International Conference on Agricultural Transformation, Food Security and Nutrition in Central Asia 2019 Featured

Published in NEWS WIUT

2019 Global Food Policy Report: Improved Regional Ties and Agricultural Reforms Offer Promising Opportunities for Rural Revitalization and Improved Food and Nutrition Security in Central Asia.

May 31, 2019, Tashkent: To meet growing demand for employment in rural areas and improve food security, Uzbekistan needs to strengthen the role of the private sector in its economy by accelerating reforms, improving institutional framework, and exploring opportunities for regional integration in Central Asia, according to the 2019 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) launched today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) at the International Conference on Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition in Central Asia in Tashkent (http://conference.wiut.uz/).

The event was jointly organized by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan (MOA), Westminster International University in Tashkent (WIUT), and IFPRI with support from the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation; and two IFPRI-led CGIAR research programs: Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM).

Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan Jamshid Khodjaev provided welcoming remarks for the conference by stating, “In recent years, large-scale social and economic transformations are being carried out in Uzbekistan. One of the priority areas of the Development Strategy of Uzbekistan, along with other sectors of the economy, is the modernization and development of agriculture. Agriculture and related industries of the agro-industrial complex play a significant role in the socio-economic development of the country. Due to the geographical, historical, economic and demographic characteristics of the country, Uzbekistan has a powerful agricultural production potential. Employment, quality and standard of living of millions of people in the country are directly correlated with the agricultural sector.”

“With the intention to mainstream efforts the Ministry of Agriculture has prepared the draft version of the National Strategy for the Agriculture Sector 2019-2030. Priorities were formulated with the emphasis being placed on the development of rural areas and raising the standard of living of the population,” added Minister Khodjaev. Acknowledging the imperative contribution of partners in designing the National Strategy, the Minister said that “The document now is at the drafting stage and will be soon presented to the public. I take this opportunity to urge the conference participants to actively participate in further transforming agriculture in Uzbekistan within the framework of this conference and beyond.”

“I am very pleased that Tashkent and WIUT, in particular, for the second year were chosen as the venue for the launch of the Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) by IFPRI, which has also taken place in 13 other world capitals this year including Washington DC, Cairo, New Delhi, Moscow, and Beijing,” said Komiljon Karimov, rector, WIUT. “This event brings together country and regional stakeholders from the research, government, and donor communities to exchange knowledge, share ongoing research efforts, identify gaps for improvement and future research, and provide insights from the perspectives of rural development,” added Karimov.

The report notes that Central Asian countries, including Uzbekistan, largely weathered the effects of external factors, including slowed economic growth in Russia and China. The growth in export earnings, remittance flows, and investment - while limited - had positive impacts on economic activity and food security in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

 The GFPR also comments on worldwide trends— rural areas continue to be in a state of crisis in many parts of the world, marked by deepening cycle of hunger and malnutrition, persistent poverty, limited economic opportunities, and environmental degradation, threatening to slow the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, global climate targets, and improved food and nutrition security.

Rural areas remain underserved compared to urban areas and face a wide array of challenges across the globe: rural areas struggle with an environmental crisis in China; a severe agrarian crisis in India, and acute shortage of jobs for the growing youth populations in Africa. To overcome these challenges, the report calls for rural revitalization, highlighting policies, institutions, and investments that can transform rural areas into vibrant and healthy places to live, work and raise families.

“Revitalizing rural areas can stimulate economic growth and begin to address the crises in developing countries, and also tackle challenges holding back the achievement of the SDGs and climate goals by 2030,” said Shenggen Fan, director general, IFPRI. “Rural revitalization is timely, achievable, and, most important, critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” said Fan.  

About one-half of the population in Uzbekistan resides in rural areas, and projections suggest that despite growing urbanization, a considerable share of the country’s population will continue to live in rural areas. “The persistent productivity gaps between agriculture and non-agriculture sectors are reflected in the higher levels of poverty and malnutrition in rural areas in comparison with urban areas,” added Kamilon Akramov, senior research fellow and leader of the Central Asia Program at IFPRI.

To attract foreign direct investment, develop manufacturing, and create non-farm employment opportunities in rural areas, the government is promoting agriculture-based clusters in rural districts of the country. “While the benefits of agriculture-based clusters—economies of scale, cost sharing, diffusion of innovations, and off-farm employment opportunities in rural areas - are well known, policymakers should be aware of potential limitations and risks, such as possible negative impacts on land tenure practices and smallholders’ welfare,” said Akramov.

To ensure that all can participate and benefit from the growth and transformation of rural areas, the report recommends investing efforts in reducing gender disparities. In agriculture, reforms to liberalize land tenure policies and create an enabling environment for collective management of common-pool resources are needed to promote the expansion of labour-intensive and high-value sectors such as horticulture.

The report emphasizes that rural areas could become premiere hubs of innovations in just under a decade. It recommends revitalizing rural areas with a focus on five building blocks: creating a farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities; achieving gender equality; addressing environmental challenges; improving access to energy, and investing in good governance.