With reports suggesting COVID-19 could spark food shortages around the world, food systems experts and United Nations officials say countries must increase the resilience of their agricultural systems. We take a look at the nation of Georgia, in the Caucasus, and what is being done there to improve food security.
Land resources are limited in Georgia. Only 15 per cent of the country is cultivated, while 70 per cent is forests, bush, meadows and pastures.
Due to climatic and landscape conditions, as well as unsustainable agricultural practices, more than a third of agricultural land is affected by degradation, erosion, pollution and soil damage. Around 4 per cent of farmland is vulnerable to desertification.
Overgrazing, poor forest management, loss of forest cover and unplanned urban sprawl are major drivers of land degradation in Georgia.
The country is 70 per cent self-sufficient in vegetables, but only 8 per cent self-sufficient in wheat, according to official statistics.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia and the Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus, a non-governmental organization, have been working since autumn 2016 on a project to introduce crop rotation practices in the Shida Kartli and Kakheti regions of central and eastern Georgia.
It is called Generating Economic and Environmental Benefits from Sustainable Land Management for Vulnerable Rural Communities of Georgia, or Greenlands.GE for short. Financed by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it focuses on sustainable land management. It’s the continuation of a 2016-2019 project titled Landscape and Sustainable Land Management in Georgia
About 100 farmer households will take part in the pilot Greelands.GE project. Ultimately the project seeks to target 90,000 people. The farmers are being encouraged to rotate their crops. More than 1,000 hectares of land on which farmers used to cultivate only wheat are already being used to deploy crop rotation techniques to cultivate peas, maize, beans and buckwheat. The previous project showed that crop rotation tripled the per hectare wheat yield.
Pilot projects for the promotion of sustainable land management practices are set to run until 2022 and will cover 20,000 hectares. Their aim is to improve soil productivity and food security through crop rotation and inter-cropping in Gori, Kareli, Kvareli and Sagarejo municipalities. (See map.)
“Crop rotation and mixed-inter-cropping contributes to increased yields through improved soil nutrition,” says Sophiko Akhobadze, the project coordinator in Georgia and the director of the Regional Environmental Centre for the Caucasus.
“By planting multiple crops, farmers can maximize land use while reducing the risks associated with crop failure,” she adds.
The project drew heavily on local knowledge and native seeds, in part to get round problems with seed imports.
As part of the project, the Ministry of Agriculture is working to promote local branding for sustainable agricultural products.
“When the COVID-19 crisis dies down, fundamental to a transformational and green recovery will be early action on a longer-term agenda to improve soil fertility, address climate change, avoid habitat loss and fragmentation, reverse the loss of biodiversity and reduce pollution,” says Ersin Esen, a UNEP biodiversity expert. “This project is a clear step in the right direction.”
The COVID-19 Shock to Kazakhstan’s Economy Largest in Two Decades
For the first time since the late 1990s Kazakhstan’s economy is expected to contract by projected 3 percent in 2020 with a moderate recovery by 2.5 percent in 2021, according to the World Bank’s latest Kazakhstan Economic Update (Summer 2020) – Navigating the Crisis report.
Although Kazakhstan’s GDP showed mild growth at 2.3 percent in the first quarter, economic activities weakened in the following months as commodity prices dropped, trade declined, and COVID-19 preventive measures slowed economic activity. Consumer demand showed moderate growth at at 1.2 percent, reflecting growing concerns over COVID-19 and the restriction measures. Investment is expected to ease to 1.0 percent annually, supported mostly by the on-going foreign direct investments into the oil and gas industry and residential construction. Supply disruptions and currency depreciation pushed up inflation to above the upper bound of the National Bank target range.
“The authorities acted early to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accumulated fiscal buffers allow the government to introduce a relief package to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the economy,” said Sjamsu Rahardja, Senior Country Economist, World Bank in Kazakhstan. “Weak demand and oil prices, as well as the protacted pandemic expose significant risks to the economic outlook. Authorities may want to consider using the available resources to provide relief to the poor and vulnerable, protect productive assets, and introduce reforms to sustain economic recovery.”
A prolonged crisis is likely to increase poverty and can increase inequality in Kazakhstan. Preliminary estimates suggest that poverty rate may rise in 2020 from a projected 8.3 to 12.7 percent – equating to more than 800 thousand additional people living in poverty. The shock to the labor market in Kazakhstan due to both the pandemic and the mitigation measures, is expected to have severe implications for jobs, particularly in sectors that employ low-skilled workers.
The report also argues that COVID-19 has a negative impact on human capital development in Kazakhstan. Unequal access to quality education, especially during lockdown, can negatively impact human capital development for the poor. School closures could result in learning loss of more than one-third of a school year and the impact could mean a decline in the Program for International Student Assessement (PISA) points. As most students in the country currently perform around the threshold for functional literacy and assuming some will lose more than others, the estimates suggest that the percentage of students performing below functional literacy will increase by 3 percentage points (from 64 to 67 percent).
“The impact of COVID-19 on education and learning losses will have a decades-long impact on the economy by an estimated 2.9 percent, amounting to an overall economic loss of up to $1.9 billion every year”, says Jean-Francois Marteau, World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan. “A focus on improving access to quality education, including distance learning, would be important to prevent a decline in the quality of human capital, especially among Kazakhstan’s low-income population.”
The report concludes that under the risk of a prolonged slump in the global oil market, Kazakhstan’s pathway for a resilient recovery may focus on strengthening the effectiveness of public administration and services, including the use of e-platforms to deliver key public services, better tax administration, and a mechanism to review and redeploy fiscal resources toward better state programs. A renewed emphasis on reforms in the logistics, digital telecommunications, and financial sectors could help the overall private sector explore new opportunities.
China-Eurasia Council condemns aggression of Azerbaijan
China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research strongly condemns Azerbaijani aggression which Baku started on July 12, 2020. Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense is a threat for the entire World as it is speaking about its aims to strike Metsamor Nuclear Plant, which is located in Armenia. Baku must understand that this is a crime against humanity, and it is equal to nuclear strike.The destruction of Metsamor Nuclear plant will be a disaster not only for Armenia, but also for Iran, Georgia and Azerbaijan, it will harm World’s environment and stand a real problem for several generations of the World. It is worth mentioning, that this time Baku attacked the Northern borders of Armenia, which are sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia according to International law. Azerbaijan violated the principle of territorial integrity of a sovereign state, which is one of the important pillars of International law.
China-Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research condemns Azerbaijan for using force against civilian population of Armenia and calls for peaceful negotiations. Baku must show solidarity and join global ceasefire initiated by the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres and must not try to escalate the situation on the border to deflect public attention from the situation concerning the outbreak of Covid-19 in Azerbaijan. We call official Baku to take care of Azerbaijani people in the hard times of Coronavirus and not send its soldiers to real death. Being multinational Council, for us It’s terrible to hear about lossfrom both sides and we express our sincere condolences. Hopefully peace will come to South Caucasus, which is an important crossroad in Eurasian mainland and it can stand a very important link for Belt and Road Initiative, if all problems solved in a peaceful way.
Condemnation Of Armenian Aggression By Friends Of Azerbaijan (FoA)
Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) strongly condemns the coward act of Armenians aggression in the Tovuz district of Azerbaijan that is a sheer violation of international borders and law. The act is an attempt of Armenia to drive global attention from the peaceful dialogue and negotiation process on Nagorno Karabakh.
In an online meeting of the delegates of the Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA), a joint declaration of condemnation has been issued by the honorable members of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA).
According to this declaration, Armenian aggression can jeopardize the whole South Caucasus region. The incident on July 12, 2020, is being considered as a direct attack on Azerbaijan and the repercussions of this incident can result in massive catastrophe in the entire region.
The delegates of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) stressed the global powers to come forward and take serious action on Armenian intervention by violating the international border of Azerbaijan. The act of Armenia is an open challenge to the sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
Malik Ayub Sumbal founder of Friends of Azerbaijan (FoA) termed that Armenia is losing its legal and moral position on Nagorno Karabakh and there is mounting pressure on Armenia by the international community for the peaceful solution of Nagorno Karabakh according to the UN Resolutions. At this time to get rid of such kind of diplomatic moves, Armenia has launched another major front in Tovuz.
When the whole world is busy against the Covid19 Armenian Prime Minister has chosen a very dangerous path that can take the whole region into war and bloodshed.
Friends of Azerbijan (FoA) is firmly standing with shoulder by shoulder to the people of Azerbaijan and martyr’s families at this hour.
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