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.”
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.
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
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.
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.”
The Oxford Energy Forum has just published a special issue on Green Growth in the MENA.
It has articles on renewable energies, climate change policies, regulatory frameworks, economic diversification and suggests a reform of fuel subsidies. I have contributed and article on the water-energy-food nexus in the MENA.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com 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.
The report The Impact of Food Price Volatility and Food Inflation on Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries that CIDOB did in October 2014 for the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), can be downloaded here.
El Pais, Spain’s largest daily newspaper, has published an article of mine about “The Myth of Climate and Water Wars in the Middle East“ (in Spanish).
Like our earlier article in Footnote1 it argues that water scarcity and climate change are serious issues, but that primary reasons for unrest in the Middle East can be found in its political economy.
The climate and water war narratives might be intuitively appealing but they are not convincing in comparison. The environment is not an external category that would transform itself mechanically into sociopolitical outcomes.