A special lecture was held at the American University of Beirut on 23 April 2018 highlighting the importance of Food Security issues in the Middle East.
The title of the lecture is “Food Security in the Middle East: The Role of the Private Sector”.
Currently, sustainability in food supply in Middle Eastern countries is unattainable. Local production provides only a small proportion of the food required for consumption due to scarcity of water. Saudi Arabia stopped buying wheat from local farmers and has imported 100% of its wheat reserves since 2016.
Food security in the Middle East is not only about food. It is all about security: chronic hunger threatens individuals, governments, societies and borders.
The Arab States have started to find more alternatives in the area of sustainability in meeting their requirements for food security, economic growth and alleviation of poverty, where new policies and programmes aiming at conservation and sustainable development are being implemented. One example of this is Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.
Food Security means that food is available at all times; that all persons have means of access to it; that it is nutritionally adequate in terms of quantity, quality, and variety; and that it is acceptable within the given culture.
One of the factors in achieving food security is Social Agriculture, which can be defined as an arrangement or strategy that provides village farmers (both men and women) with access to appropriate innovations and linkages to achieve economic profitability while fostering environmental sustainability.
The aims and objectives of Social Agriculture are:
- The short-term addressing of a specific agricultural challenge in a given village in Lebanon that would result in significant benefit to the village;
- To introduce sustainable agricultural development practices to promote income and a healthy lifestyle for farmers in the rural areas to promote economic growth, alleviate poverty and enhance food security
- The long-term goal is to incorporate the sustainable strategic social agriculture programme as part of the donations that Saudi Arabia give to other countries. According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) report in 2015, “Saudi Arabia has given Arab nations SR85 billion ($22.7 billion) in direct aid over 40 months”.
The special lecture will be presented by Dr Turki Faisal Al Rasheed, Chairman of Golden Grass, Inc. and Adjunct Professor at the University of Arizona Department of Agricultural and Bio-systems engineering. Dr Al Rasheed is also the author of a book entitled “Agricultural Development Strategies: The Saudi Experience”.
This lecture would not be possible without the support of His Excellency the Saudi Arabia Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Al Bukhari, American University of Beirut President Fadlo R. Khuri, Rabi Mohtar and Martin Keulertz.
One of Dr Rasheed’s missions is to help impoverished families in the villages to uplift their standard of living through sustainable social agriculture.
The main goal of the special lecture is to educate and implement sustainable strategic social agriculture in the villages of Lebanon. The proposal is to work with the villages to identify their most significant challenge such that, when addressed with a rather simple solution at a relatively low cost and over a moderate period of time, they will see a significant beneficial impact.
The multi-functionality of sustainable strategic social agriculture can:
- Encourage a focus on environmental concerns and climate change (e.g. use of organic fertilizer and greenhouse low in CO2 emissions).
- Increase the use of renewable water sources.
- Bring about rehabilitation, therapy, sheltered work, life-long education and other activities that contribute to social inclusion.
- Empower rural communities to protect themselves from the devastating health, environmental and economic impacts.
- Improve nutrition and decrease micronutrient deficiencies due to a diet based on a more diversified selection of horticultural crops for a healthy lifestyle.
Overall, through sustainable strategic social agriculture the benefits can help prevent the depopulation of the rural areas, alleviate poverty, provide opportunities for employment in the agricultural villages, and enable villagers to have a healthy lifestyle and standard of living, education and training, and health services.
The Saudi Arabia embassy in Lebanon, and other GCC states and the American University of Beirut with help attain the principal goals, which necessitates assuming a leading position not only in the education and research but also in community service and in innovation and development in support of the national economy.
The special lecture will be attended by selected stakeholders of the region, which includes the GCC dignitaries, ministers and students as well as representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and the agriculture industry, among others.
- Food security in the Middle East is not only about food. It is all about security: chronic hunger threatens individuals, governments, societies and borders.
- Achieving food security in the Arb world requires capable and effective government.
- Food security is the political aspect of agricultural development.
- Central governments must not give all the priority to urban areas but must balance this with rural development.
- There is an urgent need to monitor the extent, nature and impacts of international investments and to catalogue best practices in law and policy to better inform both host and investing countries.
- Governments are concerned that, as population growth increases, high unemployment, environmental degradation, and reductions in arable land combined with effects of urbanization, economic growth and food security may emerge as one of the key issues of this century.
- Collaboration between the American University of Beirut and Saudi universities and the University of Arizona and other international institutions.