Turkey ‘can expand its role to eradicate global hunger’
Barçın Yinanç - ISTANBUL
Despite domestic criticism of agricultural policies, a U.N. executive said Turkey has a lot of experience to share in agriculture and forestry. While hunger is not an issue in Turkey, the “Turkish government can expand its role to eradicate hunger around the world,” said Viorel Gutu, representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, ahead of World Food Day on Oct. 16.
How do you see Turkey’s policies on the zero-hunger target?
There are around 820 million people around the globe suffering from hunger and malnutrition. In the region for which our office is responsible - Turkey, Azerbaijan and five Central Asian republics, hunger is not an issue; we, of course, have other problems related to issues such as malnutrition.
But Turkey has a role to play to eradicate hunger around the world. It is one of the leading countries in terms of agriculture. It should expand its role and promote new technology and food availability for other countries where it is needed.
But with the rise of inflation and the rise of food prices, there has been domestic criticism of Turkey’s agricultural policies. Many believe this has been a neglected area.
Everything can be seen in comparison. Looking to the countries in our region and even Balkan countries, Turkey is far ahead. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry launched an exercise to develop a new vision for agriculture, and as FAO, we are actively participating in the consultation process, providing advice.
High prices are said to be a problem, but from the perspective of farmers, low prices could be a problem as well. The main issue is of balancing the price and the incomes of the farmers. In the value chain, the distribution of margins of profit is not equal. We advise the ministry to look into balancing these profit margins.
Can you further elaborate on your cooperation with Turkey?
We are using FAO expertise in Turkey. Our role is mainly focused on improving and implementation of different modern technologies which are directed to respond to climate change like climate smart agriculture techniques, or implementation of conservation agriculture. We also work on the implementation of techniques for drip irrigation. So, we are bringing technologies into the country and getting it to the farmer level. Very often small farmers are not able to access these new technologies.
I understand FAO also has projects on refugees.
On every occasion I emphasize Turkey’s effort to host almost 4 million refugees. Four million people is the size of my country. Imagine a country moving from one part of the world to another. We have a series of projects which are directed for skills development of Syrian refugees but also of the Turkish people and creating job opportunities.
We have a series of training programs, for both Syrian refugees but also for Turks on, for example, how to prune trees.
These courses probably provide an occasion of interaction between refugees and host communities.
This is exactly what we are targeting, to help them to work and live together. Then, after they finalize the training, we organize job fairs where we invite the potential employers, farmers and all the other businesses in the region.
What are the fields of cooperation in the international framework?
In the Turkey Partnership Program, to which Turkey has allocated $10 million, Turkish expertise has been used in 28 projects outside of Turkey in areas like food safety. We will start the second phase of that cooperation.
As Turkey was the first one to raise the issue about food waste on the G20 platform, this initiative is taking more and more speed and value. I have to mention that one-third of the food produced globally is either lost or wasted. We must talk about food losses among the different production schemes, how much we lose in the orchards, how much we lose in the transportation, in storage, etc. Turkey has been a leading country for these efforts, and we are now developing a project which would focus on different stages of this loss and waste, starting from raising the awareness of the people to implementing different mechanisms, even technologies.
Another project being implemented is the contribution to the great green wall in Africa with Eritrea Mauritania and Sudan to which Turkey has allocated $3 million. This is a forest wall around the Sahara to stop Sahara expanding.
To wrap up the interview looking to Turkish agriculture, what do you see in the half empty but also the half full part of the glass?
I’d like praise Turkish agriculture for the fact that it managed to become a leader in terms of agricultural exports. Turkish exports are very well known in the region and in terms of safety of Turkish products, probably we do not have any complaints related to food safety standards.
When you go in the field, you will see farmers in the rural areas not so happy about their opportunities, about how their work is appreciated. This is something which is characteristic for the majority of countries, where especially people from rural areas dealing with agriculture are the most disadvantaged. They do not have the same access to social services, cultural services or the same infrastructure as people living in the cities.
An important portion of the Turkish population lives in rural areas and investment in the quality of life of the rural people, to those engaged in agriculture, is very important. Integrating the rural communities into the bigger network of services is something that I would emphasize.
How about on the international level: what would you say Turkey needs to do more?
In the forestry area, Turkey is one of the biggest investors globally investing in the surfaces of forests. Millions of trees are planted everywhere; this is a huge effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to contribute to better life on our planet. Maybe this effort should be better marketed.
Turkey was not the only one to suffer from forest fires, but it has one of the best response mechanisms to forest fires. This expertise should be shared, and Turkey can become a leader in this area. We are trying to have this dialogue on how to share the Turkish expertise… even though there were some questions. I talk about expertise.
There has been domestic criticism that the response to recent fires was not efficient enough.
On global level, Turkish expertise should be recognized. There is probably no other country where response to forest fire is so quick as it is in Turkey. On preparedness or resilience there are huge actions taken by Turkey.
And as a final comment, I strongly believe that representatives of Turkey should be present in international organizations promoting different issues related to agriculture and forestry. Turkey has a lot to give with its experts, especially, who should be more involved in the development world, in U.N. organizations.