What Challenges Are Facing Food Security in the MENA?

Published April 5th, 2021 - 03:30 GMT
food security
The highest overall food security performance within the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) in 2019 was 81.2 percent in Qatar. (Shutterstock: xuanhuongho)

As with many other aspects of life, the pandemic has uncovered a number of cases that need crucial and immediate handling by governments and stakeholders, including the need for a comprehensive plan to achieve food security in our region.

Due to the scarcity of resources in the Middle East, the region's countries have for decades been dependant on food imports from the rest of the world. However, the 2020 crisis that featured border closures for extended periods of time across the world, has highlighted the critical need for new policies that put food security amongst its priorities.

Realizing its time for Middle Eastern countries to start producing food rather than just consuming products made by other nations, more and more governments are now crafting strategic plans that aim to help them secure their needs for food over the coming decades, so they avoid the uncertainty we lived through during the first few months of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Yet, strategists exploring the different options through which Arab countries can achieve food security are constantly facing a number of tough challenges, ones that require a lot of work to overcome;

1. Water scarcity

According to CNN, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the world's most water-scarce region, which makes it hard for agricultural efforts to grow fruitful crops across the 7 million km2.

2. Arid lands

Out of the massive territory referred to as the MENA region, only 33% of the land is fertile enough for agriculture, according to World Bank data between 2015-2018.

3. Growing populations

The Middle East has the second-highest rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa in terms of population growth. By 2050, the region's population is expected to double during the next 50 years, which means that plans to reach food security are already overwhelmed with an extremely high growth rate of consumers.

4. Climate Change

In addition to already harsh weather conditions in many of the region's areas, especially that large parts of it are recognized as deserted areas, climate change has been largely draining the region's resources and natural scene, and consequently the agricultural capacity in the region.

Climate change has been quite evident in extreme cold and heat waves experienced throughout the year, besides flash floods that have been hitting many countries over the last few years.

5. Conflicts

Unfortunately, the MENA region has been experiencing a number of militant conflicts that have disrupted peace across its many communities for decades. These conflicts have also been interrupting long-term plans whether we are talking about food manufacturing factories or agriculture and irrigation.

Meanwhile, the region has a number of advantages as well,  that make it possible for its plans to come true, including the abundance of financial aid, thanks to huge parts of it being rich in oil and natural gas, in addition to the growing number of people who can be employed in agricultural and the food manufacturing sectors much needed for the region's ability to achieve food security.

What other challenges are facing our attempts to reach a high level of food security in the Middle East?

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