World Food Day 2023 celebrated across Europe and Central Asia

Water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind.



World Food Day is celebrated every year on 16 October, the date FAO was founded in 1945. This year’s theme, “Water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind,” highlighted water's importance to food production, food security, healthy environments, and human health and the need to protect global water resources.

Droughts, flash floods other climate-related events and water crises have plagued the region in recent years, resulting in desertification, loss and/or degradation of arable land, soil salinity, and water stress. Dry weather persists in Central Asia, particularly in areas already impacted by drought, such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In 2023, floods struck the Western Balkans, Romania, Slovenia, and southern Türkiye, causing casualties and damage in rural communities.

One path to preventing such episodes in the future is improving water management and conservation, both of which are vital components of climate change adaptation and mitigation. FAO is working to facilitate improved water management, water governance, and intensification of clean irrigation for better use efficiency in the agriculture sector, especially in Central Asia.

To that end, World Food Day 2023 was an excellent opportunity to seek out solutions to water challenges, with water and agriculture indissolubly linked: Water is life, water is food.

World Food Day 2023 was an excellent opportunity to seek out solutions to water challenges, with water and agriculture indissolubly linked: Water is life, water is food.

FAO offices in Europe and Central Asia organized a wide array of activities related to the theme. Some were celebratory, including a marathon, a horse race, an agricultural fair, and a building illumination. Some were educational, taking the form of a conference, forum, or video. Still more observances mentioned World Food Day in speeches or relied on the power of social media.

Activity books were translated into Albanian, Kyrgyz, Russian, Turkish and Ukrainian, and a World Food Day brochure was translated into Albanian, Hungarian, Kyrgyz, Russian, and Turkish.

Below is a selection of the events that happened across the Europe and Central Asia region in 2023.


Events throughout the country focused on promoting local agricultural products, supporting area economies, emphasizing sustainability, and fostering community well-being.

In Leskovik, in southeastern Albania, local women farmers were trained as part of the Gender, Rural, Equality and Tourism (GREAT) project.

A three-day outdoor event in Bajram Curri, Tirana, and Shkodër promoted the contributions of FAO and its partners in Albania. On 23 October, FAO held Chestnut Promotion Day as part of the One Country One Priority Product initiative. The next day, FAO Albania organized several children's activities and art exhibitions and held an event for young agricultural entrepreneurs who have completed a training course on agribusiness development and market-based digital skills.

Billboards in Tirana displayed a translated World Food Day banner, and the United Nations country team in Albania promoted World Food Day events on its channels.


Raimund Jehle, FAO Representative to Armenia and Regional Programme Leader, spoke about World Food Day during a radio interview.


FAO Azerbaijan held a policy debate highlighting the critical role of water resources in enhancing agricultural sustainability and food security. Hosted by ADA University in collaboration with FAO, the event also celebrated the opening of the Agriculture and Food Science School. Participants included the Minister for Agriculture, the university rector, and representatives from the media, civil society, and academia. Nasar Hayat, the FAO Representative in Azerbaijan, and others spoke about the importance of efficient water management within the agricultural sector to address food challenges. A Yurdumun Ləzzəti (Taste of the Homeland) event established with the support of FAO featured the tasting and presentation of special foods. QU Dongyu, FAO Director-General, delivered a video message, subtitled in Azerbaijani, that emphasized the global significance of water in agriculture and reiterated the importance of collaboration in tackling global food issues.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The United Nations country teamin Bosnia and Herzegovina published a World Food Day press release that called for urgent action on water.


FAO and the Croatian Agency for Agriculture and Food held a discussion on the smart management of water resources in the agrifood sector. Participants shared their challenges and perspectives related to ensuring fair water distribution and producing more food with less water. FAO Agricultural Officer Viliami Fakava delivered a keynote speech.


FAO organized an agrarian market at which a local farmer ‘Food Hero’ spoke about how he has benefited from FAO support in conducting drip irrigation. Women farmers who are beneficiaries of FAO projects exhibited their products, and the celebrations closed with a concert.

Hungary and the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

The World Food Day convoy took place on 16 October in Budapest. With the Hungarian Foodbank Association, FAO sponsored a convoy of trucks that crossed Budapest with about 50 tonnes of food donated by private companies for needy Hungarian families. The event kicked off with a press event that included high-level representatives from FAO, the Hungarian Foodbank Association, and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Two Hungarian aquatic Olympians, one of whom is currently involved in agriculture and promoting healthy nutrition, met with the press. The Hungarian Food Bank provided sustainable dishes, some made with millets, a water-saving crop.

A World Food Day video challenge, which featured a montage of videos showing one long wave across nations and countries in Europe and Central Asia, is being shared on FAO social media platforms, including the Organization’s official YouTube channel.

Together with the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture and with support from the Embassy of Slovenia, FAO held a World Food Day lecture for university students on the topic of sustainable water management. FAO’s Nabil Gangi, Officer-in-Charge for the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, offered opening remarks. Zsuzsanna Keresztes, FAO specialist on integrated pest management and climate-resilient practices, spoke on water use in climate-smart agriculture. Six university professors from the host University of Agriculture and Life Sciences gave lectures on the World Food Day theme.

On 20 October, FAO Economist Pedro Arias lectured on food systems transformation through an economics approach to university students in the framework of World Food Day celebrations at Corvinus University in Budapest, looking at food and agriculture in the past, present, and future.

From 16 to 18 October, the Liszt Ferenc Budapest International Airport displayed World Food Day banners on more than ten screens all around the airport, including next to the check-in counters.

Hungarian agriculture weekly Magyar Mezőgazdaság dedicated a special pro bono feature on World Food Day and this year's messages.

FAO reached about 550 000 members of three Viber communities with World Food Day messaging. Three channels on the social media app (one in Russian, two in English) provided a platform for sharing information on the World Food Day theme and for educating and mobilising people for the cause.



As in previous years, FAO Kazakhstan organized a popularWorld Food Day celebration race, with distances of 3 km and 5 km. More than 85 people of all ages participated on 14 October at the Triathlon Park in Astana. The annual race raises awareness of the need for action to alleviate hunger and ensure healthy diets for all, leaving no one behind.


As with some other countries in the region, FAO Kyrgyzstan began World Food Day activities well ahead of 16 October.

 In late September, more than 100 residents of the Aksoy district, one of the driest areas of the country, performed the "Join the wave" dance.

On 3 October, FAO and the Kyrgyz National Agrarian University held a discussion on innovations in water management within the framework of FAO Science and Innovation Day in Kyrgyzstan.

World Food Day banners were placed to line the central streets of Bishkek on 12 October.

On 17 October, an art exhibition called "The path to the universe starts in the village" opened at the Kyrgyz National Museum of Fine Arts. Agriculture-related paintings and sculptures from the museum's collection were exhibited to demonstrate works of art as an important historical source, to show the development of the agriculture sector in Kyrgyzstan, and to invite the public to reflect on the importance of managing water for future prosperity. The exhibition included works by young artists who participated in the World Food Day children’s poster contest. Ainura Tuibaeva, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, participated in the opening of the art exhibition.

On 20 October, AgroTexExpo 2023 and Organic Expo 2023 were held in the historic city square of the Kyrgyz capital. The event put the spotlight on farmers, showing how sustainable agricultural production can help ensure food security and nutrition. Attendees were able to purchase local, organic products.

Republic of Moldova

About 100 people attended an event on 24 October at the Technical University of Moldova, held with support from the Faculty of Food Technology. The attendees, including university representatives, members of the government, Food Bank Moldova representatives, FAO experts, teachers, students, and smallholder producers, heard presentations on healthy diets, the importance of choosing local products, water for life and food, and educational resources for youth. The event also featured interactive discussions among students and guests.


The United Nations country team in Montenegro published an op-ed by Nabil Gangi, Officer-in-Charge for the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, on the main theme of World Food Day 2023.

North Macedonia

The main event for World Food Day 2023 focused on educating young farmers about responsible water management. It featured a guided tour of a hydroelectric plant, dam, fish pond and chemical-bacteriological laboratory. The tour illustrated the critical roles these facilities play in managing water, food production, aquaculture, energy generation and flood prevention. At an interactive workshop, young farmers learned about water conservation, the water cycle, and sustainable agricultural practices. Practical demonstrations showcased water-saving technologies and efficient irrigation methods in agriculture production.

FAO North Macedonia also actively promoted the World Food Day global poster contest, and the office collaborated with United Nations social media channels to communicate about World Food Day.

Russian Federation

The FAO Liaison Office in Moscow held various events related to World Food Day on 16 October.

FAO hosted a student-focused forum on food security, together with five academic and agrarian universities.

Oleg Kobiakov, Director of the FAO Liaison Office, gave radio, television, and printed media interviews to key media outlets, and several radio stations aired a World Food Day public service announcement.

The office also produced "food hero" stories, including an interview with the director of a school in Siberia who is trying to get pupils interested in a career in agriculture.


On 16 October, FAO Serbia held a national dialogue for farmers, youth and government focal points on integrated water management and preservation, the role of youth, gender equality, and opportunities for smallholder farmers.



Oleg Guchgeldiyev, the FAO Representative for Tajikistan, spoke on Asia+ radio about the significance of World Food Day on 16 October. The radio broadcaster dedicated a quiz to World Food Day in the week prior.

The World Food Day video and the children’s animation were broadcast on special screens located in the supermarkets of Dushanbe and Khujand during the week of World Food Day.

FAO Tajikistan hosted an information session dedicated to World Food Day and the International Year of Millets at the Tajik Agrarian University on 18 October.

On 21 October, FAO Tajikistan held a World Food Day festival consisting of exhibitions, master classes, information corners, pavilions, and performances. A “Leave no one behind” corner for female beneficiaries featured products that use less water, and there was a special gaming zone for kids to explain the importance of saving water. A regional food exhibition emphasized millets and the International Year of Millets, and the festival also featured entertainment activities such as dance and music.

Türkiye and the Subregional Office for Central Asia

World Food Day events in Türkiye began on 3 October with the launch of the 2023 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Co-organized by FAO and WHO at Ankara University, the launch was attended by youth, non-governmental organizations, government officials and United Nations agencies.

A workshop for Bahçeşehir University students and academics on 10 October examined water issues with a view to identifying solutions with positive multistakeholder impacts. On 12 October, FAO and the Water Institute of Türkiye held an event at the Özyeğin University dedicated to global developments in the field of water.

The Future of Food Symposium, co-organized by FAO and Istanbul Technical University Department of Food Engineering, was held on 13 October. Topics included climate change and water crises, current practices and policies in food loss and waste, sustainability approaches in food retailing, the right to food, and food security.

The annual World Food Day Horse race took place on 14 October. Each year, the Jockey Club of Türkiye dedicates one of its races to World Food Day to raise awareness regarding food and hunger.

The main FAO World Food Day event was held on 16 October, co-organized with the Federation of Food & Drink Industry Associations of Türkiye and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, who jointly presented World Food Day plaques to recognize those who have contributed to water efficiency. Keynote speakers included Viorel Gutu, FAO Subregional Coordinator, and Brahim Yumaklı, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, along with the Director-General of Water Management, the Director-General of Agricultural Reform, and other influential actors from Türkiye’s food industry. A panel titled "Continuing Atatürk's Renaissance in the 100th Year of Our Republic: Agriculture, Food and the Media" was held at the Yeditepe University with support from the Yeditepe University Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of Agricultural Trade and Management, Agricultural Journalists, the Writers Association and the Turkish Agriculturists Association.

FAO held an event on water, food and the Gediz Basin under the Sustainable and Integrated Water Resources Management project funded by the Global Environment Facility. On 18 October, a workshop on water basin management opened with panel discussions and technical presentations.

As in 2022, the Atakule Tower was illuminated on the eve of 16 October in FAO blue, accompanied by a World Food Day 2023 celebration message.

Organized by FAO and the SS Bademli Fidancılık Agricultural Development Cooperative and Kırkyol Rural Development Cooperative on 21 October in Izmir, a panel discussion looked at the impacts of cooperatives on food systems and sustainable water use.

A World Food Day video emphasized women farmers, climate change and the conservation and use of water resources.

FAO also collaborated with Adana Municipality in Türkiye to place billboards in locations throughout the city. A World Food Day video was produced featuring one of the country’s top actors, Engin Altan Düzyatan, who later shared the video on his social media accounts.


In collaboration with the World Food Programme, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food and other partners, FAO held World Food Day celebrations in Kyiv, Dnipro and Lviv on 16 October. Panel discussions joined those representing the needs of agriculture and those representing the needs of water management. Pierre Vauthier, Head of the FAO Ukraine Country Office, delivered opening remarks at the event in Kyiv.

FAO initiated a media campaign to spotlight the remarkable individuals and families residing in war-affected regions of Ukraine who have defied adversity to become resilient food producers. A webpage and three videos were produced to highlight the critical role of effective food production in nurturing communities and fostering resilience. The webpage dedicated to World Food Day was launched on 16 October, and the videos will be released in early November.


A photo contest for university students was held from 28 September to 11 October to attract young people’s attention to the importance of rational and sustainable use of water resources to ensure food security and progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The winners were announced at a World Food Day ceremony on 16 October in Tashkent.

In cooperation with the Korzinka supermarket chain, the World Food Day video and children’s animation were displayed on special screens from 10 to 20 October in 122 supermarkets across the country.

The Uzbekistan Ministry of Preschool and School Education, in cooperation with FAO and Zamin International Public Foundation, prepared a large-scale campaign dedicated to World Food Day in all the secondary schools of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Karakalpakstan on 20 October 2023. A special World Food Day lesson was accompanied by the dissemination of activity books the screening of the World Food Day video and children’s animation.

Throughout Europe and Central Asia, World Food Day observances involved multiple partners and collaboration with governments, the private sector, academia, the civil society and individuals. These World Food Day celebrations and observances were united by their common message: We must all answer the World Food Day call to protect our water resources, ensure fair water governance and appropriate use of water for a better world in which everyone has a right to clean and adequate water and nutritious food. While FAO might lead World Food Day, these events are proof that it is a day that belongs to all and gives hope to all.

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