Areas of Cooperation

Please select Area of Cooperation for detail information.

Area of Cooperation

Technical Committee

Agriculture continues to key constituent in each South Asian economy – in respect of employment as also contribution to national GDP. In some countries though Agriculture’s share in GDP may be diminishing in terms of its share in GDP, in terms of employment and centrality in rural economies, farm and non-farm sector, premised on basic farming as also engaging the large majority of small and marginal farming households, agriculture’s role in the SAARC Member States is projected to remain the key to driving overall national economic growth and well-being of its people.

From the very inception of SAARC, regional cooperation within the Association on agriculture and rural development has therefore been in focus. In the pre-formative stage of the Association, as early as in September 1981, a meeting of the Study Group for Agriculture was convened in Dhaka. That was followed by two meetings of the Working Group on Agriculture followed (March and December, 1982) and the first Meeting of SAARC Technical Committee on Agriculture (Dhaka, Nov. 1983). A number of meetings /interaction at the technical level e.g. counterpart scientists (on multi-location trial), application of statistics in agriculture research, exchange of scientific/technical information, potato programme followed till SAARC took off in its formal manner by the end of 1985.

Within the inter-governmental structure of SAARC, thereafter, regional cooperation started moving through, as early as in 1990, two separate Technical Committees: on Agriculture and Rural Development, respectively. Through those, Member States evolved a number of specialized programmes and projects under the SAARC Integrated Programme of Action (SIPA).

Later, as per the reconstituted SAARC Integrated Programme of Action (SIPA), the two Technical Committees on Agriculture and Rural Development were merged into one as ‘Technical Committee on Agriculture & Rural Development’. The reconstituted Committee, with Nepal as the chair, started functioning since July 2000.

In later years, following adoption of the Regional Integrated Programme of Action (RIPA) (in Islamabad, January 2004), India assumed the chair of TC-ARD (for two consecutive terms); and hosted Meetings of the TC-Agriculture & Rural Development (TC-ARD). The reconstituted TC-ARD was mandated to consider matters related to Livestock and Fisheries as well. Since then, it has been meting regularly: First Meeting (New Delhi, June 2004); Second Meeting (New Delhi, June 2005); Third Meeting (New Delhi, September 2006); Fourth Meeting (New Delhi, January 2008); Special Session (New Delhi, November 2008); Fifth Meeting (Dhaka, August 2009)

Sixth Meeting is scheduled to be held during second half of 2010 in Dhaka (as Bangladesh currently holds the TCARD Chair), which will be followed by the SAARC Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture.

Functioning of TCARD has been helpful in bridging critical knowledge gaps and in identifying numerous concrete areas for pursuing regional actions and projects. Its previous meetings have identified many thematic areas for exchanging knowledge and best practices, harmonization of regional approaches and priority actions to be pursued both at the national and regional levels. In course of its work, TCARD has so far deliberated on a number of demand-driven areas/projects, for instance on:

  • Water Resources Management for Agriculture in SAARC Countries;
  • establishment of a SAARC Quadrangle Milk Grid (establishing joint venture projects for processing milk into high value added shelf-life milk products and marketing these products in the proposed quadrangle covering Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal. Nepal proposed the concept, in 2000)
  • Exchange of Rural Development Volunteers in the SAARC Countries;
  • establishment of Regional Food Bank (as decided by Twelfth SAARC Summit; original concept paper prepared by India);
  • Water for Agriculture in SAARC Countries (concept prepared by India);

Regional/sub-regional Projects on: Zero Energy Cold Storage; Bee-keeping; Post-Harvest Management and Value Addition of Fruits in Production Catchments; Sharing of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Technology among the SAARC Countries; Study on Migration and Stock Assessment of Hilsa and Tuna Fish in the Bay of Bengal; Collection, Conservation and Characterization of Under-utilised Fruits and Vegetables in the Region; Establishment of Digital Livestock farm Database and Animal Identification and Traceability System.

Deliberating on regional policies, programmes and projects, during 2004/05, TCARD felt the need to pursue regional cooperation in agriculture and rural development having a broader view of the challenges – existing and the likely ones - and the opportunities. With that end in view, TCARD decided to draw up a longer term perspective/vision document and thereafter pursue cooperation in a focused manner based on that document. As a major output of TCARD, during 2006-2008, based on the perspectives and inputs from each Member State, the SAARC Agricultural Perspective/Vision 2020 wasfinalised. The document articulated the long-term regional challenges and priority measures inter alia in production augmentation, natural resource management, bio-safety and bio-security, technology development and dissemination, seed and other inputs, food safety/standard, climate change adaptation and risk mitigation, and livelihoods of small and marginal farmers in farming and non-farm activities. It also brings forth the recent challenges e.g. Avian Influenza that appears to threaten much of the gains achieved in rural South Asia over the past years, especially for bottom poor and the marginal farmers. Within the relevant inter-governmental bodies/mechanisms in SAARC, Member States are showing greater engagement in spearheading collaboration in those areas. The SAARC Agriculture Ministers launched the document during their Extra-ordinary Meeting (New Delhi, 5 November 2008).

With a view to creating and harnessing synergy between SAARC and the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP), Dhaka, in 2007, a MoU was signed between SAARC and CIRDAP (Kathmandu, 20 April 2007).

Ministerial Meeting

Till inception of SAARC, the Ministers – dealing with Agriculture – from  SAARC Member States have met a number of times: Islamabad, October 1996;  Islamabad, December 2006; New Delhi, November 2008 [met as an Extra-Ordinary Ministerial Meeting, as directed by the Fifteenth Summit: Colombo Statement on Food Security]. Next, the next Ministerial Meeting is scheduled to convene during the second half of 2010 in Dhaka.

The Ministerial process continues to provide important directives. At the their last i.e. Extra-ordinary Meeting (New Delhi, Nov. 2008), each Member State made presentation on topics inter aliareflecting respective national experience as well as on possible regional approach to deal with the challenges: increase in food production; Agriculture research and prevention of soil health degradation – Bhutan; Sharing of Best Practices in Procurement and Distribution; Management of the climatic and disease-related risks in agriculture; Investment in agriculture and agro-based industries; and Development and sharing of agricultural technologies.

They expressed satisfaction at the operationalisation of the SAARC Food Bank, especially as the countries designated godowns/storage facilities where their respective share of food grain would be maintained.

They also directed on early finalization of the ‘Material Transfer Agreement’; Preparation of the draft ‘SAARC Food Safety and Quality Standards for agricultural produce'; and activation pf the Counterpart Scientists Meeting process to undertake field trials of select varieties of rice and wheat in the Region. Noting the importance underlined by the Member States on deepening agriculture research-extension extension linkages, a focused attention on the new dimensions in Agriculture Extension Management in SAARC Countries was also emphasized. Similarly,cooperation in the areas of: Farm Mechanisation, Development and Harmonization of a SAARC Quarantine Network and Nutrient Use Efficiency in Agriculture were highlighted as areas of significant potential.

Member States further agreed to forward respective success stories related to agriculture research and extension – having potential for replication in other countries. For instance, India made available twenty-five documentaries related to its different technologies; Bangladesh shared its ‘Deep Placement of Urea technology’ in rice for ensuring efficient nutrient management; Nepal agreed to share their experience of ‘Group Approach in Agriculture Extension’; and Sri Lanka informed of their interest in sharing three success stories for module building.

The Ministers noted the progress on (India’s initiative in) establishing seed testing laboratories in five Member States, under which need-based training on seed technology would also be imparted.

The Ministers underscored the need for regional actionsto combat pests and diseases and to develop collective strategies to address emerging diseases. In particular, the need to prepare against the emerging disease of wheat rusts received immediate attention.The Meeting agreed on collective measures in dealing with the challenges posed by UG-99 Disease; and adopted a ‘SAARC Declaration on UG-99’. They further adopted an Intent of Cooperation in the area of Bio-Fertiliser.

The Ministers finally adopted a ‘New Delhi Declaration on Food Security’.

Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) Meeting

Given the endemic nature and rapidly increasing incidence of Trans-boundary Animal Diseases, some of these being highly zoonotic, the CVOs from SAARC Member States have been meeting regularly since 2008. [First Meeting: New Delhi, June 2008; Second Meeting: Dhaka, April 2009; Third Meeting: scheduled in Colombo, 2010].

The CVOs have embarked inter alia on a number of crucial areas: providing periodic update on disease prevalence within respective territory – for further concrete measures; training experts from other countries in leading Veterinary Training Institution /academic institution; ‘Continuous Veterinary Education’; exchange of respective Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials; sharing of respective epidemiological information on FMD and PPR diseases; evolving a regional Bio-Security Model (particularly focused on backyard poultry); early institution of a Regional Surveillance Plan for HPAI.

They have also been considering the possibility of establishing a Regional Vaccine Bank. As a first step in that direction, it has been agreed to share respective genetic data on the Priority Trans-boundary Animal Diseases (TADs).

The CVOs have finalized a Road Map for Control of Trans-Boundary Animal Diseases’ – to which Member States are conveying respective responses. They further finalized a ‘Proforma Questionnaire’ to have fuller view of the prevailing situation in each Member State.

In an effort to tap the larger developmental dimensions in livestock sector, since the First Meeting (2008), the CVOs have considered a number of areas of regional collaboration. For instance, the Second Meeting agreed to undertake the project-oriented activities (on regional basis) on: Training on Quality Control of Vaccines (proposed by Sri Lanka); Improvement of quality of Buffalo breeds (proposed by Pakistan); Development of Dairy Cooperative Societies (proposed by Pakistan); Training on Genetic Characterization (proposed by Sri Lanka); and Progressive Control of PPR (proposed by Bangladesh).

Inter-governmental Core Group on Research-Extension–Farmer Linkages (IGCG –R-E-F)

SAARC Agriculture Ministers Meeting (Islamabad, Dec. 2006), based on the recommendations of the Regional Workshop on Research-Extension Linkages for Effective Delivery of Agricultural Technologies in SAARC Countries (Hyderabad, India, 20-22 November 2006), underscored the importance of education, in particular to the agricultural universities, in developing comprehensive linkage among research, extension and farmers. Likewise, the role of private sector, input dealers, farmers’ organizations, civil societies and media were also recognized. It was agreed that research systems should accord high priority to frontier technologies in order to attain genetic improvements with desired traits.

Towards effective research-extension-farmer (R-E-F) linkages, the Ministers agreed on a set of specific national priorities and actions: strong support of the Governments in terms of enabling policy frameworks and provision of adequate resources; competence building in research and extension personnel, with an emphasis on creating right type of mindset and attitude; knowledge-based technology forecasting keeping in consideration emerging paradigm shifts due to WTO and new IPR regime; ICT-based, low cost, personalized agro-advisory systems.

In terms of regional actionsrelated to extension systems, it was agreed that: an Inter-governmental Core Group to be established to guide collaboration in the areas of Research and Extension (IGCG R-E-F), with two sub-groups i.e. one on research, the other on extension; coordinating institutions to be identified for both research and extension, in addition to designated national focal points; E-based discussion groups to be formed, in addition to these institutionalised mechanism(s), with inclusion of private sector practitioners e.g. media, input dealers, NGOs, farmers’ organizations in such groups [SAC to facilitate /coordinate the dialogue process]; documentation and sharing of success stories, wherein strong R-E-F linkage mechanisms have evolved in SAARC countries; examination of the successful modules for adoption in other countries, wherever feasible with suitable modifications; and, exchange of visits among volunteers/extension specialists, on a high priority.

In particular context of preparing against the emerging disease i.e. wheat-rusts, it was decided to: conduct genetic and molecular studies to characterize resistant genes; develop high-yielding varieties with diverse resistant sources against major epidemics; develop, and refine efficient and appropriate production technologies; and, focus on sharing of knowledge, research facilities and exchange of successful experiences among researchers.

First meeting of the IGCG agreed on its broad mandate to enhance farm productivity, to reduce gaps between yields at the research and the farm levels and to promote innovative farm practices, agricultural know-how and frontier technologies: Examine the existing policy approaches and institutional arrangements, status of development, and the current level and extent of cooperation on agricultural research and extension in SAARC countries; Identify, and seek to bridge, knowledge and technology gaps among the research, extension and farm levels, and facilitate transfer of technology and know-how on proven and potential technologies; Conduct collaborative studies and technical dialogue with the view to providing inputs for developing regional policies, strategies and programmes and to suggesting policy options;  Undertake other collaborative studies; and, Explore possible areas for sub-regional and regional cooperation among the South Asian agriculture, including identification of appropriate projects.

The areas of work for the IGCG may include, but not limited to: Germplasm exchange and varietal improvement; Quality seed production; Farm mechanization, machinery and implements; On-farm water management; Bio-fertilizers; Integrated Crop/Pest Management; Post-harvest and Value Chain Management; Land degradation and soil fertility management; Documentation and sharing of good agricultural experiences; Quality feed for livestock, poultry and fisheries; Livestock development, particularly breed development; Milk and dairy processing; Trans-boundary livestock diseases; Fishing and Fish processing; IT-based technology transfer; Public-private partnership; Agricultural vulnerability and risk management; Food safety and quality standards; and, Market intelligence and trade.

At its last i.e. Second meeting, the Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) was finalized. The IGCG has so far met twice: Dhaka, November 2007; and, Dehradun (India), in May 2009. Its third Meeting is scheduled in Kandy (Sri Lanka) in August 2010.

FOOD SECURITY INITIATIVES

As an important endeavour of TCARD, the Food Security Initiatives generated in 2003. Under the aegis of SAARC-FAO collaboration, through expert-level meetings (2003-2005), regional projects on Food Security, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Trans-boundary Animal Diseases (TADs) were drawn up. By February 2005, SAARC Member States finalized the Global Framework for containment of the Priority Trans-boundary Animal Diseases (GFTADs) for South Asia. The Framework, adopted during the Thirteenth SAARC Summit (Dhaka, Nov. 2005), also decided on location of the five entities to be established to contain the three priority TADs i.e. Regional Reference Diagnostic Laboratories on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Islamabad; Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Bhopal, India; Peste Petit des Ruminants (PPR) in Dhaka; Regional Epidemiological Centre (REC) in Kathmandu; and Regional Support Unit (RSU) in Kathmandu. As of April 2010, work is in progress to establish and operationalise the five entities in these locations, with technical assistance of and coordination by FAO/OIE (and financial contribution/ technical inputs from EC).

During 2007-08, as a SAARC-FAO collaborative effort, a (first-ever) SAARC Regional Strategy and Regional Programme for Food Security was drawn up. This was eventually adopted by the Fifteenth Summit (Colombo, August 2008). Out of that, as many as ten regional projects were finalized, under four broad clusters:

Clusters

Priority Projects

Productivity, Sustainability and Income Enhancement

Enhancing productivity of small farmers in marginal and unfavorable areas /regions;

Enhancing and sustaining production and productivity in favourable areas;

Technical and policy support towards conservation and  efficient use of land, water  and bio-diversity resources;

Promoting rational/balanced use of agricultural inputs (fertilizer, agro-chemicals);

Pre and Post-Harvest Loss Reduction and Value Chain Management

Prevention of pre and post harvest losses, through appropriate interventions, and value chain development;

Ensuring Bio-Security

Development/Updating of national SPS Standards in line with CODEX;

Development/up-gradation of Accredited Laboratories in SAARC Region; 

Institutionalization of a SAARC mechanism/network on control of Trans-Boundary Plant and Fish  Diseases;

Support/assistance in capacity-building in the areas of food safety, quality and standards;

Agricultural Trade and Marketing for Food Security

Support/assistance for capacity-building in analysis and formulation of agricultural trade policies for ensuring food security;

 

By mid-2009, with technical assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB), work has been underway to fully develop five of the Projects: Enhancing productivity of small farmers in marginal and unfavorable areas/regions; Prevention of pre- and post-harvest losses, through appropriate interventions and value chain development; Promoting regional/ balanced use of agricultural inputs (fertilizer, agro-chemicals); Development /upgrading of national food standards in line with regional and international standards; and mutually recognized SAARC accredited laboratory system; and Institutionalization of SAARC mechanism /network on control of trans- boundary plants, animals and fish diseases. The SAARC-ADB Inception Workshop for the Projects is scheduled (Dhaka, 19-20 May 2010); and the process is likely to be completed by early 2011. 

[text of the Regional Food Security pdf doc. to be hyperlinked]

SAARC FOOD BANK

[text of the Food Bank doc. to be hyperlinked]

One of the earliest regional mechanisms set up by SAARC was on Food Reserve. The ‘Agreement on Establishing the SAARC Food Security Reserve’ entered into force in 1988. However, due to various procedural and other difficulties, no Member State far utilized the food stock available under the Reserve. Given the growing over non-functioning of the Reserve, it was felt necessary to evolve mechanisms to make the SAARC Food Security Reserve operational.

In order to overcome the inadequacies of the Reserve and to improve its functioning, the Council of Ministers (Islamabad, 2-3 January 2004) recommended establishment of a Regional Food Bank, which was endorsed by the Twelfth SAARC Summit (Islamabad, 4-6 January 2004). Thereafter, India prepared a Concept Paper for the Food Bank – which was discussed over several rounds meetings of the Food Security Reserve Board and the Technical Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (TCARD). The Thirteenth Summit (Dhaka, 12-13 November 2005) reiterated the early establishment of the Bank.

3.                                             By March 2007, an Inter-governmental Expert Group (IGEG) finalized the text of the Agreement for the establishment of the Food Bank. Some of the salient features of the Agreement vis-à-vis the Agreement on the SAARC Food Security Reserve have been that: (a) Scope of the Food Bank now stands expanded beyond emergencies. The Bank would act as a regional food security reserve for the SAARC Member Countries during normal time food shortages and emergencies; (b) the Agreement contains broad principles for determination of price. Prices, terms and conditions of payment in respect of the food grains would be directly negotiated between the concerned Member Countries, based on the guidelines for price determination (to be approved by the Food Bank Board periodically); (c) procedures for withdrawal and release of food grains have been rationalised and simplified; (d) roles of the Board to administer functioning of the Food Bank and its policymaking have been delineated; (e) implementation at the national level is entrusted with the designated Nodal Point(s) on-the-ground.

When the Agreement was signed at the Fourteenth Summit (New Delhi, April 2007), total quantum was finalized at 241,580 Metric Tons of food grains from the original signatory Member States. At that time, contribution of Afghanistan was left to be added as they would join SAARC. At the First Meeting of the Food Bank Board (Colombo, Oct. 2008), Afghanistan agreed to set their contribution at 1,420 MT (of wheat). Thus, the total quantum now stands at 243,000 MT.

In context of addressing the Food Security challenges in the Region, SAARC Food Bank Board has come into operation since October 2008. Till date, the Board has met three times [Colombo, 15-16 October 2008; Colombo, 12-13 February 2009; Kabul, 8-9 November 2009]. Over these Meetings, the Board has finalized all the needed operational modalities/measures, in keeping with the Agreement. Each Member State has designated the godowns/storage facilities – in close proximity of respective border – where their earmarked quantum of food grain is stored - in terms of rice or wheat. Each country has also confirmed respective Nodal Point in the Ministry/Department of Food/Agriculture who would receive request(s) from counterparts in other Member States to expeditiously process request for food grains. Modalities for determination of prices of food grains have been finalized, including through deferred payment. Certain guidelines to deal with emerging scenario have also been finalized. On the important mandate of the Board to periodically analyse the overall regional food grain scenario (requirement, production, shortfall/deficit) – existing as well as envisaged – the Board Members decided to directly interface with respective Ministry(ies) dealing with Agriculture (for production data), Food (for food grain requirement data) and Commerce/Trade (for export/import data); and validate the data within respective Governments for eventual collation at regional level.

The last i.e. third Meeting further recommended doubling its overall quantum i.e. to 486,000 MT given the rising need in the Region. By early 2009, a first request was also received from one Member State to avail the Food Bank. However, for the Food Bank to assume formal legal status, the ratification is pending from one Member State.

SAARC AGRICULTURE CENTRE (SAC)

The SAARC Agricultural Centre (SAC) originally started its journey in 1989 as SAARC Agricultural Information Centre (SAIC). Located at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) complex in Dhaka, it’s the first Regional Centre established by SAARC. Since then, it has been serving to network relevant agricultural research and information networks in SAARC Member States, exchange regionally generated technical information to strengthen agricultural research, development and innovations. [for more information, log on at: www.saarcagri.net]

Since then , SAIC remained engaged in promoting cooperation in agriculture among the Member States, by establishing regional information network on agricultural and allied discipline; identifying and documenting agricultural and pertinent literatures (including forestry, fisheries, livestock and allied disciplines); serving the agricultural information needs of the Member States; promoting new and better techniques for handling and dissemination of agricultural information; and collecting and disseminating information on proven agricultural technologies and effective farm practices and development as well as introduction of emerging new and frontier technologies.

The Centre’s products and services are aimed to facilitate the performances of researchers, extensionists, scientists, technologists, etc. by providing relevant and timely agricultural information to reinforce their research and development activities thereby enabling them to better serve the farmers.

In 2006, considering it’s nearly two decades of commendable work, Member States agreed to expand the mandate of SAIC and upgrade the Centre as a Centre to deal with all sub-sectors /allied disciplines of Agriculture e.g. Crops, Fisheries, Livestock, Horticulture. The First Meeting of the Governing Board of SAC was held in November 2007.

At present, SAC regularly brings out a range of publications: SAC Newsletter; SAARC Journal of Agriculture; Bulletins of Agricultural Statistical & Food grain Situation in SAARC Countries; SAARC Agri. News, Views & Ideas. Depending on various context, it also brings out occasional publications: technical publications; Directories; Bibliographies; Databases; Union Catalogue. Indeed, following each Workshop it organizes on themes/areas of topical interest in the Region, it brings out the (detail) Proceedings and Reports (with recommendations).

The Centre also produces audio-visual materials (in different formats) on various subjects. Over the past two decades, it has collected a significant number of videos (VHS format) produced by Member States, which are maintained in SAC Video Library. Both audio-visual and printed materials collected by SAC, are being reproduced for distribution to institutions and a range of stake-holders whenever the Centre receives requests for those.

Through the SACNet programme, it aims to provide access to agricultural information through a web-based information network. Such networking service enhances the existing agricultural knowledge and information systems of SAARC Member States and provide platform to exchange ideas, information and knowledge.

The Centre is maintaining CD-ROM databases for providing Agricultural Bibliographic Information Service (ABIS) through CD-ROM search services. The internationally procured CD-ROM databases are updated regularly, which include: CAB ABSTRACTS; Crop science database; AGRICOLA; FSTA; PG & breeding database; BEAST CD; Veterinary science database; Soil science database; Forest science database; Horticultural science database; Parasitology database; AGRIS; Biological abstracts. In most cases, such database spreads form three decades.

SAC also organizes regional seminar/workshops with participation from the Member States, on topics that are of contemporary interest to the Region.  Following a workshop/seminar, the Centre continues to follow-up the recommendations that generate during the deliberations to fulfill demands for skill-based services in the Region. For instance, a Workshop on Research-Extension Linkages was organised (in collaboration with National Academy of Agricultural Research (NAARM), Hyderabad, India; 20–22 November 2006), which eventually led to various steps to strengthen research-extension systems in the Region. Besides workshops, SAC has been organizing national-level seminars, providing opportunities for researchers and scientists from the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), to share ideas on issues of contemporary interest in the area of agricultural research, extension and development.

Every year, around October/November, SAC Governing Board is convened, with a view to draw up the activities of the Centre for the next calendar year [Second Meeting held: October 2008; Third Meeting held: November 2009].

Funding Mechanism – SAARC Development Fund (SDF)

In 1996, a first funding mechanism was created in SAARC, ‘South Asian Development Fund (SADF)‘, merging the SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (SFRP) and the SAARC Regional Fund. SADF objectives were to support industrial development, poverty alleviation, protection of environment, institutional/human resource development and promotion of social and infrastructure development projects in the SAARC region. SADF started with a resource base of US$5 million (contributed on pro-rata basis by SAARC Member States), and till its closure in June 2008, had funds amounting to approx. US$ 7.0 million. Till its closure, SADF completed techno-economic feasibility studies for sixteen project studies.

During 2002-2005, SAARC Member States considered instituting various sectoral funding mechanisms e.g. Poverty Alleviation Fund, Infrastructure Fund, South Asian Development Bank, Media Development Fund, Voluntary Fund for the Differently Able Persons. A primary reason was that the existing South Asian Development Fund (SADF) was found to be inadequate i.e. in terms of required quantum of funds and its limited scope of work. In order to avoid proliferation of funds, the SAARC Financial Experts (September 2005) looked at the entire gamut of issues relating to funding of SAARC projects and programmes; and, amongst others, agreed that in lieu of proliferating sectoral financing mechanisms, the SADF be reconstituted into the SAARC Development Fund (SDF). And, SDF would have a permanent Secretariat, with three Windows (Social, Economic, Infrastructure). The Thirteenth SAARC Summit (Dhaka, 12-13 November 2005) finally decided to reconstitute the SADF into SDF to serve as the “umbrella financial mechanism” for all SAARC projects and programmes.

The Social Window would primarily focus poverty alleviation and social development projects. The Infrastructure Window would cover projects in the areas namely energy, power, transportation, telecommunications, environment, tourism and other infrastructure areas. The Economic Window would primarily be devoted to non-infrastructural funding.

Following that, by March 2008, an Inter-Governmental process on SDF, concluded the work on the SDF legal architecture i.e. Charter, Bye laws. As it finalized the legal architecture, among others, it mandated the SAARC Secretariat to function as the interim Secretariat for the SDF to operationalise the Fund from available resources and to implement identified projects, till such time a Permanent Secretariat is established.

 

The SDF Charter was signed at the Fifteenth SAARC Summit (Colombo, 2–3 August 2008). The Summit also agreed that SDF Permanent Secretariat would be established in Thimphu. The Fifteenth Summit further decided that Member States would early ratify the SDF Charter.

Once the SDF inter-governmental process completed its work, SDF Board became functional and has been meeting periodically: Second Meeting (SAARC Secretariat, May 2008), Third Meeting (SAARC Secretariat, 21 July 2008), Fourth Meeting (Thinphu, 29-30 April 2009), Fifth Meeting (Kabul, 1-2 September 2009), Sixth Meeting (Thimphu, 25-26 November 2009), Seventh Meeting (SAARC Secretariat, 3-5 February 2009).

Two regional Projects have so far been underway: The first Project i.e. on Women Empowerment (since August 2008); and, the second Project on Maternal & Child Health (MCH) (since September 2009). Efforts are underway to initiate steps related to the Project on Teachers Training, as approved by the SAARC Finance Ministers (2007). At the last i.e. Seventh Meeting of the SDF Board, three more regional/sub-regional Projects were also taken up: on Zero Energy Cold Storage; on Post-harvest Management and Value addition of Fruits in Production Catchments in SAARC Countries; and, on Facilitating Access to Energy Efficient and Renewable Energy Technologies, with special focus on Women in selected SAARC Countries. 

A growing interest is evident among the SAARC inter-governmental bodies/mechanisms to draw up focused Projects – regional or sub-regional – and to seek funding from SDF.

Over the past two years (2008-’09), the SDF Operational Modalities, initial personnel structure of the Fund has been finalized to facilitate operationalisaiton of the SDF Permanent Secretariat in Thimphu. The Seventh Meeting of the Board recommended to the SDF Governing Council on appointment of the first CEO of the Fund. By early April 2010, the Members of the SDF Governing Council i.e. the SAARC Finance Ministers approved the CEO. Once approved by the Sixteenth SAARC Summit, the CEO would formally initiate the work of the SDF Secretariat. During the Summit, in presence of the heads of State/Government, the SDF Secretariat would be formally inaugurated.

By April 2010, all Member States have ratified the SDF Charter. On 15 April 2010, therefore, SAARC Secretary General issued the ‘notification’ on the Charter’s entry into force. This completed the entire legal process for the SDF.

Of the determined corpus i.e. Initial Paid-up Capital of SDR 200 million (approx. US$ 300 million), the Secretariat has so far received the full quantum of the assessed subscription from India and Bhutan. India has additionally sent US$ 100 million, as its voluntary contribution for Projects on Social Development. OtherMember States are expected to forward respective subscription in due course.