NUR-SULTAN – The Islamic Organization for Food Security (IOFS) aims to take decisive actions to address food and nutrition issues in line – all in line with its strategic vision by 2031, said IOFS Director General Yerlan Baidaulet in a recent interview with The Astana Times.
The 10-year strategy was adopted at the Fourth General Assembly in Nur-Sultan in 2021 when Kazakhstan took the presidency in the organization for one year.
Established in December 2013, the IOFS is the only institution in the northern part of the world that unites 57 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Kazakhstan initiated the idea of establishing the institution during the Seventh World Islamic Economic Forum in June 2011. Being under the OIC umbrella, the institution has the same status as the Islamic Development Bank and the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO) and specializes in food security, agricultural and rural development.
“After COVID, food security is vital,” said Baidaulet. “Nearly 30 percent of the increase in the figures related to hunger and malnutrition, show that the situation is worsening. We witness real disruptions of the food supply chain all over the world. The ongoing special military operation in Ukraine touches the sensitive points related to hunger in Muslim countries.”
Despite the pandemic, the IOFS held a plethora of events during these two years.
“We arranged five international events online in 2020. In 2021 we organized 28 events and activities with participation of more than 10 countries. This year, we doubled our activities as we launched the 10-year’s way towards our Vision 2031. According to the strategy, our 16 programs have been approved under five pillars including food security governance, food crisis response, capacity building, industry development, and resource mobilization,” Director General said.
The smooth and priority wise implementation of 16 programs cover the whole range of activities related to food security, rural development, and humanitarian activities.
Science and technology is also on the agenda. “We have partners working with us on scientific innovation and new technologies, agri-biotech and developing new methods of cultivation of strategic commodities, water irrigation in agriculture. All issues related to supporting our member countries are under our focus these days,” explained Baidaulet.
The IOFS Director General believes Kazakhstan enjoys the benefits of having this unique institution on its soil.
“Kazakhstan was earlier focused and oriented on neighbor countries such as CIS countries and Europe, and some countries of the Middle and Far East. According to our activities, we are bringing Kazakh stakeholders for cooperation with different partners around the Islamic world on four continents, altogether 57 countries. This is the benefit which Kazakhstan is getting now from our activities as we have arranged events in the Middle East and Africa,” he said.
The Kazakh government is gaining knowledge about how to manage food security on the government level, how to deal with new technologies, how to develop multi sectoral activities, and how to develop multilateral activities in the humanitarian field through the IOFS platform.
“One of our pillars is related to food trade and investment. We are also working with the Kazakh Invest and QazTrade national companies. We have our subsidiary established under the Astana International Financial Center – the International Islamic Food Processing Association, where there are 18 Honorary Members as sectoral Food Unions. We also have corporate members from more than 12 big companies working on attracting investment into the IOFS agro and food market,” he added.
The institution was doing this fall an important step forward with the re-operationalizing of the International Islamic Food Processing Association in Dubai. This will bring investments to Kazakhstan from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
“These countries and the region are interested in working with Kazakhstan. Most of the countries in the Gulf region have food production limitations due to the climate specifics and hot seasons. They are not self-sufficient in food. More than 80 percent, in some cases, even 90 percent of food they import from outside. We expect that Kazakhstan can be established as a food hub for those countries,” Director General said.
The IOFS is also developing a pilot project on the livestock ecosystem in Kazakhstan to promote sustainable and long-term contracts with primary farmers. The project aims to bring a long term and strategic attitude to addressing meat supply concerns, noted Baidaulet. “We did a detailed feasibility study for the sheep farming fund. We introduce a model which systemizes the whole food supply chain inside the country. We together with agriscientists are looking for new breeds of sheep to support our farmers. We can also assist in food logistics issues as we agreed with Qatar Airways to be our main cargo partner for our deliveries not only for Kazakhstan, but for all intra-OIC food markets.”
This year, the Fifth General Assembly will take place in Tunisia on Oct. 10-11. It is expected that Kazakhstan will hand over its presidency to Tunisia.
“Our strategy implementation will be one of the topics on the agenda. We are proud to conclude that 2022 consequently is a successful year. We observe an increased interest from our member countries. And we have more stakeholders including scientists, researchers, youth, and business people. It is already observed that the IOFS is the most active one among all OIC institutions. This is recognized by our partners during our meetings, and we would like to increase and activate our profile, become more actively integrated with the interests of all member countries,” he said.