FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Central Asia embraces digital agriculture

The challenges and opportunities of digital agriculture was the topic of the second meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture of Central Asia, facilitated by FAO and Kazakhstan. The Central Asian countries expressed interest in developing and implementing comprehensive digital agricultural strategies to spur the growth of digital technologies.

Digitalization has the potential to accelerate the transformation towards more sustainable and inclusive agriculture and food systems and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), even in remote areas.

The virtual meeting provided a platform for participating countries to share their approaches and experience, and reaffirm their commitment to digital agriculture despite the difficult circumstances.

“Over the next 20 years, agriculture will actively embrace information technology in a sustainable manner,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative. “Agriculture, supported by digital technologies, can become not only the driver of economic recovery, but also of change in its quality, especially for smallholders and rural households.”

The five Central Asian countries have already made good progress towards adopting digital technologies in their agricultural sectors, including the use of precision agriculture, crop and livestock monitoring, and digital soil maps. However, coherent digital agriculture strategies are needed to realize the full potential of these efforts.

The need for a coordinated approach among key ministries and different public entities was further discussed at the meeting in order to pave the way for the digital transformation of agrifood systems. The challenge lies in ensuring that relevant agricultural actors can take advantage of the digital transformation to improve productivity, inclusiveness, efficiency, and environmental impacts.

“The goal of developing digitalization in the agro-industrial complex is to increase the contribution of the industry to the economy by increasing agricultural labour productivity and maximizing the profits of agro-enterprises,” added Saparhan Omarov, Minister of Agriculture of Kazakhstan.

To this end, representatives of other international organizations also participated, including the Asian Development Bank, Eurasian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Telecommunication Union, Islamic Development Bank, and World Bank.

Their knowledge has also helped Central Asian ministers in identifying potential areas where innovative applications of digital technologies can be implemented over the short-term and produce immediate gains.

“Today's meeting is the second such event with the participation of agricultural leaders of Central Asia, and FAO is proud to be the facilitator of both of these meetings. We see these as a very important dialogue that will be shaping a dynamic future for agriculture in Central Asia,” Rakhmanin concluded.

Participants included: Saparhan Omarov, Minister of Agriculture of Kazakhstan; Tilek Toktogaziev, Minister of Agriculture, Food Industry and Melioration of the Kyrgyz Republic; Sulaimon Ziyozoda, Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Tajikistan; Magtymguly Bairamdurdyev, Minister of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Turkmenistan; and Jamshid Khodjaev, Minister of Agriculture of Uzbekistan.

8 December 2020, Budapest, Hungary/Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan