Pathways Towards Food Security in the Arab Region

Pathways Towards Food Security in the Arab Region

An Assessment of Wheat Availability You do not have access to this content

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03 Jan 2017
9789210600996 (PDF)

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This study includes a review of the various regional initiatives that relate to wheat in order to reflect the results of the assessment of wheat availability into useful regional policy directions that can help the region to enhance wheat availability. The outcome of the review coupled with the results of the assessment can shed light on the pathways that Arab countries, collectively or individually, can follow to secure higher wheat availability levels and, as such, contribute to enhanced food security for their populations.

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  • Introduction

    Food and nutrition are important to humans, given that they are major determinants of their health status and hence of their ability to carry out various social, economic and physical activities that impact their lives. Seen from this angle, it is apparent that food and nutrition go well beyond the issues of fighting hunger and famine. Over the years, policymakers and development planners have moved towards the concept of food security, culminating with the organization of the World Food Summit in 1996 under the aegis of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Food security was defined and later refined so as to be understood as a situation “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Viewed as a multidimensional developmental issue, food security has moved to the top of the international development agenda.

  • Wheat and food security in the Arab region

    Wheat is an important agricultural commodity in the Arab region. It is widely cultivated and is the most traded crop in the region. It also plays a major role in ensuring food security given that it is a major source of calories and proteins and that millions of people depend on it for their livelihood. However, degrading and depleting natural resources, namely, land and water, combined with the potential impacts of climate change are major risk factors that threaten sustainable production. At the same time, the high population growth and rapidly changing lifestyles and diets are leading to growing demand for wheat. This increasing demand for wheat is not only an Arab phenomenon; rather it is a worldwide occurrence indicating, therefore, that ensuring wheat availability will remain at the top of the regional agenda for the foreseeable future.

  • Methodologies to measure food security

    The current definition of food security at the international level has evolved from a narrow focus on volume and stability of food supply in the mid-1970s, with discussions at that time focusing on assuring the availability and to some extent stability in the price of basic foodstuff. The 1974 World Food Summit defined food security as “availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices”. The discussions in the subsequent two decades introduced an economic element to access food and thus made a distinction between chronic food insecurity, related to poverty, and transient food security, associated with natural disasters, conflicts or economic downturn. By the mid-1990s, the concept of food security was transformed to include concerns of malnutrition, food safety and preferences. The 1994 Human Development Report introduced the concept of human security, which included food security as one of its pillars. Subsequently, the 1996 World Food Summit adopted an updated definition of food security that reflects the ongoing discussions and states that food security at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels is achieved when “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. As such, food insecurity is the state when people do not have adequate physical or economic access to food.

  • Estimating wheat security in the Arab region
  • Wheat within regional initiatives on food security

    As the population in Arab countries grows the concern of not being able to accommodate for its dietary needs also grows. Arab governments of food insecure countries are in a dire need to find a solution to this challenge, particularly in the light of the recent (and in some cases ongoing) Arab uprisings that were demanding proper food among other services and reforms. It is argued, for instance, that the conflict in Syrian Arab Republic was triggered by many factors, including the long drought over the period 2006-2011 which limited the availability of water and productive land resources for adequate food production. In Egypt, it was reported that during the protests of 2011, demonstrators were chanting for “bread, freedom, and social justice”. Some Arab countries are presently trying to tackle corruption, starting social and economic reforms and embarking on development projects as preventive measures against social unrest in their countries. Fighting hunger and closing the food gap as measures to achieve food security are usually among the priority socio-economic development goals of many Arab countries.

  • Policy options for enhanced wheat security in the Arab region
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