13 July 2006

Serb Farmers Participate in United Nations Pilot Project for Reducing Danube Pollution

VIENNA 13 July (UN Information Service) -- Farmers in rural Vojvodina, Serbia, are being successfully trained by the United Nations to reduce pollution in demonstration projects aimed at helping farmers in seven Danube River Basin countries.

All eight demonstration farms have livestock production including pigs, cows and chickens, and crop production such as maize, sunflower and barley. Poor farming practices are a main source of nutrient and toxic pollution seeping into local water bodies that lead to the Danube and Black Sea. Bad practices include the poor storage of manure and slurry (liquids with high solid concentrations) from livestock, manure and slurry distribution onto farm fields, the poor protection of chemical storage facilities and faulty application of pesticides.

The Vojvodina farms are representative of farming practices in Serbia and six other Danube countries participating in the project where agriculture is both a key economic sector and pollution source. The other countries are Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine.

To help reduce pollution, the project, financed by the United Nations Development Programme-Global Environment Facility (UNDP-GEF) Danube Regional Project (DRP) and implemented by Danish company Carl Bro, is training farmers in applying best agricultural practices (BAPs). To date, project successes include the training of farmers and farming advisory services in fertilizer planning, and designing and constructing manure storage and slurry tanks.

The project is trying to raise finances from the state and private sectors, to construct manure stores and slurry tanks and purchase equipment. A campaign has informed local and national Serb media at seminars and demonstration sites. Recently, farmers and journalists were flown to an international farming fair in Denmark to learn about the latest advances in BAPs.

Besides providing environmental advantages, farmers also benefit economically from BAPs through reduced expenditures on fertilizers and pesticides, more cost-effective farming practices and the improved quality of their products.

Project partner organizations in each of the seven countries have developed national plans for disseminating results and transferring know-how from the Vojvodina farms to farmers, farming advisory services and local authorities through trainings, publications and media relations.

"More such projects are needed to increase the understanding, and support the application, of BAPs in the Danube countries," said Slobodan Milosevic, Project Team Leader.

Pollution problems

Nutrients and pesticides threaten human health and the environment. For example, nitrates, a type of nutrient, have been linked to infant poisoning. Most Danube countries appear to be at high risk of groundwater pollution from nutrients, on which 48 million people in the Danube Basin depend for drinking water. Danube countries risk failing to meet European Union water protection legislation by 2015, especially as nutrient and pesticide levels could rise with more intensive farming in the future. Danube pollution has also played a role in creating a severe ecological imbalance in the Black Sea - many wild species have been impacted.


The UNDP-GEF Danube Regional Project (DRP)

The DRP helps 11 Danube countries and the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR) to implement the Danube River Protection Convention, primarily through reducing nutrient and toxic pollution and strengthening trans-boundary cooperation in the most international river basin in the world.

Implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the DRP is part of the US$95 million GEF Strategic Partnership for Nutrient Reduction in the Danube/Black Sea Basin, one of GEF's largest and perhaps most ambitious water-related projects in the world. The GEF Partnership supports the goals of the Commissions for the Danube and Black Sea to reduce nutrient and toxic loads to levels necessary to allow Black Sea ecosystems to recover to 1960s conditions.

The above agricultural project was contracted to Carl Bro a/s of Denmark in partnership with the Danish Agricultural Advisory Service. A new project office opened in Belgrade on 1 October, 2005.


For further information, contact:

Paul Csagoly
Communications Specialist
Tel: ++43 1 26060 4722
Mobile: ++43 1 664 561 2192
Email: paul.csagoly@unvienna.org
Vienna International Centre, D0419,
P.O Box 500, a-1400 Vienna, Austria

Slobodan Milosevic
Local Team Leader, UNDP-GEF DRP Agriculture Project
Resavska 35, 10000
Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro
Tel :++381 11 32 32 322
Mobile : ++381 63 245 865