Food security and economic development in the Middle East and North Africa: current state and future perspectives
A rapidly changing world combined with mounting domestic challenges is prompting many Middle East and North African (MENA) countries to initiate economic and social reforms. This paper uses the concept of food security to identify the region’s challenges along four major themes: economic growth and incomes, trade and infrastructure, agriculture and water, and health and education.
The authors figure that taking immediate action regarding the persistent challenges in the region is more urgent in light of the recent, global food, fuel, and financial crisis and projected severe impacts of climate change.
The paper states that fostering development and achieving food security will require:
- economic growth and diversification
- breaking the strong vulnerability to international food price volatility
- managing climate change adaptation effectively
- transforming social policies to target the poor
- empowering women to play a more active role in the society
The paper suggests utilising successful countries’ experiences and concludes with a list of priority research areas to identify key actions to be taken on regional, national and sub-national levels:
- analysing returns to different types of investment in both agriculture and non-agriculture can help identify the allocation of resources in terms of growth, food security, and poverty reduction
- research on emergency response to crises and natural disasters in fragile states will be important for MENA countries, in many of which flooding and other disasters have become more frequent recently
- research can help find ways to effectively deal with climate change risks in the region, and can also identify the right mix of adaptation and migration strategies
- research can help find ways to improve water management, as well as evaluate and design programs to overcome nutrition deficiencies
- research can help assess the impacts of trade agreements on food security and poverty