The Meeting of SAARC Agriculture/ Food Ministers was held in Islamabad on 14 December 2006. Though the Agriculture Ministers met twice in 1996 and 2002 to prepare for the World Food Summit, this has been the first ever regular meeting of SAARC Agriculture Ministers.
The Meeting noted the challenges confronted by the countries of South Asia in ensuring food and nutritional security as well as in maintaining vibrant rural economy for agricultural development. It recognized the imperative to reduce the wide gap between yields at the research and farm level. It underlined better water resource management with a focus on rain-fed agriculture. It further noted the importance of harnessing the potentials of frontier technology to effectively respond to these challenges.
The Meeting made specific decisions on effective functioning of the Technical Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (TCARD). These inter alia include resumption of the meetings of counter-part scientists in identified priority areas and multi-location trials for some crops; establishment of regional networks on agricultural and allied disciplines; technical dialogue; and undertaking regional studies. It endorsed revision of mandate of the SAARC Agriculture Information Centre (SAIC) and recommended changing of its nomenclature to “The SAARC Agriculture Centre”.
The Ministers underscored the imperative for national and regional actions towards effective research-extension-farmer (R-E-F) linkages. The Meeting recommended creation of an Inter-governmental Core Group on research and extension; identification of coordinating institutions for both research and extension, in addition to designated national focal points,; and exchange of visits among volunteers and extension specialists.
The Meeting agreed on broad areas for developing regional projects (income generating projects, such as bee-keeping, sericulture and mushroom production; livestock, poultry and fisheries feed; quality seed production; production of bio-fertilizers; skill development relevant to rural sectors; and initiatives for combating “wheat rusts”). It identified areas for developing joint ventures (sub-regional projects) (Farm implements and Machinery; Processing of fruits and vegetables; Low cost storage of farm products; Bio-fertilizers; Integrated Pest Management; Milk and dairy processing; Fishing and Fish processing; Packaging materials for agricultural products and by-products and Embryo-transplant.)