Fourth International Meeting of FORAGRO “Technological Innovation and Agribusiness Priorities:
Developing a new Institutional Dimension in the Americas”
The current situation of the agricultural sector in the WANA Region
West Asia and North Africa (WANA) Region is a “food deficit region”, and perhaps the largest “net food importer” among developing countries. The region produces approximately 35 million metric tons (MMT) of cereals and 52 MMT of fruits and vegetables annually, but consumes approximately 55 MMT of cereals and 80 MMT of fruits and vegetables. The food gap in the region is expected to increase due to limited supply compared to effective demand, and therefore food insecurity has become a very serious problem in some countries. Approximately 60% of the population in the region lives in rural areas and is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, and therefore the decreasing agricultural production has a negative impact on food security, as well as on efforts toward poverty alleviation. .Poor post-harvest handling and poor infrastructure result in considerable food losses, estimated to exceed 30%. These high losses are primarily the result of a lack of trained capacity in post-harvest technology, deficient facilities, inadequate technologies, and inadequate marketing systems, lack of information, government regulations and laws, and shortage of investment. Food processing industries are concentrated in very few countries and are mostly micro and small industries. Several problems are facing the processing industry including agricultural (such as the shortage of raw material), environmental, industrial, and finance. Contamination of food crops by organic chemicals has become a pressing problem in several countries in the region .There is a strong need for the enhancement of agricultural and rural development in the region through fostering agricultural research and technology development/transfer, and by strengthening inter and intra collaboration..
For Presentation by Dr. Ibrahim Hamdan to the Fourth International Meeting of FORAGRO Panama , April, 13-15,200.
In the light of the changes in the global perception of the role and mode of operation of publicly funded agricultural research, the public NARSs can no longer take for granted their being the sole actor. Nor they can be assured of sustained funding without proving their relevance and show efficiency in using available funds and without forging meaningful alliances and partnerships with other stakeholders. Increasingly, there is greater demand by governments and donors for accountability and transparency in the management and conduct of agricultural research. Furthermore, globalization presents a formidable challenge for the NARSs to contribute to a much more competitive national agriculture if it were to survive new trade restrictions and provisions. Along with challenges, luckily there are also opportunities provided by new enabling tools such as agricultural biotechnologies and new developments in communication and information technologies.
The above apply mostly to the large and medium size NARSs, but the challenge to the smaller ones is no less and it requires that they develop different approaches and skills. On one hand, they would need stronger extension and ‘scouting’ ability to get research results from other areas/countries of comparable physical and socio-economic conditions, and on the other they have to forge alliances with other NARSs of similar size and conditions. They particularly need the attention and support of international and regional research and development organizations.
Some analysts believe that “most of the NARSs have almost completed the stage of quantitative growth and are now entering into the era of consolidation. For the future, the major challenges to the NARSs will be in maintaining appropriate balance with their partner organizations- public agricultural administrations, public and private development organizations, and farmers' unions. Countries certainly need well‑organized and efficient NARSs, but such NARSs cannot serve their purpose without partners having the same features. For reducing the gap, NARSs should aim to reinforce partner organizations to help development and farmers' organizations to better understand their own situation and needs through research on farming systems and research on sociology of rural communities and organizations’.
Another challenge to the NARSs, governments and relevant development and financing organizations is to forge greater linkages among agricultural research technology development and extension organizations in the region. There is a need for greater regional cooperation and complementarity including strengthening existing regional FORA.
Description of WANA regional forum
WANA region is divided into five sub-regions including:
1. “Maghreb” (Algeria ,Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco , Tunisia),
2. “Nile Valley and Red Sea” ( Djibouti, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen),
3. “Mashreq” (Cyprus, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria)
4. “Arabian Peninsula”( Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia ,United Arab Emirates) and
5. “West and Central Asia” (Afghanistan, Iran, , Pakistan, Turkey).
The objectives of AARINENA regional forum are:
1. Foster the development of agricultural research in the Near East and North Africa Region;
2. Promote the exchange of agricultural, scientific and technical experience and information;
3. Encourage the establishment of appropriate cooperative research and training programs in accordance with identified regional, bilateral or national needs and priorities;
4. Advise member institutions on issues pertinent to research organization and management;
5. Strengthen cross-linkages between national, regional and international research centers and organizations, including universities, through involvement in jointly-planned research and training programs.
6. Strengthen national agricultural research capacities for providing timely and necessary data and information to the policy makers;
7. Assist in the mobilization of financial and other forms of support to all efforts aiming at strengthening agricultural research and technology development in the Region.
Technical cooperation networks have become an increasingly important means of action and are initiated and supported by AARINENA in collaboration with GFAR.. These networks have become a generic model for the establishment of functional mechanisms for collaboration and enhancement of communication and exchange of experiences among different countries in one region and/or different regions of the world.
Networks are found to reduce duplicative efforts among national institutions in several countries and may provide a cost-effective instrument for information exchange and institution building (including training). When the resources are limited, networks become a more effective means for the optimal utilization of indigenous expertise and available resources among the countries themselves.
Given the current status of some important commodity crops growing countries, and in the absence of a coordinating body for the promotion of cooperation among these countries for the optimal utilization of the limited resources available for the development of the commodity crops agro-industry, the establishment of a Technical Cooperation Network on these crops is a matter of urgency.
AARINENA has established four commodity crops: Date Palm, Cotton, Olive and Medicinal & Herbal plants and in the process of establishing Water Use Efficiency Network and Biotechnology Network.
The first Olive Network Meeting in Morocco recommended to focus on strengthening Inter-regional collaboration between Southern and Northern Mediterranean olive producing countries and on how to create innovating approach and mechanism in managing and governing an effective network needs for more partnership and active participation of all stakeholders involved particularly: NARS institutions, Farmers Organizations and Universities.
AARINENA Planning meeting on Global Post-Harvest Initiative: Linking Farmers to Markets held its meeting in Antayla, Turkey 24-25 March 2005 , in which all the four Network Coordinators and the network post harvest group leaders participated in the meeting along with farmers’ and NGOs representatives. The meeting identified three priority project ideas to be submitted to donors:
Innovative Extension and information services
Establishment &enhancement of organic farming systems
II. AARINENA Regional Agricultural Information System (RAIS)
AARINENA ICT Steering Committee was formed in February 2003. It includes representatives’ from the five sub regions in the Near East and North Africa Region, and representatives from FAO, ICARDA, GFAR, and AOAD. The first meeting of the committee was held in ICARDA, Aleppo, Syria.
The Committee implemented the three main recommendations:
conducted a survey of the National Agricultural Information Systems available at the National level,
conducted another Survey on the human resources working in the ICT/M at the National level, and
prepared a project proposal to be submitted to a donor to fund the first phase of the RAIS.
The Second meeting of the AARINENA ICT Steering Committee was held in Tehran, Iran, on 8th and 9th of September 2004 and approved strategy which consists of the following items:
Framework of Action to develop the WANA/RAIS on the National and Regional Levels
Main opportunities for cooperation and collaboration with other regions
The main research themes and projects that need to be conducted in collaboration with researches from developing countries as well as from developed industrialized world are:
Production Systems Management
Natural Resource Management
Socioeconomic and Policy
Information System Management
The Near East and North Africa Region is a “food deficit region”, and perhaps the largest “net food importer” among developing countries. The food gap in the region is expected to increase due to limited supply compared to effective demand, and therefore food insecurity has become a very serious problem in some countries
Over the years, AARINENA has supported national agricultural research systems (NARS) in the region in capacity building through training programs, organizing technical and scientific workshops and conferences, and establishing regional agricultural information and communication system to disseminate information to member countries. AARINENA has also contributed in establishing networks for essential crops in the region such as date palm, cotton, olive and medicinal & herbal plants. It acted as a facilitator in bringing the views, aspirations and research priorities of the WANA region to the attention of the relevant international organizations with the aim of promotion of sustainable agricultural development through attraction of global agricultural and developmental communities as well as donors to support the regional and sub-regional research projects and related activities.