?Water scarcity and land degradation are arguably the most critical challenges facing the Near East and the North Africa region today. Food security, agricultural development and improved livelihoods for rural communities depend on access to good quality land and water systems, which are severely lacking in many locations in the region.
FAO and Partners Convene the Near East and North Africa Land and Water Days in Jordan
Regional Cooperation is Key to Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in the Region
“Water scarcity and land degradation are arguably the most critical challenges facing the Near East and the North Africa region today. Food security, agricultural development and improved livelihoods for rural communities depend on access to good quality land and water systems, which are severely lacking in many locations in the region,” FAO Assistant General Director Abdessalam Ould Ahmed said today, opening the FAO Land and Water Days meeting in Amman. Over the past decades enormous efforts and investments have been mobilized by countries in the region to address water scarcity and land degradation, Dr. Ould Ahmed says “From Jordan to Egypt; Morocco to Tunisia, many of the solutions to the land and water issues are known – through success stories and the continued spread of good practices.
But more effort is needed to synthesize and spread this knowledge so it can be scaled-up to many more communities across the region. But having good technology is not enough,” he comments. Moving from research and technical solutions to application in farmers’ fields requires initiatives that encourage the synthesis and sharing of practical knowledge on land and water management.
This is the objective of FAO Land and Water Days, he explains. Effective land and water systems are critical for the food security of the region. Almost 90% of the land area is arid or semi-arid – with low rainfall, that is becoming more unpredictable with changing climate patterns. Further complicating the situation is the fact that most of these countries’ available water supply depends on trans-boundary rivers. “Integrated approaches are needed” says Steven Schonberger, lead operations officer, at the World Bank, “we cannot speak about water in isolation.
The increasing competition for scarce water resources in the Near East and North Africa highlights the importance of the food-water-energy nexus. This, combined with the new uncertainty of climate change brings a much more complex set of challenges for countries to manage.” According to ICARDA Director General, Mahmoud El Solh, water-scarce countries need to focus integration in their production systems.
“This requires the linking of several factors: natural resource management, improvement of crops and livestock and the in-depth understanding of the socio-economic aspects affecting resource-poor farmers. To be effective, these approaches need to be set in an enabling policy and institutional environment not only in their countries but also across the region”