The Middle East confronts global food shocks with innovative agricultural systems

The Middle East is facing a food security crisis. (Photo by Adobe)

The World Bank (WB) stresses the need to invest and increase growth rates in "green" jobs, writes Ahmad Abdel-Rahman.

A recent report revealed that the unprecedented shocks to the global food system in the past few years have severely affected the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This region is a food importer. It has also been severely affected by climate change, especially water scarcity, and is highly vulnerable to global market shocks. These have disrupted supply chains, pushed food prices to record levels, and led to a food insecurity crisis. Farmers have been among the hardest hit, threatening a long-term impact on their health and livelihoods.

The WB explained that it quickly responded to these needs by providing nearly USD1 billion for emergency programmes in MENA that support those facing food insecurity. It noted that a top priority is to build agricultural and food systems that are resilient to shocks.

The WB stressed the need to invest and work on many fronts and sectors, from climate-smart agriculture, removing distortions in food markets, and reforming support systems. The bank also emphasised reliance on financial markets to ensure addressing climate risks, disasters and water management, leading to the development of agricultural industries and increasing growth rates in green jobs.

Conflicts have exacerbated the crisis in Yemen

The WB says it is a committed partner to countries and people driving this transformation, especially Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, and Egypt. Farmers in Yemen are finding innovative ways to produce food for themselves and their communities despite the many obstacles they face.

The WB's approach in Yemen includes providing immediate help and assistance to the population, such as cash transfers and food aid, as well as longer-term investments to build resilient services and systems, such as agricultural production. Since 2016, the WB has provided more than USD3.7 billion in International Development Association (IDA) grants to help improve the living conditions of people in Yemen, as part of partnerships with UN agencies and local institutions.

Strengthening food system capacity in Jordan

In Jordan, the WB is providing support and taking a multi-pronged approach to strengthen the resilience of its food system to shocks. This includes new investments in climate-smart agricultural production to create jobs, and building the capacity of a new generation of farmers and professionals to lead water-efficient and climate-resilient farming methods.

An example of this ongoing work is the "Strengthening Agriculture Sector Resilience, Value Chain Development and Innovation" project, known as "My Land". This project was launched in early 2023 to provide financing to about 30,000 farming families, with the aim of implementing climate-smart agricultural practices.

This project is expected to provide about 12,000 job opportunities, especially for women and youth, and includes the types of activities that the project will support.

The repercussions of climate change are worsening in Morocco

As for Morocco, there is large agricultural land that has been severely affected by climate change, and successive droughts, along with unexpected severe storms, have accelerated the pace of adopting new methods of agriculture and water resource management. The WB supports Morocco, through a group of programmes, to address the challenges it faces, through three projects and programmes, namely the "Program for Strengthening Agricultural Food Value Chains, the Green Generation" project using the "Program for Results financing instrument, and the "Resilient and Sustainable Water Resources Management in Agriculture" project.

All of these projects work to encourage investment in the agri-food sector, create additional job opportunities, especially for young people, increase incomes in rural areas, and increase the added value of this sector. This is in addition to developing agricultural food exports and increasing resilience in the face of many crises.

Different procedures in Egypt

In Egypt, building resilience to shocks requires action at different stages of the food production chain. The Egyptian government has taken a multi-pronged approach by improving and expanding grain storage capacity. This will help reduce waste in the food production system and ensure the continued availability of wheat on a regular basis, especially in the face of external shocks.

The WB's "Emergency Food Security and Resilience Support project "comes within the framework of these efforts to expand and renovate food grain silos in Egypt. "The Assiut Silo" in Upper Egypt is the first silo to be expanded within the framework of this project, which includes raising the efficiency and expanding seven silos and building two new silos. In the Assiut silo, the storage capacity will increase from the current level of 60,000 tons of grain, to 100,000 tons annually.

Bread is indispensable in Egypt, so the WB's food security project supports bread subsidy programmes that provide bread to about 70 million low-income Egyptians on an ongoing basis.

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Friday, 19 April 2024