The Fourth Annual International Conference on Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition in Eurasia took place on May 28, 2019, at the Faculty of Economics at Lomonosov Moscow State University (LMSU). This year the main theme of the conference and of the 2019 Global Food Policy Report, which was presented there, was Rural Revitalization.

The event was organized jointly by the International Food Policy  Research Institute (IFPRI), the  Eurasian Center for Food Security  (ECFS)  of  LMSU,  and  the World Bank, with the support of the Ministry of Finance of the  Russian Federation and the participation of two research programs of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR): Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) and Agriculture for Nutrition and  Health (A4NH). The conference was attended by over 80 food security and nutrition experts from the Eurasian region and international organizations.

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The development of rural areas is important for many countries of the world, especially for developing ones,” said Sergey Shoba, Director of ECFS and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, at the opening of the conference. “Residents of rural areas face problems in obtaining high-quality nutrition, introducing efficient resource-saving technologies that would ensure the preservation of the environment and soil cover, as well as in adapting to climate change and creating a favorable environment for life and work.”

According to Andras Horvai, Country Director and Resident Representative for the Russian Federation at the World Bank, one of the main problems of rural development is the income gap between the village and the city. According to the World Bank, an average of 40 percent of extremely poor people live in rural areas around the world. At the same time, in the Eurasian region this figure reaches 50 percent.

Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, presented the 2019 Global Food Policy Report, which discusses major changes in global food policy that took place in 2018. Despite strong economic growth in 2018, undernourishment rose for the third year in a row: 821 million people in the world now face chronic food deprivation. To address this issue, in 2018 the development community focused    on    rallying support for Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger; for example, by convening the first Global Parliamentary Summit against Hunger and Malnutrition. In addition, IFPRI-FAO held a conference on Accelerating the End of Hunger and Malnutrition. These initiatives reflect a continued shift toward transforming the entire food system. Rural revitalization could serve as the linchpin of such an approach.

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IFPRI’s report argues that rural areas can become major innovation centers in less than a decade. The report's authors recommend revitalizing rural areas, paying special attention to five components: creating employment opportunities in rural areas in both the farm and nonfarm sectors; empowering women; addressing environmental issues; improving access to energy; and investing in effective governance.

The IFPRI Director General provided examples of successful, community-based integrated rural development in the Republic of Korea, as well as the use of e-commerce to foster entrepreneurship and create flexible employment opportunities in the villages of China. “Using the successful experience of other countries, each state, nevertheless, should develop its own national policy, which will strengthen the ties between the city and the village,” he added.

After the presentation of the report, Sergey Kiselev, Chair of Agroeconomics Division of the Department of Economics of LMSU, spoke. According to Kiselev, in Russia there is a serious threat to the sustainable development of rural areas. “As part of the overall economic growth, rural development may suffer. Why? Because rural areas grow more slowly than urban areas. And from the point of view of a general approach, it is necessary to develop what develops quickly. Therefore, at the same time, the government is trying to mitigate this situation with the Sustainable Rural Development Program,” said Kiselev.

Meanwhile, Shenggen Fan claims that the country's GDP could be doubled just by reducing the development gap between the village and the city. However, politics remains focused on other issues and problems.

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One of the conference sessions was devoted to policy challenges and opportunities for rural revitalization in the countries of the Eurasian region. The experts spoke about the different models of support and development that exist in their states. For example, rural tourism has begun to develop in Armenia, contributing to the emergence of new jobs in rural areas and an influx of young people. “Thus, thanks to the revitalization of the village, not only young people come to work in tourism, but also the older generation, which, in turn, contributes to the development of agriculture,” said Samvel Avetisyan, Senior Expert at the AMBERD  Research Center of the Armenian State University  of Economics.

Since 1991, Kazakhstan has been conducting phased state programs for the development of rural areas. Over time, the focus has shifted from the problem of employment to improving the quality of life in villages. According to the Deputy Director of the Kazakh Research Institute of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Galiya Akimbekova, the implementation of state programs is bearing fruit. However, because of the change of ministers, some effective projects (for example, the creation of farmers’ cooperatives) are no longer funded. The project that created cooperatives was particularly relevant because small farms dominate in the densely populated southern part of Kazakhstan.

Damir Esenaliev, Senior Research Associate of the  International Security  and Development Center, spoke about one of the models of rural development in the Kyrgyz Republic. According to Esenaliev, the country has developed a system of cooperation, thanks to which many decisions are made by independent communities at the local level. In such communities, as a rule, there is an awareness that after the donor organization leaves, there should be a mechanism by which farmers can continue to improve the work of the farm.

Session speakers agreed that integrated development of villages that combines the developments of rural tourism, improvements to the quality of life in rural areas, and the development of farmers’ cooperatives is necessary to revitalize rural communities.

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At the next session, Stanislav Buben, Director of the Agricultural Policy Department of the Eurasian  Economic Commission, spoke about food security and nutrition in the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). He presented a draft concept of food safety for the EAEU and called upon the scientists participating in the conference to make proposals for improving this concept.

ECFS experts Evgeny Tsvetnov and Alexey Belugin also called for cooperation among the conference participants. Scientists presented work on an Integrated Food Security Index for Eurasia and distributed special questionnaires to food safety experts. The survey results identified the most important components of the future index.

Throughout the conference, the need for innovation in agriculture was repeatedly mentioned. Deputy Director of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) Jacques Wery spoke about specific achievements and developments. “Often   different   dry   lands   have different ecosystems. Unfortunately, this is not always taken into account when developing appropriate strategies and programs,” Wery said. “For the rural revitalization a systematic approach is required. During our projects, we use various planting techniques, protection against pests, techniques of growing feed crops, and programs to reduce the risks associated with adverse weather conditions and other natural phenomena.”

Summing up the conference, Sergey Shoba recalled the central role of the rural population in ensuring food security, because rural areas make up the places where food is produced; the food is then disseminated across the globe. Shenggen Fan, in turn, called on the participants of the event to work together to create a global integrated index that would reflect the sustainability of the development of agricultural systems.

More details on the presentations of the conference speakers can be found by following the link.

Photo 1 and 3: Conference participants/ECFS

Photo 2: Mr. Yerlan Syzdykov, FAO Kazakhstan Country Office/ECFS

Photo 4: Speakers of “Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security in Eurasia: Challenges, Policy Issues, and Empirical Evidence” Session/ECFS


AGENDA

Opening Session and Welcome Notes

  • Prof. Sergey Alekseevich Shoba, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of ECFS, Moscow, Russia
  • Mr. Andras Horvai, Country Director and Resident Representative for the Russian Federation, Europe and Central Asia

Session 1: Launch of the 2019 Global Food Policy Report – Highlights and reflections on CIS countries

Session 2: Panel Discussion on Policy Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Revitalization in Eurasia Region

Moderator: Dr. Kamiljon Akramov, Senior Research Fellow and Leader of the Central Asia Program, IFPRI, Washington, D.C., USA

  • Dr. Roman Romashkin, Deputy Director, ECFS, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russian Federation
  • Dr. Damir Esenaliev, Senior Research Associate, International Security and Development Center GmbH, Berlin, Germany
  • Mrs. Gulnara Beknazarova, Director, Z-Analytics Group, Dushanbe, Tajikistan
  • Prof. Samvel Avetisyan, Senior Expert, AMBERD Research Center, Armenian State University of Economics, Erevan, Armenia
  • Prof. Galiya Akimbekova, Deputy Director, Kazakh Research Institute of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Session 3: Monitoring and Assessment of Food and Nutrition Security in Eurasia

Moderator: Mr. Artavazd Hakobyan, Senior Agricultural Economist, the World Bank, Moscow, Russia

  • Food and nutrition security in the Eurasian Economic Union, Mr. Stanislav Buben, Director of Agricultural Policy Department, Eurasian Economic Commission, Moscow, Russian Federation
  • The Applied System of Food Security Indicators for Eurasia, Dr. Evgeny Tsvetnov and Dr. Aleksey Belugin, ECFS, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russian Federation
  • Monitoring of soil salinity with the use of space borne imagery and proximal sensing and an approach to the national monitoring in the Central Asian countries, Dr. Maria Konyushkova, ECFS, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russian Federation
  • Linking smallholder agricultural producers with market: Experience of Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Torogul Bekov and Mrs. Aizada Niyazova, Agribusiness Competitiveness Center (ABCC), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • Small Research/Case Study Projects on Food and Nutrition Security, Dr. Jonathan, Wadsworth, The World Bank, Washington, D.C., USA

Session 4: Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Security in Eurasia: Challenges, Policy Issues, and Empirical Evidence

Moderator: Dr. Roman Romashkin

Closing Remarks