Tackling food and water insecurity at the microcosm
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region finds itself at a critical juncture, grappling with food insecurity, water scarcity, and the impacts of climate change. The region's struggles are most acute at the microcosm level – the individual farmers and herders who form an important sector of society.
1. On this front of the battle against climate change lies an opportunity for regional stakeholders to consider that more efforts directed at this sector shall serve not only as ideal ground where the latest Agritech and hydrotech solutions are further deployed, refined, and spread across the region, but also as a kind of incubator for an entrepreneurial ecosystem where ideas experiments and modules of regional collaboration can be nurtured and developed.
2. Regional and international private and public sector stakeholders can achieve regional-specific models for partnerships, knowledge sharing, and investment in research and development by engaging in substantive dialogue and discussion. This collaborative effort should accommodate the needs of local communities, small-scale farmers, and both the public and private sectors. It is crucial to discuss the potential role of other solutions, such as sustainable farming practices, conservation agriculture, and even agroforestry, to provide a more comprehensive approach to addressing the issues in the MENA region at this level. It is also important to note that any proposed solutions should be tailored to the unique social, economic, and environmental factors of the region.
3. The MENA region is home to a wealth of renowned expertise in the fields of Agritech and hydrotech. Non- governmental organizations, research institutions, and private sector actors especially could further their efforts to bring the regional experts together, facilitating their dialogue, harnessing their knowledge, and sourcing their insights, thus fostering a culture of dialogue and knowledge sharing that is sustainable. By doing so, stakeholders can develop innovative solutions that address the specific challenges facing the region in this sector. Promoting sustainable farming practices, improving access to affordable inputs and technologies, and investing in research and development to support the adoption of new technologies are some examples of potential solutions. Through collaboration and partnership, it is possible to create a more sustainable and equitable agricultural and irrigation sector in the MENA region that benefits all stakeholders, including small-scale farmers and local communities.
4. These micro-level efforts could become the most strategic theatre in coupling the fight against climate change with the quest for Mena regional collaboration and balance. By fostering and promoting cutting-edge Agritech and hydrotech solutions, the region can address the water-food nexus in a manner that matches its importance. This approach, driven by small-scale, incremental regional collaboration on this sector, can be the rehearsal ground for larger-scale regional collaboration and initiatives.
5. The MENA region has a rich history of resilience, with narratives spanning millennia of cataclysms, migrations, and conflicts, balanced by periods of abundance. Despite these challenges, the region has historically remained mostly self-sufficient, with many of its lands serving as 'granaries' for various empires. Yet, the contemporary issues of food insecurity and water scarcity pose pressing challenges, requiring a serious re-prioritization and a bottom-up approach.
6. The individual farmer's level provides an ideal stage to initiate small-scale regional cooperative efforts aimed at addressing food and water insecurity. These can offer valuable lessons for larger-scale initiatives. The concerning situations in areas such as the Sahel/G5 region and the Horn of Africa underscores the necessity for this rethinking of priorities especially for the Private sector. The importance of a bottom-up approach and its potential to complement top-down efforts cannot be overstated.
7. Several regional states have invested heavily, achieving commendable successes in their agricultural sectors, particularly at the national project level. These investments spanned from infrastructure to the many tributaries of the agricultural sector reaching the individual farmer.The pace of climate change, combined with recent natural disasters, highlights the pressing need to bridge the gap between the limits of many a states' logistical and financial tether and further vital needs .
8. The spread and use of technology at the individual farmer level reminiscent of the epochs of the region's richest layers of civilization, could hold the key. Evolutions in regional farming and sharing technologies have for centuries staved off dire Malthusian predictions and are vital for sustainable development, increased productivity, and food security in the face of limited resources, poor infrastructure, political instability, and coordination challenges among stakeholders.
9. As with the first water lifting devices and planting techniques used from the fertile crescent to the Shores of the Atlantic, Agritech today requires constant innovation and disseminating technology in farming, like the development of drought-resistant crops, precision agriculture techniques, and efficient irrigation systems. Hydrotech, plays a significant role along with Agritech, focusing on enhancing water management and conservation efforts through the use of innovative technologies. These technologies need to be further integrated into the lives of farmers and herders as they have for millennia from the shadouf to advanced drip irrigation.
Conclusion 10. Coordination within, and between the public and private sectors is paramount to foster the development and deployment of these solutions in the MENA region. It can be facilitated through a substance of dialogue developing into more partnerships, knowledge sharing, and investment in research and development. Involvement of local communities, particularly small-scale farmers, ensures that the solutions developed meet their needs and are sustainable in the long-term.
11. Historically, the cumulative results of a number of private sector investment patterns in Africa provide valuable insights into the intricate connection and delicate balance between investment models, environmental factors, and conflict. The recent example of Cabo Del Gado in Mozambique could be a clarion call for the private sector, and a stark lesson amongst others in the Sahel, the Niger delta and many a private sector venture in Africa that over the decades has neglected comprehensive small scale field based specific approaches.
12. The MENA region’s resilience will be tested by significant challenges related to food insecurity, water scarcity, and climate change. Strategic investments in Agritech and hydrotech at the individual farmer level can serve as the rehearsal ground for larger, cooperative strategies. This approach can strengthen resilience, increase productivity, and secure food and water resources. The region’s challenges are complex and require a nuanced approach. By taking stock of the yields in adjacent regions and harnessing this theatre as a common non partisan base for uncovering avenues in working together, the public and private sectors can make a significant difference and a stronger, more resilient MENA geopolitical structure could evolve.