Domestic Economy

Iran, FAO Launch Project on Sustainable Agro Production

The Iran-FAO project has been implemented since the beginning of the current crop year with the aim of increasing rainfed production sustainability in the provinces of East Azarbaijan, Ardabil, Hamedan and Kurdestan
Iran, FAO Launch Project on Sustainable Agro Production
Iran, FAO Launch Project on Sustainable Agro Production

Iran’s Agriculture Ministry has launched a joint project with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on sustainable agricultural production.
Director general of the ministry for essential products and grains, Faramak Aziz-Karimi, made the above announcement on Saturday on the sidelines of the First National Conference on the Joint Project held in the city of Maragheh, in cooperation with Iran’s Dryland Agricultural Research Institute (DARI) for increasing productivity and actualizing the potential of rainfed agricultural production, Tasnim News agency reported.
He noted that the Iran-FAO project has been implemented since the beginning of the current crop year with the aim of increasing rainfed production sustainability in the provinces of East Azarbaijan, Ardabil, Hamedan and Kurdistan.
Referring to the 20% reduction in rainfall in the country this year, Aziz-Karimi pointed out that despite the reduced rainfall, production can be increased using the latest knowhow of domestic and foreign researchers.
“Iran has more than 5 million hectares under rainfed cultivation, which yield over 6 million tons of crops annually,” Mozaffar Roustaei, the head of DARI, said at the conference.



Widening Agrifood Trade Deficit

Iran has been registering a growing deficit in agricultural and food trade, which stood at 17 million tons worth $13 billion in the last Iranian year (ended March 20), latest data released by the Agriculture Ministry show.
Exports stood at 7.77 million tons worth $5.21 billion, indicating a fall of 8.93% in tonnage and 2.29% in value compared with the year before. 
Pistachio topped the list of exports in terms of value with $405.04 million, followed by dates with $315.48 million, tomato worth $314.72 million, milk powder worth $310.68 million and saffron worth $244.22 million.
In terms of tonnage, watermelon topped the list with 886,740 tons, followed by 678,600 tons of tomato, 625,820 tons of apple, 395,330 tons of onion, shallot and garlic, and 363,760 tons of dates.
Imports stood at 25.21 million tons worth $18.39 billion, indicating a 17.47% fall in weight but a 7.45% increase in value.
Corn worth $3.26 billion had the biggest share of imports in terms of value, followed by different kinds of vegetable oil worth $2.53 billion, rice worth $21.33 billion, wheat worth $2.01 billion and GM soybeans worth $1.97 billion.
In terms of tonnage, corn topped imports with 8.08 million tons, followed by wheat with 4.45 million tons, followed by GM soybeans with 2.54 million tons, barley with 2.37 million tons and rice with 1.77 million tons.
The decline in exports and rise in imports come as Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture had warned agricultural officials about the impact of drought, saying it would cripple the country's agricultural activities and hamper economic growth in this sector.
The chamber said precipitation levels have fallen drastically.
The Majlis Research Center also released a list of Iranian provinces in a critical state of water shortage: Isfahan, Hormozgan, Sistan-Baluchestan, Ardabil, Fars, Markazi and Khorasan Razavi.
"Drought has inflicted 670 trillion rials [about. $1.3 billion] in losses on Iran's agriculture sector since the beginning of the current crop year," Mohammad Mousavi, director general of the Agriculture Ministry's Crisis Management Department, said in June 2021.
Masoud Khansari, president of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, had earlier said Iran is likely to lose 70% of its agricultural lands in future.
"Experts have sounded the alarm about this grave danger but so far little attention has been paid to this challenge," he wrote for the Persian economic daily Donya-e-Eqtesad.
"The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations issued in its latest report a stark warning of multiple, looming food crises, driven by conflict, climate shocks, the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and massive public debt burdens - exacerbated by the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine, which has pushed food and fuel prices to accelerate in many nations across the globe. It also warned about the shortage of water resources in Iran, saying Iranian farmers use two to three times the global average of water used to cultivate corn, rice and wheat per hectare. Experts recommend the government to employ 10-year water austerity measures rather than adopting a political stance to resolve this issue."



FAO Programs in Iran

According to FAO, in the past 20y years, the major thrust of the organization’s technical assistance to Iran had been in the areas of capacity building, policy and strategy development, water accounting, water governance, crop production, livestock and animal health, fisheries, forest management, and emergency and rehabilitation program.
FAO is presently reinforcing its Country Programming Framework and envisages in this context lending assistance for implementing a comprehensive integrated strategic approach that addresses the current challenges in the food and agriculture sectors in a holistic and sustainable manner.
The UN entity is a global intergovernmental organization and has a long-lasting cooperation with the Iranian government and retains a comparative advantage in the provision of policy and technical assistance in a broad range of disciplines addressing the challenges being faced in relevant sectors. 
With its global capacity and technical expertise, FAO is in a position to technically support the country’s initiatives to reinforce its institutional structures and capabilities in promoting more comprehensive and cross-cutting interventions, engaging the participation of all pertinent stakeholders and mobilizing support from other external entities so as to enable effective and coordinated development programs in notably the four priority areas cited under the present country programming framework. 
This will entail a significant paradigm shift in the manner in which the assistance would be lent, moving away from the traditional project-focused approach and advocating a program-based framework that is more results-oriented, leverages the synergies between projects, secures interlinkages and continuity of projects towards clearly defined and measurable objectives, with quantification and measurement of impact rather than mere output, and leads to long-term sustainability of development activities.
FAO’s support to Iran is focused on four priority areas that are in line with the country’s national development plan and addresses the principal challenges for which the organization’s policy and technical capacities can add value to the ongoing and planned governmental programs. These priority areas are i) Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture, ii) Food and Nutrition Security, and Food Safety, iii) Inclusive and Resilient Rural Development, and iv) Knowledge-based Economy and Society. 
The CPF-Iran cooperation is the result of extensive consultations held with a wide spectrum of national and international stakeholders and partners within the country and the backstopping of the relevant technical units of FAO at the Headquarters in Rome, the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) and the FAO representation office in Iran. The objective of the initiative is to align the comparative advantage of FAO in assisting Iran to promote its agricultural revival program through a coherent programming framework. The CPF, among other things, identifies and defines agricultural priority areas, including fisheries, forestry and natural resources and rural development in which FAO has a lead.
The CPF focuses on four main priority areas in line with the Sixth Five-Year National Development Plan as follow:



Priority Area 1: Environmentally Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture

FAO’s assistance will focus on enhancing agriculture production by promoting agro-ecology and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Combined with long-term measures such as increasing biodiversity, conserving watersheds and restoring degraded land, the resilience of agriculture and the livelihoods that depend on it will be significantly enhanced. The capacity to respond to trans-boundary pest and disease attacks will be bolstered through training on monitoring, data collection and integrated pest and disease management.



Priority Area 2: Food and Nutrition Security, and Food Safety

Under this priority, promoting mechanisms for integrated action between various state actors will be a cornerstone of the integrated strategic programs. Initiatives that support the integration of the food system approach into national planning and improve the food environment for consumers will be developed. Furthermore, improving access of poor and vulnerable households to safe, nutritious and diversified diets and building resilience for institutions, individuals, households, communities and agro-ecosystems to anticipate, absorb and recover from the negative impacts of anthropogenic and natural shocks will be addressed.



Priority Area 3: Inclusive and Resilient Rural Development

Mitigating and preventing risks that can threaten the production of and access to food and basic services at the country level is extremely important in light of the environmental challenges, potential natural disasters (i.e. earthquakes, drought, floods, and sand and dust storms), and economic changes and sanction. 
Accordingly, it is vital to provide a safety net for vulnerable population groups by strengthening rural institutions and producers’ organizations, supporting access to markets, and providing social protection and rural services for small-scale farmers and rural communities, while taking into account gender mainstreaming considerations. 
FAO's role as broker in agricultural investments will facilitate the forging of new industry development, promote good agricultural practices and improve capacity building and knowledge sharing among stakeholders. Close collaboration with farmers’ organizations, youth and women as well as community-based organizations, research institutions and private sector entities will be critical. This area of FAO’s contribution is in line with FAO’s regional initiatives for Asia and the Pacific on ‘Climate Change’, ‘One Health’ and ‘Zero Hunger’ that adopt an integrated approach focusing on the promotion of decent rural employment and an inclusive economic growth that will benefit small-scale family farmers.



Priority Area 4: Knowledge-based Economy and Society

One of the significant assets retained by Iran is its bastion of human capital, knowledge and skills as well as expansive institutional capabilities in the agricultural and rural sectors. 
It is crucial that the country optimize the benefits derived from such wealth in capacity by institutionalizing a mechanism that would enable it to leverage and channel the available knowledge at the national level in a manner that would reinforce the development work being carried out to reinforce those sectors. 
Under this priority area, FAO will support the Iranian government in pursuing technical capacity development and reinforcing the systematic transfer of national capabilities and knowledge both across sectors of stakeholders at the country level and with other countries in the region and beyond in order to bridge existing gaps in technical knowhow in the quest of promoting sustainable agricultural development. In particular, this will be done by reinforcing the existing national South-South programs through multilateral and international cooperation by establishing a National Network of Collaborating Academic and Research Centers in support of development programs and by implementing effective and targeted capacity development and extension programs through inter alia farmer field schools.
CPF is also aligned with the FAO Strategic Objectives, Asia and the Pacific Regional Initiatives, Near East and North Africa Regional Initiatives, the 2017-21 United Nations Development Assistance Framework and contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals.

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