New Article: Food Security in Iraq

The academic journal Food Security has just published the following article of mine. It can be accessed here (read only):

Food security in Iraq: results from quantitative and qualitative surveys

Abstract:

Iraq’s food security has been profoundly affected by its oil-based economy, over three decades of conflict and its politics that have been shaped by authoritarian rentierism. The article outlines the political economy of food security in Iraq and how it has been shaped historically. It identifies various conditioning factors such as oil, conflict, environment, agricultural development strategies and institutional setups, such as the Public Distribution System (PDS), the world’s largest public food program. It then disentangles these factors in an analysis of data from Gallup, Iraq Body Count and various international organizations to give an appreciation of the Iraqi food security situation since the end of the Saddam regime. Finally, it takes a look at views of Iraqi experts on current food security issues in Iraq, using the results of an online survey that was conducted from May–October 2015 among 152 Iraqi experts from academia, ministries and NGOs. Iraqis overwhelmingly identify political instability and bad governance as major challenges to food security; it is unlikely that mere technocratic policy prescriptions can improve food security in the absence of political stability and improved governance.

Keywords: Food security Agriculture/ Iraq/ Middle East/ Authoritarianism/ Isis

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

***

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.

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.”

 

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.

 

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.”

Food Security of Refugees in Iraq and Syria and the EU

I have just returned from traveling in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and CIDOB has published a short brief of mine on the Iraqi and Syrian refugee situation and implications for the EU.

Currently there are 4 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries and 7.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) within the country. This is half of the entire population and almost a fifth of the global refugee population.

Iraq now has 3.2 million IDPs, mostly from the ISIS provinces Anbar and Ninewa and 250,000 refugees from northern Syria. Beyond IDPs and refugees there are non-displaced Iraqis who suffer hardship, pushing the total tally of people who are in need of humanitarian assistance to 8.2 million.

The food security situation is challenging in both countries. IDPs and refugees engage in negative coping mechanisms like eating less and cheaper, spending savings, incurring debt and selling assets. As these strategies are reaching their limits the inclination to move on towards Europe is growing.

Refugees and IDPs constitute a considerable pressure on domestic services and resources in Iraq, at a time when oil price declines have led to budget shortfalls. Besides, there are security concerns and sectarian prejudice. Meanwhile assistance programs of the World Food Programme are severely underfunded. It is high time for the EU tho step in and fund emergency relief in the region, otherwise the refugee crisis will get worse.

Call For Papers: Africa, Latin America and the “Asian Century”

OCP Policy Center and CIDOB invite the submission of papers that explore Reconfiguration of the Global South: Africa, Latin America and the “Asian Century”.

The conference will be held in Barcelona on 27-29 January 2016. For the full call for papers click here.

Proposals should be submitted electronically to ewoertz@cidob.org and lilia.rizk@ocppc.ma no later than 30 October 2015.

Papers can deal with a broad based variety of topics that explore the mutual relationship and the positioning of the two continents in the emerging “Asian Century”, such as:

– Rise of emerging markets countries and what it means for an increasingly multilateral international system.
– New geopolitical constructions of the Global South: Asian vs. Western interests in Africa and Latin America.
– Theoretical approaches to democratization, transition and development.
– Trade and investment relations.
– Domestic growth strategies and development cooperation, particularly in infrastructure financing, energy, environmental preservation, agriculture and food security.
– Port cities and their role in facilitating exchange between the two continents.
– Maritime security and hard security issues.
– Free trade areas and regional association agreements.
– Migrant communities and cultural relations.
– Sustainable management of cities.