Yemen Observer: http://www.yobserver.com
Written By: Mohammed al-Kibsi
Article Date: Jun 1, 2010 - 11:47:19 AM
Arab countries face a real food security dilemma that makes them subjected to international pressure and to the monopoly of the essential needs of their population that is estimated at 335mn and is projected to reach some 545mn by the year 2030. According to the Arab agricultural organization Arab countries need to invest some $144bn in agriculture over the next 20 years to meet the food demands of the growing population.
Tareq al-Zadjali, Director General of the Arab Organization for Agriculture Development, said much of the funding for agricultural expansion needs to be secured from private Arab investors.
“We have an annual food security gap of between $27bn and $29bn,” he told The Media Line. “We want to reduce this gap.”
The organization is working on a program that will increase food security, with a focus on wheat, rice, sugar and oil.
“We need to invest in both outside Arab regions and inside, with a priority given inside to countries that have a potential of natural resources and have capital, so we can produce and have a certain high level of self sufficiency,” al-Zadjali said.
However Mylene Kherallah, regional economist for the Near East and North Africa division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), argued that the main challenge facing the region in terms of food security is water scarcity.
“The Arab world is one of the driest regions in the world and it will be difficult to be self sufficient on food production,” she told The Media Line. “The region has to use water more efficiently, yield more crop for the drop and rely more stably and consistently on the international and regional market to satisfy the Arab food security because it will be very difficult for the Arabs to produce crops on their own. They have to do both.”
“I think that we need a two-, three- or four-pronged approach. They need to rely on the international market as well as on regional co-operation, so that there is a regional cereal reserve. The Arab world also needs to increase agricultural productivity in the region, and there’s a lot of room for that. Countries are now using drip irrigation and growing crops that are more tolerant to drought and heat.”
Will the Arab countries realize this dilemma and really start funding agricultural projects in countries like Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria Lebanon and Syria that are famous of being agricultural countries through history.
This will not only insure food security for the Arab countries, it will also help in providing jobs and in solving economic and social problems of the poorest countries and consequently reflect itself in insuring security and stability for the Arab rich countries that receives millions of jobless people from the poor Arab states.
In the past few weeks torrential rains swept most of Yemen’s provinces and floods gone uselessly to the desert. Many citizens and analysts wondered why the government does not established dams and reservoirs to contain these huge quantities of water that will go to evaporate in the deserts.
In the 90’s of last century when oil was explored for the first time in the eastern parts of Yemen it was announced that a giant underground river of water was discovered in al-Masilah and that this river extends from the southern part of the country to the farthest north of the country.
Investing in establishing dams and reservoirs in some parts of Yemen and in establishing agricultural projects in Hadramout, al-Maharah, Shabwah, Marib and al-Houdeidah and in other coastal parts of Yemen will make benefits for both investors and Yemeni people.
In the 70s of last century an Egyptian professor came out with a brilliant giant project for erecting barriers in the Red Sea that would generate huge electricity power that could supply the whole Middle East with power and at the same time use part of this power for purifying the Red Sea water to irrigate all coastal areas in the countries at the two sides of the Red Sea, including Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt.
However the files of this giant project were neglected and forgotten as a result of the absent of an Arab clear vision of coordination and integrity.