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World Bank in Turkey Focuses on Protecting People and Firms

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As Turkey continued to battle the health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19, the World Bank extended financing worth $1.5 billion for five critical development projects, during Fiscal Year 2021, which ended on June 30.

The financial support, together with technical and policy advice and analytical work, contribute to the implementation of Turkey’s 11th National Development Plan, as laid out in the World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Framework (FY17-23). With the new lending approvals in 2021, the active lending portfolio in Turkey has reached just over $7 billion covering 23 projects.

“Given the ongoing challenges from the COVID-19 crisis, the World Bank is supporting Turkey to limit the harm from the pandemic, while advancing progress on long-term development needs. Our programs, during the fiscal year that just ended, help to preserve jobs, maintain the private sector, improve resilience to climate change and other development priorities,” said Auguste Kouame, World Bank Country Director for Turkey.

Highlights of financing support during FY21 are:

Supporting Turkey’s Response to the COVID-19 Response

After delivering two pandemic response projects in FY20 for health, education and access to finance for export firms, the Bank delivered in FY21 two additional critical projects to help preserve jobs and viable small and medium size firms:

  • The $500 million Turkey Emergency Firm Support Project aimed at ensuring access to finance for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) affected by – or adapting to – the economic impacts of COVID-19. The project is being implemented through sub-loans managed by VakifBank and the Development Bank of Turkey (TKYB).
  • The $300 million Rapid Support for Micro and Small Enterprises during the COVID-19 Crisis Project, implemented by KOSGEB, aims at averting the closure of viable micro and small enterprises (MSEs) affected by the pandemic and maintain their employment levels. The project supports people and firms by providing reimbursable financing for manufacturing firms and other innovative young firms focusing on manufacturing, scientific research and development, and computer programming.

Maintaining a Focus on the Long-term Development Agenda

The Bank’s emergency COVID-19 operations did not derail the focus on long-term development challenges or its strategy to support Turkey’s climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience efforts. In line with the Country Partnership Framework (CPF), the Bank’s regular program of support continued to focus on inclusive and sustainable growth with a renewed focus on the climate change agenda:

  • A $300 million Organized Industrial Zones (OIZ) Project for Turkey, implemented by the Ministry of Industry and Technology (MoIT), with the objective to support investments in basic infrastructure – such as new roads, water and gas pipelines, power lines, and logistics facilities – as well as in “green” infrastructure – including improved energy and water efficiency facilities, advanced wastewater treatment plants, and energy-efficient buildings in industrial zones.
  • A $135 million Turkey Resilient Landscape Integration Project (TULIP) aimed at improving livelihoods and resilient infrastructure services for rural communities in the Bolaman River Basin, located in the eastern Black Sea Region, and Cekerek River Basin in central Anatolia Region. The project will support investments in resilient landscape integration in targeted areas and restore and maintain green infrastructure and promote sustainable livelihoods.
  • A $265 million loan to Turkey’s Seismic Resilience and Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings Project to strengthen the safety of public buildings against the dangers of earthquakes while also improving energy efficiency to reduce energy bills and harmful carbon emissions. The project aims at better insulating, strengthening or reconstructing more than 140 schools, dormitories, hospitals, and government buildings, directly benefiting about 26,000 people who live, work or use these buildings, including school children and employees. More broadly, the benefits will accrue to more than 6 million citizens reliant on the public services provided by the targeted buildings.

Development Challenges Related to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

The Bank also contributed to Government efforts in managing the refugee crisis which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and requires stronger efforts to protect those most at risk, including women. As part of the program of support to regions and municipalities hosting refugees, the Bank continued to implement and prepare new projects that benefit from the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRIT) financing.

Building on the success of projects managed by the World Bank under FRIT-1, the Bank signed Administrative Agreements for five new Recipient Executed Trust Funds (RETFs) from the second batch of FRIT Funds also known as FRIT-2. The five projects, worth € 392 million, are:

  • Municipal Services Improvement Project in Refugee Affected Areas;
  • Formal Employment Creation for Refugees and Turkish Citizens;
  • Employment Support and Activation of Work-Able People under Protection and Turkish Citizens Project;
  • Agricultural Employment Support for Refugees and Turkish Citizens through Enhanced Market Linkages;
  • Social Entrepreneurship, Empowerment and Cohesion in Refugee and Host Communities.

Sharing Knowledge for Better Policies

The World Bank delivered policy-oriented research and analytical work that has informed Government policy and programs, facilitated the preparation of many WBG-funded projects, and underpinned investments from other development partners.  In FY21, areas of focus for the World Bank’s Advisory Services and Analytics (ASA) included the bi-annual Turkey Economic Monitoring (TEM) reports; Policy dialogue on the digital economy in Turkey; Women’s Access to Economic Opportunities in Turkey; Leveraging Global Value Chains for Growth in Turkey; Buildings Resilience in Turkey; Improved Equity and Social Services; Impact of Syrian Refugee Crisis; Turkey Business Environment; Advisory Support for Turkey on Smart Grid Options, Generation Planning and Commercial Financing; Enhancing the Impact of the Turkish Court of Accounts on Good Public Governance; Review of National Planning, Policy Formulation and Public Financial Management Institutions and Performance; Building Institutional Capacity for Risk Informed Decision Making and Urban Resilience in Turkey.

Looking Ahead

“We are very pleased to have had a productive fiscal year 2021 working closely with the Government as well as many stakeholders and development partners in Turkey to support the people of Turkey in the face of COVID-19 and the refugee crisis while contributing to Turkey’s long-term development ambitions and its strong climate change agenda.  We look forward to building on this success as we start a new fiscal year yea,” added Mr. Kouame.

Projects under preparation for the new Fiscal Year include: Geothermal Development Project Additional Financing; Urban Resilience Project; Integrated Water Conservation Project; Climate Smart and Competitive Growth in Agrifood Value Chains; Scaling-up Distributed Solar PVs in Turkey; and Izmir Post-Earthquake Green, Resilient and Inclusive Emergency Reconstruction Project. For these projects, no lending agreement has been signed yet.  Finalization of the preparation of these projects and their submission for internal approval are subject to the confirmation of continued interest from all involved borrowing and pre-identified implementing institutions.

Analytical work underway includes: Climate Change and Development Report (CCDR); Sustainable Recovery and Green Growth Analytical and Advisory Program including a Low-Carbon Options Paper; Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) Technical Assistance; Impact of the proposed Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism; Public Expenditures and Fiscal tools to support green transformation; Private Investment for Climate Adaptation; Regional Disparities and Development; Human Capital Review and Education Quality; Social Development; Energy Transition and E-Mobility; Pandemics Preparedness; Institutional Development for High Income Status; Options for Enabling Long Term Financein Turkey.

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European farms mix things up to guard against food-supply shocks

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By ETHAN BILBY

‘Items in this section have limited availability due to supplier production issues,’ ‘Sorry, temporarily out of stock’ and ‘Sold out’ are all signs that became familiar as recent global upheavals exposed how precarious our food supply is.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to bare shelves in supermarkets as shipping routes were cut off. The war in Ukraine has affected the supply of essential grains.

But increased climate change stands to cause even greater disruption. Researchers say part of the solution to mitigating that risk is for farms to become more mixed through some combination of crop cultivation, livestock production and forestry, a move that would also make agriculture more sustainable. 

For Dr Sara Burbi, assistant professor at Coventry University in the UK until December 2022 and now an independent researcher, COVID-19 was a wake-up call.

‘Suddenly, we experienced first-hand what happens when value chains are not resilient to shocks and what happens when globalisation, with all its intricacies, does not work anymore,’ she said. ‘We saw highly specialised farming systems fail when they over-relied on external inputs that they had no access to.’

Climate change, according to Burbi, could provide even bigger global shocks ranging from widespread crop failures to lower yields or damage from flooding. More sustainable agriculture is essential to ensure food supplies can withstand the impact of climate change and unexpected local, national and even global crises.

Beneficial combos

During her tenure at Coventry University, Burbi coordinated the EU-funded AGROMIX project, which runs until end-October 2024.

As part of the project, pilot farms across Europe are experimenting with combining crop and livestock production in one farm (mixed farming) and with pairing farming and forestry activities (agroforestry). Poultry grazing in orchards is an example of a mixed-farming approach. The results reveal interesting synergies and promising effects, including improvements in soil health.

‘For a long time, forestry and agricultural activities have been considered at odds, as we have pushed for more and more specialised land uses,’ Burbi said. ‘This has led to loss of soil fertility and a sharp decline in biodiversity, coupled with an increased dependence on external inputs to compensate.’ 

A combined system can increase the cycling of nutrients needed in the soil for crops to grow. It can also help to regulate air and water quality, prevent land degradation and even provide biomass and food on-site for livestock.

One site in Switzerland, for instance, found that mixed farming helped keep soil quality high, while more specialised farming tended to deplete it.

AGROMIX will use 12 pilot sites and nine experimental ones, spread across three climatic zones (Atlantic, Continental and Mediterranean), to develop recommendations for farmers on combining productivity with greater sustainability and climate resilience.

Although mixed farming has been practiced for a long time, it is only recently that scientists have begun to measure biophysical data on such sites and provide real evidence to support approaches that work.

The project has found that the presence of trees on pasture has measurable benefits to animal health and welfare, especially in extreme heat when they provide a canopy of much-needed shade.

Trees and hedgerows can also offset greenhouse-gas emissions from livestock, increase the carbon sequestration capacity of the land, provide a haven for biodiversity and help prevent flooding.

The project wants to work closely with farmers, taking into account their needs and priorities.

‘Knowledge integration can empower key actors, in this case farmers, to embrace the transition to sustainable farming,’ Burbi said.

The next step will be designing agriculture systems that are totally energy independent and, as a result, even more sustainable.

Forest focus

The EU-funded MIXED project at Aarhus University in Denmark is also focused on combining mixed farming systems with agroforestry to make agriculture more efficient and resilient.

‘It’s not only about economic efficiency, but also environmental and climate efficiency,’ said Professor Tommy Dalgaard, the project coordinator. ‘Agriculture needs to be resilient to change, all kinds of change.’

Working with around 100 farmers across Europe, MIXED has created networks to study the different ways in which mixed farming and agroforestry can be used.

One focus is on the take-aways that can be gleaned from the traditional agroforestry techniques used in the Tagus Valley of Portugal, in an area known as the Montado.

‘They have these big cork oaks that are often more than 100 years old with grazing cattle below them,’ said Dalgaard. ‘In the winter, they can plough the soil and make small fields with cereal so they can harvest a winter crop and then in the dry season the cattle can be there.’

It is possible to have these green, vegetated areas because of the ancient oak trees, which create shade and sustain the water cycle.

The concern is that drought may threaten the oaks, so researchers from the project are trying to work out how best to preserve the system as well as how to adapt it to new areas.

Danish farms in the project have taken a different approach, looking at how farmers can use coppicing to create a carbon sink. Coppicing is a pruning technique that cuts trees to ground level, causing new shoots to grow rapidly from the base to form a bush.

These are then usually harvested every 10-20 years for biomass fuel, meanwhile also giving shelter and shadow to free-range, high-value livestock such as sows with piglets. Cutting the bushes to create mulch also helps to improve soil quality and avoids burning them, according to Dalgaard.

The project’s ultimate aim is to build up a European database demonstrating examples of mixed farming and agroforestry, highlighting the benefits and advising on best practices. Essentially, it is about inspiring more farmers to adopt mixed farming and agroforestry methods and supporting them in the process.

‘We need real-life examples,’ said Dalgaard. ‘We now have some concrete examples of farmers, agricultural landscapes and value chains that can report good results from having done something in a different way.’

Research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.

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Astana hosts 18th Iran-Kazakhstan Joint Economic Committee meeting

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Photo: Iranian Agriculture Minister Javad Sadati-Nejad (R) and Kazakh Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov sign MOU documents in Astana on Thursday.

The 18th meeting of Iran-Kazakhstan Joint Economic Committee meeting was held on Thursday in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, at the end of which the two sides signed a comprehensive document to expand cooperation in numerous areas including trade, agriculture, environment, tourism, science, and technology, education and sports.

As IRIB reported, the two countries’ Joint Economic Committee meeting was co-chaired by Iranian Agriculture Minister Javad Sadati-Nejad and Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Alikhan Smailov.

Sadati-Nejad and Smailov held talks before the two countries’ joint meeting to discuss major areas that should be agreed upon in the event’s concluding document.

Speaking to the press after the joint committee meeting, Sadati-Nejad said that according to the signed memorandum of understanding (MOU), 30 percent of the trade between the two countries will be in the field of agricultural products.

According to the agriculture minister, the two countries are also going to establish a commercial-agricultural joint venture in order to develop trade in the Persian Gulf countries, Central Asia, and West Asia.

In this meeting, Amir Yousefi, the vice-chairman of the Agriculture Committee of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) also said that Kazakhstan is a good option for extraterritorial cultivation due to the good water conditions and the quality of soil, which should be considered by Iranian investors.

Reaching $3b of annual trade on agenda

Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting, Sadati-Nejad announced that the two countries have put an annual trade of three billion dollars on the agenda, expressing hope that signing the comprehensive MOU would pave the way for achieving this target.

“The presidents of the two countries have aimed to increase the level of trade to three billion dollars; currently this number is around 500 million dollars,” the minister said.

Mentioning the developments in the two countries’ banking relations, the official said that the expansion of relations in the agriculture sector is of special importance for both sides.

He further noted that a joint committee will be formed in the next month to pursue this goal, saying: “Kazakhstan has requested Iran’s engineering services in modern irrigation and desalination areas, and we have expressed our readiness to provide them with the mentioned services.”

Iranian trade center to be opened in Almaty

During the meeting of the two countries’ expert committees which was held prior to the main event on Wednesday, Amir Abedi, the head of the Iran-Kazakhstan Joint Chamber of Commerce, announced that the business office of Iran-Kazakhstan joint chamber will soon be opened in Almaty.

Pointing to the capacities of Iran and Kazakhstan for the development of economic relations, Abedi considered Kazakhstan’s market as a strategic destination for Iranian businessmen.

The 17th Iran-Kazakhstan joint economic committee meeting was held about a year ago in Tehran.

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Blue Economy Offers Opportunities for Sustainable Growth in Tunisia

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With support from the World Bank, in June 2022, Tunisia launched its first report on the status of the blue economy. The report, titled in French “L’économie bleue en Tunisie: Opportunité pour un développement intégré et durable de la mer et des zones côtières” (The Blue Economy in Tunisia: An Opportunity for Integrated and Sustainable Development of the Sea and Coastal Areas), recommends initial guidelines for a national strategy in this area. Spearheaded by the Ministry of the Environment and the Secretariat General for Maritime Affairs, the report is the product of extensive consultation with stakeholders in the blue economy, including the public and private sectors, researchers, and various civil society organizations.

Tunisia has more than 1,300 km of coastline. Its coastal areas are home to 7.6 million people (more than 66% of its population) who depend heavily on coastal and marine resources for their livelihoods. The report identifies avenues for sustainable development of the blue economy through tourism, fishing and aquaculture, maritime transport, ocean-based renewable energy, marine biotechnology, and other activities.

The blue economy offers an opportunity for sustainable development and wealth creation for Tunisia through sustainable use of marine and coastal resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and healthy marine and coastal ecosystems,” said Alexandre Arrobbio, World Bank Country Manager for Tunisia. “I welcome the Government’s commitment to developing the blue economy in Tunisia as part of its next development plan,” he added.

The report identifies three strategic objectives: (i) promotion of economic growth of maritime activities (ii) social inclusion and gender equality, and (iii) sustainability of natural resources and ecosystem services. To achieve these objectives, five areas of intervention are proposed: establishment of institutional governance; promotion of resources and financing mechanisms; support for job creation, poverty alleviation, the inclusion of vulnerable groups, and gender mainstreaming; development of knowledge of marine and coastal capital; and strengthening of resilience to climate change.

Following the publication of this report, the Tunisian Government and the World Bank will continue their cooperation for the development of the blue economy in Tunisia. The World Bank has mobilized the PROBLUE Trust Fund to undertake the second phase of technical assistance, supporting a roadmap for the development of the blue economy in Tunisia. In the second phase of assistance to Tunisia, the Bank will conduct analyses and offer advice on institutional policies and promotion of public and private investment, in addition to providing support for strategic and operational dialogue with relevant stakeholders.

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