboration with diverse partners, has challenged regional
bodies, governments, communities and households to urgently meet basic
food and social needs while working to ensure sustainable access
to food in the medium term. Beyond its dramatic immediate impact,
the current food crisis has revealed a structure imbalance, which
has to be addressed urgently by an effective combination of short
and medium term actions within a broad socio-economic framework
However, emphasis on supporting short-term responses has limited
attention and the resources required to invest in agriculture and
other social areas in order to tackle the underlying causes of food
insecurity are not available. Nevertheless the Organization continues
to advocate for and to give attention to agriculture. Agriculture
can make substantial contribution to economic development and poverty
alleviation in the least developed countries. Even though this role
is reduced substantially in the middle income countries, agriculture
continues to play a crucial role in alleviating poverty which remains
disproportionately rural in spite of the falling relative importance of
agriculture in national economies. To fulfill its role as an engine of
growth, however, agriculture itself needs to grow. FAO supports this
growth, advocating for investment and providing the tools adapted to
the challenges agriculture faces at present.

How do the programs fulfilled by the organization promote the reduction
of the poverty and the increase of the agricultural productivity?

We must always be careful of advocating a one size fits all approach
to addressing rural poverty and food insecurity in the world.

Technical assistance that works well in Southeast Asia may not be
appropriate for Armenia, and what works in Armenia may be quite
irrelevant for a country with different resource endowments.

Nevertheless, in poorer countries with large rural populations,
small farms and where poverty is largely rural, agriculture can be an
important driver of poverty reduction and an important means of raising
food security. This reasoning applies to large areas of the developing
world as well as the countries of Central Asia, the south Caucasus,
Moldova and Southeastern Europe, because in these countries agriculture
is the main livelihood of the poor and an important part of GDP.

Yet agriculture requires investment both in physical and human capital
in order to fulfill its role as an engine of growth for understandable
reasons. Where land is scarce agricultural growth can be achieved only
through increased use of labour and technology. In such countries good
agricultural practices, soil and land management, green revolution
technologies and adequate chemical inputs are the keys to agricultural
growth. Growing agriculture also requires access to markets, which
means good roads, a market price information system, grades, standards
and food safety systems that satisfy the demands of export markets.

Most of the investment for agricultural growth is made by farmers,
processors and traders themselves. However, there are a limited number
of public goods that in whole or part fall under the responsibility of
governments, such as soil and land management, agricultural advisory
services, transportation infrastructure, provision of grades,
standards and food safety. A vital public good in countries where
farms are small is to support growth in farm sizes through land lease,
land sales and formation of marketing and service cooperatives.

As I said before, we need only look to recent history to show us that
investing in agriculture in this way can be an efficient engine to
eradicate food insecurity and poverty in this region. Moreover, this
region could even help to resolve hunger problems in other parts of
the world. It is estimated that with sufficient investment nearly 10
million hectares in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine could be brought
back into cultivation of grains and oilseeds.

In this context FAO and FAO partners can be an important part of the
solution of the malnutrition and hunger problem by:

~U increasing collaboration with the international community to
create an enabling environment to promote peace, eradicate poverty,
hunger and undernourishment and empower women, indigenous people and
other vulnerable groups;

~U advocating for increased investments in sustainable food production
systems and rural development in developing countries with people as
the focus, farmers not farms, fishers rather than fish, etc.;

~U advocating for increased support to local food systems to reduce
over reliance on global food supply systems, which are highly dependent
on energy prices and add to food security vulnerability;

~U providing financial assistance to developing countries to implement
policies to improve physical and economic access by all to sufficient,
nutritionally adequate, wholesome and safe food and its effective
utilization, including actions to improve food quality and safety,
prevent, control and manage micronutrient deficiencies, promote
appropriate diets, and introduce productive safety nets;

~U continuing to support improved access to markets, private-public
partnerships for innovation development, development of agribusiness
and entrepreneurial capacity and

~U improvement of post-harvest infrastructure to reduce food losses,

~U while ensuring a balance in private sector development between
increasing local food supplies and production of high value
non-traditional products for export to OECD countries;

~U and promoting dialogue to build anti-hunger alliances.

Armenia is a member of the organization since 1993. How do you assess
the bilateral collaboration?

The cooperation with Armenia is excellent. The Government has
been always very responsible and committed. Since the start of the
cooperation, FAO has supported the country in animal health, mainly
to control transboundary diseases such as Brucellosis, Foot and Mouth
Disease, Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and African Swine Fever.

Some of these diseases have zero tolerance in international trade in
addition to be a threat for people health and animal production. FAO
continues to support the national seed breeding sector to equip the
country with high quality seeds for higher productivity and increased
resistance to extreme weather conditions. As one of the major obstacles
to a sustainable production and access of farm product to the market
is the excessive fragmentation of land, FAO has provided assistance
to the Government to formulate land consolidation schemes.

Since food safety is a serious concern in the country, FAO has
responded to a Government request for assistance in improving the
country control capacity on the quality of the food through pesticide
quality control and residues monitoring. In this context, capacities
of national laboratories have been strengthened within the framework
of various FAO assistance programmes. Recently the Organization has
supported the Government to mitigate the impact caused by the financial
crisis through programmes dedicated to the most vulnerable farmers.

What kind of programmes is the organization going to fulfill in Armenia
in the near future for the reduction of poverty and the increase of
agricultural productivity in the country?

To make FAO and Armenia cooperation more effective, FAO and the
Government are closely working in the preparation of a strategic
document aimed at identifying strategic areas for FAO assistance to
achieving Armenia’ s development objectives. This strategic document,
called National Medium Term Priority Framework (NMTPF). is also
an operational and results based management programming tool fully
integrated with the results hierarchy, monitoring and accountability of
the corporate FAO Strategic Framework endorsed by the FAO Governing
bodies. Currently the Organization is providing support to the
Government to improve the meat production chain. In particular FAO
assistance focuses on the quality and safety of the meat production
chain. FAO is supporting the Government to establish slaughterhouses
that would meet international standards. Training is provided to
Government officials, farmers involved in livestock activities and
small investors. One of the objectives of the initiative is to promote
Public Private Partnership in the meat production sector and in the
future in the food product value chain. As the country has no enough
high quality vegetative material, FAO continues to support Armenia in
improving its seed production sector. Particular emphasis is given
to wheat seed production. Activities range from the support to seed
selection stations to the supply of high quality wheat seeds. Natural
resources management is a major concern in Armenia. FAO provides
assistance to strengthen forest management capacity. In the near
future the Organization will support the Government in the management
of obsolete pesticides stocks. A particular critical situation in
Nubarashen, an area close to Yerevan where there are large quantities
of obsolete pesticides, is currently receiving attention from the
Government and FAO for its possible high environmental risks. All
FAO activities include capacity and awareness building at all levels.

Particular attention will continue to be given to strengthening the
collection of updated and reliable food security information for
decision making.

How do you assess the steps and efforts taken by the Government of
Armenia for the increase of the agricultural productivity of the
country, the development of the sphere and for the support of the
development of the rural industries?

Armenia is a mountainous landlocked country with a population of 3.2
million people, 36 percent of whom live in rural areas. The size of
the agricultural area showed a stable level during the last decade,
although the share of the arable land decreased significantly. Even if
between 1992 and 2007 the agricultural employment was halved (517 000
in 1992 and 315 000 in 2007), still a large part of the population
is employed in the agricultural sector. Despite many difficulties,
Armenia has successfully switched to a market economy over the past
decade, with double-digit growth rates between 2000 and 2007. From
1992 to 2007 the agricultural production has increased by 159 %. Wheat
is the main staple, supplying 48 percent of calories intake. Wheat
productivity has increased from 1,8 tons per hectare to 2.24 tons
in 2007. This limited increase is mainly related to poor planting
material, lack of proper fertilization, water scarcity and inadequate
pest management. The Government is conscious of the constraints that
hamper the development of the agricultural sector. To overcome these
constraints, the Government has recently reviewed its Sustainable
Agriculture Development Strategy which identifies the sub-sectoral
priorities. Although this is a useful guidance for the identification
of the needs of the sector and the most urgent actions, the Plan
appears not to be backed by sufficient resources. This implies that
the Government would still need substantial international assistance
and investments to effectively support the modernization of agriculture
and promote its sustainability.

The 27th regional conference of the organization is held in Armenia.

Which is the aim of organizing it here and what expectations do
you have?

This is the first Regional Conference for Europe to be held in a
country that is an important recipient of FAO technical assistance.

The holding of the conference in Yerevan illustrates the major progress
that has been made since 1993 to integrate the relatively new Member
countries of this region into the technical work and governance of
the Organization.

I want to draw your attention to an important issue that distinguishes
this regional conference from previous ones. The Independent External
Evaluation called for an enhanced role for the Regional Conference
in programming matters. In order to fulfill this role the Regional
Conference will become a Committee of the FAO Conference and be
tasked with developing issues for regional policy coherence and
developing a regional perspective on global issues. This will allow
the Regional Conference to advise on the FAO programme for the Region
and on the overall programme as it affects the Region. Item 9 of the
Agenda should be considered in view of this new enhanced role for
the Regional Conference.

What perspectives do you see in the further collaboration of the
organization and Armenia?

FAO will continue its cooperation with the Government of Armenia
within the framework of the FAO-Government of Armenia strategy that
is being formulated. (National Medium Term Priority Framework – NMTPF).

The strategy is based on Government priorities and FAO strategic
objectives. The Conference in Yerevan will provide further guidance
to the Organization on main areas to focus its assistance. This will
reflect on the formulation and agreement of the future FAO-Armenia
country programme.