FAO Capacity Development

Expanding agricultural trade expertise in post-Soviet countries


The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 caused a radical overhaul in the political and economic structures of Soviet states, opening them up to the global economy. As a result, over the past two decades, the region has played an increasingly important role as a trade partner in international markets, and more specifically, as a supplier of agricultural commodities.

Due to their relatively recent involvement in international trade activities, the capacities of post Soviet countries to engage effectively in trade negotiations and to implement trade agreements are limited. National experts and institutions from governments, civil society and the private sector recognise their need to strengthen their capacities as trainers, advisors and influencers on trade related issues in the agriculture sector.

Developing individual capacities

As a result of this gap, FAO supports academics, government advisors and other national experts in the region to help countries enhance their individual capacities in agricultural trade issues.

Over the years, FAO has provided interactive online and in-person training courses, covering a variety of topics, from trade policy reform to resolving trade disputes. These have been widely participated in by trade experts from across the region.

The training courses created a basis of skills and knowledge among regional experts, and served to establish a relationship between FAO and course participants. This presented an opportunity for FAO to deepen its support in the region.

A strategic shift towards long-term support

Following consultations between FAO and the regional experts, a vision emerged that the region would benefit from improved exchange and coordination on agricultural trade, so that countries could learn from each other and support each other more effectively. FAO and experts jointly decided that this would best be achieved by creating an expert network on agricultural trade. Its purpose would be to facilitate a neutral and independent space in which members could collaborate to expand their research on agricultural trade and exchange relevant knowledge. Its core aim would be to develop their capacities and impact as advisors, researchers and influencers of governments, the private sector and the wider community on issues related to agricultural trade and trade policy.

The Agricultural Trade Expert Network in Europe and Central Asia was established in December 2014. The Network brings together some 50 experts, consisting mainly of academics, independent researchers and government advisors, but also people from government ministries, NGOs and private sector companies involved with agricultural development and trade. It includes experts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine along with experts from partner institutions such as IAMO, IFPRI and others.

FAO facilitates and coordinates the network’s activities, which include two annual conferences, monthly news bulletins, and interactive online courses and discussion forums.

FAO’s work with the regional experts in post-soviet countries represents a true example of FAO’s approach to sustainable capacity development: it is based on a long-term vision, employs a strategic selection of methods of support, is consistent with national priorities, and is anchored in local expertise.

Capacity development outcomes and expectations

Although the Network is still young, it is already showing early signs of success. Members are engaged and actively sharing the knowledge they are generating, and the public is taking notice. The Russian State Agrarian University, for example, has requested materials from the network to inform a new Master’s programme it is developing on world agricultural economics and policy. Moreover, the Network’s newsletter, which is prepared every month with significant inputs from the experts is receiving positive feedback from other stakeholders in the region.

Roman Mogilevski, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Central Asia, notes:

Participating in the Experts Network is very useful for my role as a researcher and consultant to the Kyrgyz Government. Receiving up-to-date information from Network colleagues allows me to better understand recent policy changes and its consequences for the region.

The hope and expectation in the long-term is for this network to continue to strengthen its internal expertise in such a way that it is able to effectively influence and advise governments on trade agreements and agricultural trade policy. The ultimate aim is for long-term change to be generated from within, so that sustainable trade reform can be absorbed in the region, and its benefits built into future generations.

For more Effective Learning Approaches visit
FAO Learning Module 3 on Capacity Development - Good Learning Practices

Share this page