EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. Photo courtesy of FAO.

LONDON, ENGLAND — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have agreed to step up joint efforts to make agrifood systems stronger, greener and more inclusive across Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean.

The two institutions also stressed the importance of climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives for agriculture as they marked 20 years of collaboration with an agreement signed on Nov. 28 in London, England, by EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. 

“We see our partnership with FAO as crucial for fostering the transition of the agribusiness sector in our region,” Chakrabarti said. “By drawing on FAO’s technical and policy expertise, we are able to make more effective investments across agrifood chains, helping to enhance productivity, improve energy efficiency, create jobs and promote sustainable and inclusive growth.”

Graziano da Silva said the regions where they work together — Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean — play critical, though contrasting, roles in global food and agricultural markets.

“I am confident that together we will continue to build on our respective strengths and support the emergence of an enabling environment for all private players — from small scale farmers to leading agribusinesses,” he said.

Since the start of their cooperation the EBRD and the FAO have teamed up in more than 150 projects with a total value of $36 million over the past two decades. For example, after Ukraine imposed grain export restrictions and quotas nearly 10 years ago, the EBRD and the FAO initiated a new era of public-private dialogue on government policies and sector issues.

Since then, working groups in the grain, dairy, meat, horticultural and other sectors have facilitated changes in food standards, removed investment-obstructing regulations and supported diversification into new markets.

Looking ahead, making agrifood systems more sustainable will be a top priority for future joint efforts of the FAO and the EBRD. This will include helping countries curb food losses, use resources more efficiently and reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.

The two institutions already have developed an approach that enables countries and investors to prioritize the adoption of climate technologies in the agricultural sector — from solar-powered water pumps to energy-efficient cold storage. The approach has been applied in Morocco and is currently under consideration in Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic.

Equally important to ensure sustainability from “farm to table” is the inclusion of producers and small and medium-sized enterprises in modern food value chains. To achieve this, the FAO and the EBRD are assisting such businesses in adjusting to higher food quality and safety standards. Successfully targeting more advanced markets means creating added value, but is rewarded with higher returns.

In Georgia, Serbia and Montenegro the two institutions have supported the development of the so-called “Geographical Indications” — an origin-based official labelling system that protects the reputation of traditional agrifood products, helping them to stand out in the fierce competition for market shares thanks to recognized high quality standards.

In Tunisia and Morocco, the FAO and the EBRD are supporting stronger and more efficient olive oil sectors to increase market opportunities and create jobs, especially for young people.