Report: Arab World Faces Serious Poverty, Food & Security Problems

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  1. JStone
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    Arab World Faces Serious Poverty, Food Security Challenges :bow3:

    A new report says Arab countries face a serious food security challenge and that poverty rates are much higher than official numbers suggest. It blames the situation on vulnerability to volatile food prices, natural disasters and water scarcity.

    “In general, we know way too little about the food security and poverty in the Arab world and that has several reasons. And one of the major reasons is that the access and availability to data is really limited,” said Clemens Breisinger, an IFPRI research fellow and lead author of the report.

    “The first message of that report is essentially the poverty and food security situation may be much worse than suggested by official numbers. And the kind of policy implication out of this is [that] in the wake of the Arab awakening and the whole drive for more transparency, a major issue to tackle is also data availability and access in order to improve decision making and information of the people,” he said.

    Breisinger said the Arab world has a number of factors that make it distinct from other regions.

    “Number one, it’s the most food import dependent region in the world. It imports more than 50 percent of its food consumption and is by far the highest [such rate] in the world. At the same time, agriculture potential is somewhat limited. That is severely constrained mainly by water and exacerbated by climate change,” said Breisinger.

    Adding to that is a high population growth rate, second only to sub-Saharan Africa. So consumer demand puts a strain on food supplies.

    “Given the supply constraints – more demand no matter what – they will further drift apart. So the food gap will increase, which obviously increases the vulnerability of that region to global food price shocks – the ones that we saw in 2008 and to some extent in 2010,” he said.

    The IFPRI report also raised concerns about high child “under nutrition” rates. Breisinger described children as the most vulnerable segment in society, while at the same time being society’s greatest asset.

    “If children are malnourished at any time between zero and 5 years, that actually has long-term implications. Reduces their IQ, their productivity and thus overall the prospects for the country,” he said.

    The report said Egypt has seen an increase in child “under nourishment” over the past 8 years.” A very high prevalence of child “under nutrition” rates is reported in such countries as Sudan, Somalia, Comoros and Yemen.

    It says, often, not enough of the household income is spent on food, saying in Yemen, for example, 25 percent is spent on Khat. U.S. narcotic experts say chewing Khat leaves “can induce a state of euphoria and elation, as well as increase alertness and arousal.”

    The International Food Policy Research Institute recommended that Arab countries collect better data on their populations regarding poverty and food security. It also says greater emphasis should be placed on creating jobs by increasing exports other than oil. Finally, it says government spending on agriculture, education, health, infrastructure and social protection is “most critical.”

    Arab World Faces Serious Poverty, Food Security Challenges
     
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    It was a follow-up to an interview colleague Maggie Schmitt and I did with the Minister of Agriculture, Mohammad Al-Agha. In consultation with dozens of international and local NGOs, the Gaza Ministry has drawn up an impressive “ten-year plan” aimed at reducing Gaza’s dependence on imported Israeli produce, incorporating organic farming on a wider scale, and generally “helping Gaza help itself” through a return to more sustainable agricultural practices (such as relying more on rain-fed crops rather than cash cropping for export which involves wasteful amounts of water and an abundance of pesticides, and is subject to the whim of Israeli authorities and their punitive border closure).

    In another section of this vast empty expanse is the “fruit garden”: carefully landscaped donums of a variety of fruit trees, marked with signs by each row, such as mangoes, citrus, apples, and stone fruits. Gaza now relies heavily on imported fruits from Israel, as tens of thousands of its own trees were razed to the ground during the second Intifada, and most recently during Cast Lead.

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    Gaza Mom » Gaza; settlements; Israel; Hamas; agriculture

    I'm glad to see that someone is doing something about that.
     
  3. JStone
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    Historian Sir Martin Gilbert, Official Biographer of Winston Churchill
    Eminent Islamic Scholar and Middle East Historian Bernard Lewis
     

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