FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Serbia learning to reduce and manage disaster risk

Last year’s floods in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina serve as an example of how natural disasters can devastate the agricultural sector and farming-based livelihoods of millions of people.   

In order to learn from the past and prepare for the future, a training workshop on disaster risk reduction and management was organized by FAO in Fruska Gora, Serbia earlier this month. 

At the workshop, a new National Disaster Risk Management Programme was introduced.  Some 30 participants, including professionals from Serbia’s Ministry of Agricultural and Environmental Protection, the acting assistant director for the Office of Reconstruction and Flood Relief, and FAO experts worked to define priority activities for disaster risk reduction and management activities in the agricultural sector. 

“This workshop marks a need to shift to resilience-building measures related to agriculture,” said Olga Buto, a climate change officer with FAO’s Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia. “Now that the initial shock of the flood has passed, everyone is looking towards the future and really committed to prevention, mitigation and preparedness. We know that every dollar spent on prevention and preparedness saves three to five dollars on emergency response.” 

Agriculture in Serbia makes up just over 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and accounts for almost 20 percent of exports. With two-thirds of the rural population relying on agriculture their livelihood, it is a vital contributor to the country’s  food supply. 

A rapid needs assessment carried out during June and July 2014 reported significant losses and damages to the agricultural sector.  In addition to floods, increased frequency and severity of droughts and landslides has been observed over the past decade, negatively affecting soil quality, crop yields, and overall agricultural production. 

“A multi-hazard approach when it comes to disaster risk reduction is crucial,” said Buto.  “The monitoring, identification, and introduction of adaptation measures in the areas affected by floods, droughts, and landslides as well as biological hazards are of vital importance for agriculture.” 

The FAO workshop had two main outcomes. It provided in-depth sessions for awareness raising and training on disaster risk reduction. It also afforded Ministry staff hands-on experience with drafting an action plan for the new National Disaster Risk Management Programme. Ministry officials also reviewed their functions and responsibilities in relation to the draft plan.

18 May 2015, Belgrade, Serbia