In the Turkish Cypriot community of northern Cyprus, farming is an important part of the local economy and a way of life for those working on the more than 10,000 farms that occupy 60% of the land area. Yet due to the complex political situation, the region as a whole and the agriculture sector in particular are underdeveloped in comparison with the southern part of the island. The Farm Advisory Services (FAS) programme represents one component of a larger EU effort to promote rural development and help farmers sell into the highly regulated European market.
The broader EU aid programme to the Turkish Cypriot community emphasises integrating the island’s disparate halves economically as well as bringing the communities closer together. As a part of this effort, on an annual basis the EU has made significant grant funding available to help farmers make improvements to equipment and processes. Furthermore, efforts have been made to provide technical and training support to improve quality standards and disseminate best practices, including the establishment of FAS.
Yet despite these programmes, many of the farmers have had great difficulty accessing EU funding, and few have taken advantage of the support on offer. Beginning in 2016, NIRAS was contracted to provide technical assistance to the FAS, formulating a new strategy to increase outreach to farmers and facilitate access to the untapped EU grant funding. The new strategy was tested in a pilot phase. By more closely aligning relevant stakeholders and reaching out directly to farmers though the establishment of FAS field stations around the region, hundreds of consultations on technical advice and funding have been provided to farmers.
This past January, a new contract was awarded to NIRAS, and we have started to implement the programme on a larger scale for the coming two and a half years. Rooted in participatory techniques, the FAS project will invite farmers to engage on their own terms, and awareness raising will be a core component moving forward. The pilot scheme to help farmers register for EU funding was notably successful; as a result, FAS will expand its operations to bring even more farmers into the next round of funding. Those who are selected for funding will be guided in putting it to better use, normalising European standards in northern Cyprus while improving market access.
Moving forward, the EU sees this type of activity as crucial to preparing the Cypriot community for the implementation of EU laws and wider integration once a comprehensive political agreement is reached. By supporting the important agricultural sector to develop, the FAS programme will make a tangible impact in the individual lives of participants as well as working towards a more prosperous future for Cyprus as a whole.
Take a look at the video produced for the project: