By ABDUL HANNAN TAGO | ARAB NEWS STAFF
Published: Feb 26, 2012 01:45 Updated: Feb 26, 2012 01:45
Due to concerns about the scarcity of water, soaring food prices, population growth, high unemployment, environmental degradation and the dwindling of arable land, combined with the effects of urbanization, economic development and security concerns, the Saudi government introduced measures from self-sufficiency to deflationary policy in wheat production.
Saudi author Dr. Turki Faisal Al-Rasheed has just finished his book, “Agricultural Development Strategies: the Saudi Experience.”
The book sets out to demonstrate that these policies, which were aimed at ensuring food security, alleviating poverty, and promoting economic growth, were actually having a negative effect on many aspects of agriculture in Saudi Arabia, including the downsizing of huge farms; closure of smaller agricultural companies; and bankruptcy of some businesses trading in related areas such as agricultural machinery and animal health.
The research also seeks to develop a conceptual framework in which to understand the role of agriculture in achieving sustainable development in Saudi Arabia. “With the above in mind, I posed the following question: How do agricultural development strategies enhance food security, alleviate poverty, and promote economic growth in Saudi Arabia?” the author said.
His aim was to increase understanding of the overall role of agriculture in achieving sustainable development in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Rasheed research objectives were as follows: to analyze Saudi Arabian government policies regarding agricultural development strategies, to assess the impact and diversity of agricultural development strategies on different regions in Saudi Arabia, to investigate attitudes and opinions on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) within Saudi Arabia, to identify, investigate and formulate sustainable agriculture strategies in collaboration with key stakeholders within Saudi Arabia, and finally to develop a conceptual framework showing the link between agricultural strategies and sustainable development in Saudi Arabia.
In investigating his research question, the author wanted to understand the views of a varied section of Saudi Arabia’s population, from all the country’s 13 regions. The research approach he used was deductive, aligned to the positivism philosophy; and consisted of a questionnaire for gathering the primary data with secondary data gathered from a number of government agencies, including the Ministry of Economy and Planning, and their publications, such as the various Development Plans.
The questionnaire was distributed among 4,000 Saudi inhabitants divided in five categories, including military/personnel, decision-makers, businesspeople, professionals/academics, and farmers/agribusiness/sole dealerships/media/employees.
It comprised four main sections: sustainability, corporate social responsibility (CSR), stakeholder theory, and situational agricultural development strategies (ADS), with a fifth section asking for personal details such as the region where the respondent lived.
“By using quantitative analysis techniques, I hoped to gain a clear understanding of opinion regarding ADS, including what each region and sector required from government policy; feelings about the government’s policy of buying land abroad to grow crops for consumption in Saudi Arabia; the challenges inherent in producing a clear, workable ADS for the country; and what respondents felt — and understood — about corporate social responsibility,” he points out.
The Saudi author wanted to test his belief that it was important for the government to understand that, as Saudi Arabia is a country of many different terrains and climates, it was not possible to apply a “one size fits all” policy; rather, the government would need to come up with individual regional strategies based on an analysis of each area’s current situation and future needs. As such, he asked respondents to indicate their home region.
“I was able to extrapolate from their responses the best type of agriculture for each region (e.g., livestock, cereal crops, or vegetables), data which he hoped the government will use when planning their next ADS,” he observed.
The author’s research findings show the importance for the government to develop ADS in the following areas: developing water optimization schemes (such as encouraging less water use in areas such as vegetable greenhouses); establishing a national research and information center; developing individual regional strategies rather than a “one size fits all” national strategy; promoting foreign farm investment — which is beneficial both locally and internationally; using new technological innovation (such as center pivots and drip irrigation); setting up agencies for the marketing of agricultural products; providing government initiatives — such as subsidies for agricultural crops and livestock, and improving transport — to enable farmers to stay on the land and not migrate to the cities, where they are often unable to find employment; the need to take into account government and private organizations’ CSR and stakeholder interest for the development of ADS in Saudi Arabia.
According to Al-Rasheed, he wanted to show that the Saudi government had no clear policy understanding as to how their deflationary policies would affect the country at both the macro and micro level.
“I also wanted to inform the development of agricultural policies and strategies, for example, to enhance the role of agriculture by increasing economic welfare in areas such as employment, basic education, quality of life, and the preserving of natural resources.”
He also wanted to demonstrate the feasibility of successfully combining CSR with new developments in food technology production.
By doing this, he has contributed to the source of knowledge that policy makers and big business owners can draw on when deciding how best to tackle the issues of water optimization, food security, poverty, and ensuring economic growth in the different regions of Saudi Arabia.
It is suggested that further research on agricultural development strategies should be done per province of Saudi Arabia on the suitability of the agro-climatic environments.
More research is also required into e-government (training, distance learning, supervision), and on extension services, seed suitability, and the compatibility of Arab or Muslim or Asian countries with Saudi Arabia (i.e. Saudi Arabia invests capital, the host country produces the goods).