The National Agricultural and Rural Development Strategy (NARDS) is a cross-sectoral strategy addressing agricultural and rural development of the country. The national strategy covers the period 2007-2013. Its main objective is to strengthen the ability of Macedonian agriculture to compete in the integrated regional markets of the European Union and south-eastern Europe through measures to increase the efficiency of agricultural production, processing and marketing, and to build appropriate, effective public and private institutions; to improve farm incomes; to ensure that consumers have access to safe, healthy food; to optimize the use of scarce land, forest and water resources, in an environmentally sustainable manner; and to build viable rural communities through sustainable rural development.The Strategy also addresses food safety as well as animal and plant health issues. In this regard, it provides for harmonization of the national legislation with the EU legislation, including creating a functioning system of administration and control.In the area of rural development, the Strategy refers to the European Council Regulation 1698/2005 which requires the country to ensure equal participation of men and women in evaluation of efficiency and quality of implementation of rural development programmes. Equally, with regard to the planned and existing administrative structures, the document mentions that the principle of participation of all social partners should be followed in the process of developing, implementing and managing rural development programmes, M&E frameworks and individual actions. The Strategy also covers the matters relating to land use. In particular, one of the targets of the document is to increase in size viable family farms and reduce parcellisation through, among others, appropriately designed and synergic policies such as the securitization of land titles, an appropriate taxation regime which encourages consolidation and enhances the land market, the privatization/long term land lease of state owned land and land consolidation programmes. In its overall goal, the document also aims to increase the efficiency of agricultural processing and marketing. To this end, it strives for modernization of the processing industry, increasing its competitiveness, integration of farmers with the processing industry through stable contractual relations, increasing food safety at production and processing levels and strengthening support from research, training and advisory services. The document also targets to support traditional products, traditional skills and knowledge with social importance for rural areas. The Strategy, under its Strategic Policy Focal Issue entitled “achieve sustainable resource management”, promotes introduction of EU primary legislative regulations among others in the areas such as nutrient management, pesticide use, prevention of land abandonment, and maintenance of permanent grasslands.The document provides that the government will support establishment of and capacity building for water user’s groups. It will also take measures and undertake reforms for purposes of introduction of the participative irrigation management “initiated by the demand”. As its one of the policy focal areas, NARDS provides that educational, capacity building, research and extension institutions need to reform to respond to the needs of farmers and the agricultural industry. Further, the Strategy envisages financial incentives and financing agriculture in its various areas, including in the area of market access and specific areas of agricultural production. In addition, the document promotes off-farm rural economy (crafts and SMEs) through policies and investment support aimed at the creation and strengthening of non-farm businesses and rural tourism activities. Also, the document includes measures to support employment in rural areas in specific agricultural industries. In addition, establishment of Agricultural Information System is envisaged which, among others, will include Agriculture Market Information System. The latter will consist of reporters for the quantities and prices of the traded farming products and a system of reception and analysis of data. In the area of agri-food chain development, NARDS promotes expansion of roles and functions of professional or inter-professional organizations and an establishment of permanent fora for public and private sector dialogue (namely the Agri-Food Cooperation Council including farmers, processors, clients, suppliers, traders).The document includes the measures to create a system of impact of climate change on agri-food sector, among others. The document also notes that there will be an efficient system for early reporting, alarming and control of forestry fires.The leading institution in implementation of the document is the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy, in particular, its Department for Rural Development. However, other governmental agencies also have roles in its implementation assigned to them under the Strategy, including Ministry of Science and Education, Ministry of Finances etc. The document also envisages establishment of the Inter-Institutional Co-ordination body (IICB) for Rural Development policy, planning and monitoring. The Strategy also plans to establish Rural Development component of Instrument for Pre-Accession assistance with the EU. In addition, a Monitoring Committee must be created in consultation with partners (who are to promote equal participation of men and women). Its tasks must comply with the relevant EU regulations and should include, among others, evaluation of efficiency and quality of implementation of rural development programs. Further, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy was tasked to establish an interdisciplinary agro-environmental working group which should be the main panel for the establishment of agro-environmental policy and measures. This working group should involve officials from the government agencies, universities, National Extension Agency, farmers association and relevant NGOs. In the area of rural development, the EU legislation obligates the Ministry and the IICB to carry out their functions with participation of all social partners, regional and local authorities and other competent state authorities, thereby promoting public participation in the process.
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