24- 27 June, Thimphu: The Agriculture Ministers and Secretaries of the Member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) unanimously reaffirmed their commitment to regional integration to promote agriculture and rural development in the region during the 4th SAARC Agriculture Ministers Meeting held in June 2019 in Thimphu.
Under the auspices of SAARC, the 4th Meeting of SAARC Agriculture Ministers was hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan in Thimphu on 27th June 2019. Three meetings preceded the Ministerial Meeting which reviewed past activities and decided new areas of cooperation and collaborations.
The 3rd SAARC Multi-stakeholder Meeting (MSHM) was held on 24th June followed by the 9th Meeting of the SAARC Technical Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on 25th June. The MSHM focused on Theme of Seed sharing and Cross-cutting issues of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) in commercialization of agriculture. The role and benefits of private sector engagement in both seed sector and agribusiness was unanimously acknowledged. The TCARD conducted detailed review of past programs and activities. The highlight of the 9th TCARD Meeting was the increasing engagement of international specialized bodies, development partners, CGIAR Centres, and regional consortiums in SAARC programs. The engaging networks and partnership can enhance the reach and relevance of SAARC initiatives.
On 26th June, the Secretaries of Agriculture from Member States attended the 4th SAARC Senior Agriculture Officers Meeting (SAOM) which is basically the preparatory meeting for the Ministerial Meeting. Within the standard SAARC protocol, all the projects and programs related to agriculture and rural development implemented by SAARC bodies were reviewed. Based on the submission of the 9th TCARD, the meeting decided the future commitments. The meetings drafted the Thimphu Statement which embodies the resolved commitments of the Member States on upholding agriculture and rural development agenda.
The SAARC Agriculture Ministerial Meeting held on 27th June, was inaugurated by Hon’ble Lyonpo Dr. Tandin Dorji, Minister for Foreign Affairs who reiterated the dismal social and economic situation in the region despite the economic growth and urged SAARC to strengthen its interventions to enhance social and economic well-being of the region. Hon’ble Lyonpo indicated areas for improvement like restructuring social funding window of SDF by making 2 country proposals eligible instead of 3 countries, increasing Total Factor Productivity (TFP) in agriculture sector, and improvement of transparency, efficiency and visibility of SAARC mechanisms and institutions.
The Ministerial Meeting agreed to promote multi-sectoral approaches and actions to attain higher level of food and nutrition security; share and promote climate resilient agricultural strategies and technologies; intensify public-private investment on agricultural research and development; enhance mountain and hill agricultural research and development; facilitate gender mainstreaming and attracting youth and women in agriculture; operationalize SAARC Food Bank and Seed Bank; adopt appropriate measures for addressing the issues of livestock,including transboundary and zoonotic emerging diseases/pathogen, anti-microbial usages and anti-microbial resistance; and make the SAARC region PPR free by 2030. To achieve all the targets, the meeting directed SAARC Agriculture Centre to realign its operations to the priorities and activities proposed by 9th TCARD and 4th SAOM.
The Ministers Meeting adopted the Thimphu Statement on Agriculture and Rural Development on 27th June 2019 in Thimphu, Bhutan.
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