New Regional Views
Turning sandy-deserts green
As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and awaits vaccines, we shift our focus this week to analyse the agriculture sector in the MENA.
The Global Network Against Food Crisis, an alliance of UN and partner agencies, forecasts that COVID-19 may lead to over 265 million people suffering from a food crisis. While we do not expect such insecurity to hit the MENA region this year, the high dependence on food imports due to the region’s environmental challenges and fast-growing population, along with decades of conflict and negligence, suggests the region may be vulnerable to a food crisis in the long-term.
We analyse the region’s large food import bill, and discuss alternative options that can be accelerated by governments. Using Qatar as a case study, which has been pushed by the boycott to self-sustain its agriculture sector, we find the use of agriculture technology or agritech is critical for the region. In recent years, we have seen certain GCC states and Egypt increasing their use of advanced technologies in farming. We expect further efforts to be directed to this new sector, with others in the region joining the space. It is needed now more than ever, given the region’s vulnerability to external shocks and the pandemic.