Honorable Prime Minister, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, EU Ambassador, Distinguished guests, development partners, ladies and gentlemen.
I am pleased to join today the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Rural Development in launching the Kosovo Irrigation Master Plan.
Among other lessons we have learnt, the pandemic has shown us the importance of preserving and enhancing food production to guarantee adequate provision to markets, but also as a source of livelihood to many. That requires a serious rethinking of the way we produce and deliver food, starting from the origin, from how the agriculture system is organized and resourced.
The interesting video we have just seen points to a simple, yet unequivocal, fact: Kosovo’s water resources are constrained. This is largely due to the country's geography. In fact, Kosovo relies mostly on internal water resources, with a very low dependency ratio. Other than precipitation, the only water inflow to Kosovo is through the Ibër river.
Water storage capacity is also a limiting factor. Storage volume per capita in Kosovo is only 300 m3, about 41 percent of the regional average. The combination of low water resources and low storage capacity makes Kosovo vulnerable to current and future climate change-related natural hazards - especially floods and droughts.
The World Bank-financed Agriculture and Rural Development Project has made addressing the country’s agriculture sector vulnerability to the availability of water a priority, and it has done so by supporting the rehabilitation of the Radoniqi-Dukagjini Irrigation Scheme, but, also, the preparation of the Kosovo Irrigation Master Plan.
The Master Plan was developed by assessing Kosovo’s land and water resources, analyzing today's agriculture system in Kosovo as well as tomorrows, in addition to water demand, water balance, and storage capacities.
The strategic objectives of the plan are guided by the principles of: (i) technical feasibility; (ii) economic and financial soundness; (iii) environmental sustainability; (iv) social inclusion; and (v) adaptation to climate change.
Building on that, the Master Plan defines a framework to identify priority areas for investment in irrigation across the country that would provide necessary access to water to rural areas. This is a prerequisite for engaging in a transition to a more commercially viable agriculture system and to enhance climate resilience and adaptation.
The Master Plan proposes a road map and action plan to implement priority investments in the short, medium, and long-terms to meet the plan's main objectives.
It is essential that each investment considers the multidimensional nature of irrigation: the capacity and commitment of farmers; land status; development of value chains; the capacity of irrigation companies; financing arrangements, etc.
Having that in mind - and with a view to achieving project sustainability, the Plan combines infrastructure capital development with support measures defined and implemented at the national level as well as at the very local level to promote the conditions needed for investments to reach their development objectives in full.
The sustainability of this ambitious irrigation program – from a technical, social, economic, and environmental point of view – can only be met if capital investment projects are supported by key institutional and regulatory reforms. But that, in turn, requires enabling the conditions for reforms to happen and thrive by means of coordinated technical assistance. As a way of example, let me cite:
- Technical assistance to irrigation companies to improve the sustainability and efficiency of infrastructure investments, focusing on promoting stronger corporate governance and best practices in management, while increasing the capacity of municipalities to manage local irrigation companies and to provide irrigation and drainage services to farmers in an effective and sustainable way.
- Technical assistance to the Farmers to support on-farm irrigation development and agricultural development in order to increase their added-value and optimize production costs; at the same time, ensuring the transition to more productive agriculture, while simultaneously implementing agro-ecological practices and developing value chains and linkages to markets.
- Let me conclude by highlighting institutional support to optimize the legislative framework for irrigation, while promoting a tariff-setting methodology for irrigation services.
In the short term, the World Bank will work closely with the European Union to establish a Trust Fund for the implementation of EU IPA financing of 10 million euros to further support the development of Kosovo's irrigation sector. Looking forward, as we move toward the preparation of our future partnership strategy in the coming years, we will assess the possibility of additional support to the agriculture sector. Key deciding factors will be a careful assessment of the achievements and lessons learned under the current ARDP, but also an agreement with the Government authorities on sector and funding priorities for our program.
Thank you very much again for the opportunity to be virtually with you today to celebrate the launching and future implementation of this powerful development tool.