24 July, 2020New national strategy and action plan in the works
· Government of Serbia, EBRD and FAO to support country’s agriculture
· New approach to increase productivity of arable land
· Investments will also seek to boost sustainability and climate resilience.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) are supporting Serbia to boost its agricultural production by increasing its irrigation capacity.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Serbia launched a project with the two organisations to prepare a national irrigation strategy and a related five-year action plan. The project will also help the country identifying and mapping priority investments for the next ten years.
A working group comprising all relevant stakeholders met today for the first time to launch activities, and will oversee the preparation of the irrigation strategy. A leading agricultural producer and grain exporter, Serbia nevertheless is highly vulnerable to climate change and drought with less than 2 per cent of Serbia’s arable land being irrigated.
Natasa Milic, director of the Republic Water Directorate of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management said: “This agreement marks the beginning of drafting Serbia’s irrigation development strategy. In the coming two years we will identify specific policy and investment options that will increase agricultural productivity, environmental sustainability and climate change resilience via enhanced and newly developed irrigation networks.”
Rehabilitating and modernising Serbia’s irrigation system will strengthen the resilience of the sector while diversifying the agricultural production as irrigation will enable growing higher value crops and increase productivity of the existing ones.
Miljan Zdrale, EBRD’s Regional Head of Agribusiness, Central and South-Eastern Europe, said:
“With this project, we want to ensure and facilitate the participation of all relevant institutions and administrations, as well as the scientific institutes, private sector, farmers and their organisations to address one of Serbian agriculture’s biggest challenges – the strategic and data-based improvement and modernisation of its irrigation system.”
FAO will draw on its global agricultural water management expertise and vast field experience in irrigation investment schemes to provide technical assistance to support the design and implementation of the strategy and the action plan, said FAO Senior Economist Emmanuel Hidier.
“The adoption of climate-smart approaches can help strengthen Serbian agriculture resilience to drought. We will be looking at innovative approaches, tools and resources for investing in irrigation as well as capacity development,” he said.
The project is funded by Israel and the Central European Initiative, which include, Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
The EBRD and FAO have been working with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management on irrigation issues since 2018 at the request of the Serbian Government. From 2018 to 2019 FAO took part in a joint assessment of priority irrigation investment needs, which helped define the scope of EBRD’s first €15 million loan approved to strengthen the irrigation system in December last year.
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