Conference: Crisis and Conflict in the Agrarian World

Conference: Crisis and Conflict in the Agrarian World: An Evolving Dialectic

March 2-3, 2017
Sciences Po, Paris

Organized in collaboration with the American University of Beirut (AUB)
and the Barcelona Center for International Affairs (CIDOB)

Chaired by Eckart Woertz, scientific advisor of the Kuwait Chair at Sciences Po

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Agriculture and food security are globally affected by crises and rural communities are among the worst affected by various forms of conflicts. On the other hand there are agricultural and rural drivers of crisis and conflict (including competition over natural, water, and land resources). This is particularly pertinent in many regions of the developing world such as the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Crisis and conflict affect the human and natural agricultural landscapes and shape social and gender relations. Appropriate strategies to rehabilitate agriculture during and following crisis or conflict are crucial in making livelihoods more resilient and rebuilding societies after periods of crisis and conflict.

Against this backdrop, the Kuwait Chair at Sciences Po invites to an academic conference on the topic of “Crisis and Conflict in the Agrarian World: An Evolving Dialectic,” in cooperation with the American University of Beirut and CIDOB, the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs.

Article: Agriculture and Development in the Wake of the Arab Spring

Article of mine on Agriculture and Development in the Wake of the Arab Spring in special issue of International Development Policy on economic aspects of the Arab Spring.

Abstract:

This paper analyses the role of agriculture in the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It outlines agriculture’s relative contribution to development and employment, shows linkages with food security policies, and discusses possible future scenarios. Agriculture’s role in the economies of MENA is limited nowadays, but its contribution to employment is still substantial. In many countries it is at the heart of the region’s water crisis as it withdraws about 80 per cent of water resources. Agricultural constituencies have played an important role in sociopolitical transformations of the region. Populist regimes tried to win them over—as support base—with land reforms enacted in the 1950s and 1960s. Since the 1980s these earlier reforms have been pushed back and the sector has been liberalised under bureaucratic-authoritarian reform coalitions. In other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, extensive production subsidies have been maintained. The MENA region is the largest cereal importer in the world and its governments regard this dependency as a strategic liability. However, the quest for self-sufficiency has proven to be elusive in the light of natural constraints and population growth. The major challenge in MENA is not macro food security or lack of calories, but deficiencies of micronutrients such as vitamins and iron and a lack of accessible food for the poor. Hence, inclusive growth, rural livelihood strategies, and political participation will be crucial for food security in MENA.

Review of Oil for Food

The Graduate Association for Food Studies has published a review of my Oil for Food book, saying that

“The extremely well-researched book takes a historical and political economic approach to examine food security in Gulf countries at a regional and national level. […] This book adds to the dearth of food-focused books about the Middle East. It does an excellent job of connecting disparate strains of political and economic policies, organizations, and actions into a coherent narrative. Despite the book’s focus on larger government-instituted policies, it does not fail to recognize the importance of more local desires of people near and on agro-investment lands in developing countries. The book also provides valuable insight into the historical and psychological reasons for a fear of food insecurity in the Gulf.”

 

Nexus article in Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy

Martin Keulertz, Jeanie Sowers, Rabi Mohtar and I have just published an article on the The Water-Energy-Food Nexus in Arid Regions: The Politics of Problemsheds in the Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy.

Abstract:

Systems of producing, consuming, and distributing water, energy, and food involve trade-offs that are rarely explicitly considered by firms and policymakers. The idea of the water-energy-food “nexus” represents an attempt to formalize these trade-offs into decision-making processes. Multinational food and beverage firms operating in arid regions were early promoters of nexus approaches, followed by aid donors, consultancies, and international institutions seeking a new paradigm for resource management and development planning. The first generation of nexus research focused on quantitative input-output modeling to empirically demonstrate interdependencies and options for optimizing resource management. This chapter employs a different approach, analyzing institutional “problemsheds” that shape the implementation of nexus initiatives in arid regions of the United States, the Persian/Arabian Gulf, and China. Our analysis reveals how nexus approaches are conditioned by property rights regimes, economic growth strategies based on resource extraction, and the ability to externalize environmental costs to other regions and states.

Keywords: Water-energy-food nexus, resource management, development, arid regions, China, United States, Persian/Arabian Gulf

 

Call for Papers: Agriculture and Conflict

The Kuwait Chair at Sciences Po invites to an academic conference on the topic of Crisis and Conflict in the Agrarian World: An Evolving Dialectic, in cooperation with the American University of Beirut and CIDOB, the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs. The conference will be held on 1-3 March 2017 in Paris.

Conference proceedings will be published towards the end of 2017 in an edited volume of CABI Publishers, a leading academic publisher on development, agriculture, food security and health issues.

The organizers invite abstracts or preferably detailed proposals with a short CV and list of publications. They should be submitted electronically to Eckart Woertz eckart.woertz@sciencespo.fr and Rachel Anne Bahn rb89@aub.edu.lb until 30 November 2016. Authors of selected papers will be notified by 2 December 2016 and should submit their papers by 1 February 2017.

The papers should have a length of 7,000 words and represent original research not presented or published elsewhere. All costs for travel and accommodation will be covered according to Sciences Po travel policy.

Texts can deal with a variety of crises and their impact on agriculture and food security, such as politically-driven violence and dispute, as well as crises stemming from natural disasters or other phenomena (earthquake/tsunami, drought, flooding, climate change, and disease epidemics). Case studies will explore the relationship between agriculture and conflict/crisis before, during, and after crisis periods.

Beside cross cutting and methodological explorations on topics like political ecology, gender, health, climate change, land grabs or ethnography we are interested in case studies of specific countries, particularly from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.
We look forward to receiving your abstracts or proposals.

Further details about the call for papers you can find here: http://www.sciencespo.fr/psia/sites/sciencespo.fr.psia/files/Call_for_Papers_Agriculture_and_Conflict_2017.pdf

Agriculture as ISIS Funding Source

The academic journal Food Policy has published an article by Hadi Jaafar and myself about

“Agriculture as a Funding Source of ISIS: A GIS and remote sensing analysis”

The article is open access and can be downloaded here:

Highlights:

– Recurrent taxation of agriculture is a crucial income source for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) as extractive and non-recurrent income streams such as oil, ransom and confiscations show signs of dwindling

– ISIS has sustained agricultural production of rainfed winter crops (wheat and barley) despite the impact of conflict. Only irrigated summer crops (cotton) have suffered extensively

– We estimate that in 2015 ISIS might have derived income of $56 million from wheat and barley taxation alone. Additionally there is taxation further down the value chain of food processing and distribution

– The total value of estimated 2.45 million tons of wheat production in 2015 roughly equalled the annualized value of ISIS oil production during its height in late 2014 and early 2015

– Population in ISIS territory likely did not exceed 4 million in 2015, much lower than figures reported in the media of 8 million and more

– Iraq and Syria were wheat net-importers before the war; ISIS is not. It has an exportable surplus which it likely smuggles into the subsidized Iraqi food distribution system or to Turkey where prices are higher

– Agriculture in ISIS territory lives on bought time as supply chains for quality seeds and other input factors are disrupted. Food security and agriculture would need to have high priority in any post-ISIS reconstruction effort

Abstract

Agriculture is an important source of income for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), which currently rules over large parts of the breadbaskets of the two countries. It has received limited attention compared to other sources of ISIS revenues such as oil, looting, ransom, foreign donations and various forms of taxation. We estimate winter crops production of wheat and barley in ISIS-controlled areas in both Syria and Iraq for the years 2014-2015 and irrigated summer crops production (cotton) in Northeast Syria. We show that remote sensing can give a credible estimation of agricultural production in the absence of statistics. With evidence from MODIS Aqua and Terra Satellites as well as Landsat imagery, we find that agricultural production in ISIS-controlled Syrian and Iraqi zones has been sustained in 2014 and 2015, despite the detrimental impact of conflict. After a drought in 2014 production was able to capitalize on improved rainfalls in 2015. First indications show that the winter grain harvest of 2016 in Iraqi territories of ISIS was significantly above pre-conflict mean and below pre-conflict mean in its Syrian territories. We also show how water flows along the Euphrates have impacted production. We estimate the revenue that ISIS can derive from wheat and barley production and the likely magnitude of an exportable surplus. Agricultural production gives the group a degree of resilience, although its economy is not sustainable in the longer run and could be affected by military collapse. Taxation of recurrent income streams such as agriculture will become more important for ISIS as its extractive sources of revenues show signs of dwindling. Beside non-grain food imports, agricultural production is crucial for its political legitimacy by ensuring food provision to the broader population. Food security considerations would require a high priority in any post-ISIS reconstruction effort and would need to include the rehabilitation of supply chains for agricultural inputs such as quality seeds and fertilizers.

 

Study on EU Energy Diplomacy

We have just published a study for the EU Parliament on the EU’s Energy Diplomacy: Transatlantic and Foreign Policy Implications.

The study deals with the potential of transatlantic energy cooperation in the wake of the US shale revolution, but also shows the persistent importance of MENA countries, and the Gulf in particular. Beside shared European interests there can be divergent strategies  depending on energy mixes, geographical location and policy preferences.

As the study was finished a month ago it also includes the UK, a non-European island in the Atlantic Ocean whose name I am still too annoyed and flabbergasted to spell out in full….

Abstract:

Energy security is increasingly occupying a top spot on the EU’s foreign policy agenda. The unconventional oil and gas revolution, OPEC’s supply response, increased global Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) trade, persistent concerns about the reliability of Russian gas supplies and the need to expand low carbon energies such as renewables to address climate change pose opportunities and challenges to European energy security. The EU has upgraded the issue with its flagship Energy Union communication and its EU Energy Diplomacy Action Plan. The United States has developed into a major exporter of Natural Gas Liquids and refined petroleum products as a result of its unconventional oil and gas revolution. It might develop export capacities for LNG and continues to be a major coal exporter. The mutual energy trade could expand if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) were concluded successfully. The United States is also a crucial partner of the EU for transport security and the protection of critical energy infrastructure. Against this backdrop, this study analyses opportunities and challenges of transatlantic energy cooperation in a changing global energy landscape.

Jadaliyya Articles on Oil for Food

Jadalliya, a leading webportal about Middle East issues, has published an article of mine on the Geopolitics of Gulf Food Imports that gives an updated summary of my book in light of recent publications about MENA food trade relations with tropical countries, the Water-Energy-Food Nexus in MENA countries and the role of states in international agro investments.

Jadaliyya has also featured my Oil for Food book in their New Texts Out Now (NEWTON) section.

For the Catalan speakers, here is an article of mine in Ara on low oil prices and Saudi Arabia’s regional role.

MENA Food Trade Relations and Tropical Countries

The academic journal Food Security has just published a special section about MENA Food Trade Relations with Tropical Countries. It contains papers from a conference in Barcelona that was organized in January 2015 by CIDOB and the OCP Policy Center.

The introduction with a short description of all papers is open access and can be accessed here.

“The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is not only the largest oil exporter of the world, it is also its largest food importer. This import dependence will grow, given limited water and land resources on the supply side and population growth and more diversified diets on the demand side. In contrast to earlier food regimes, an increasing share of the MENA’s staple food imports such as corn, soybeans, palm oil, poultry, rice and sugar comes from tropical countries such as Brazil and Indonesia, where dramatic agricultural expansion has taken place. Other tropical regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa have looked to emulate such agricultural experiences, which are often based on large-scale and input intensive farming models. While such expansion processes have increased trade options of major importers such as the MENA, China and Japan, they have also had questionable ecological and socio-economic implications in the respective tropical countries.

Against this backdrop Eckart Woertz and Martin Keulertz set the scene in the opening article by analyzing food trade patterns of the MENA and the relative importance that tropical countries play in MENA food supplies. Their trade contribution has changed over different food regimes and now encompasses staple foods such as corn, rice and soybeans beside classical tropical export commodities. Woertz and Keulertz also discuss agricultural investment flows from the MENA to the tropics, associated political and socio-economic issues, a pronounced implementation gap of such investments and how they relate to MENA food security strategies. One of their conclusions is that food trading houses, storage strategies and brownfield investments in developed agro markets are more important as a trend than the widely publicized intention to acquire land in greenfield projects in developing countries.”