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
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 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.
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.
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.”