The region8 comprises low and middle-income countries stretching from Iran to Morocco (see Map). The region supports a population of 296m people, over 120m of whom live in rural areas. Of these, about 84m are dependent on agriculture - including fishing and livestock. The region covers an area of 1100m ha and includes a diversity of environments. However, arid and semiarid areas with low and variable rainfall predominate. Moderately humid zones account for less than 10 percent of the land area but nearly half of the agricultural population, while the drier areas account for nearly 90 percent of the land area but less than 30 percent of the population. Rainfed crops are grown during the wetter winter period, while irrigated areas are cultivated year round. The main rainfed crops are wheat, barley, legumes, olives, grapes, fruit and vegetables. Livestock, mainly sheep and goats, are an important feature of many farming systems. A high proportion of poor households consists of farmers or pastoralists who depend on agriculture as a primary food and livelihood source.
Eight major farming systems have been identified and broadly delimited, based on a range of criteria discussed in the first Chapter. They are listed in Table 3.1 and their geographical location is indicated in the Map. The most important of these systems from the perspective of population, poverty and potential for growth are briefly described below.
Irrigated Farming System. The system contains both large and small-scale irrigation schemes. The large-scale subsystem contains a total population of 80m and an agricultural population of 16m. It encompasses 8.1m ha of cultivated land that is almost totally irrigated and schemes are found across all zones. They include high-value cash and export cropping and intensive vegetable and fruit cropping. The small-scale irrigation subsystem also occurs widely across the region and although not as important in terms of population, it is a significant element in the survival of many people in arid and remote mountain areas. Owner-occupiers or tenants typically farm very small units - from 0.02 to 1 ha - often within an area of larger, rainfed systems. Major crops are mixed cereals, fodder and vegetables. The prevalence of poverty within both subsystems is moderate.
Highland Mixed Farming System. This system is the most important in the region in terms of population - with 27m engaged in agriculture - but contains only 7 percent of the land area. Out of a total area of 74m ha, cultivated area covers 22m ha, with nearly 5m ha irrigated. There are two subsystems; one dominated by rainfed cereal and legumes plus tree crops (fruits and olives) on terraces, while the second is based on livestock (mostly sheep) on communally managed lands. Poverty is extensive, as markets are often distant, infrastructure is poorly developed and the degradation of natural resources is a serious problem.
Rainfed Mixed Farming System. The system has an agricultural population of 16m, but occupies only 2 percent of the regional land area, resulting in high population densities. Cultivated area is 14m ha, including tree crops and vines, with 8m cattle. Supplementary winter irrigation is now used on 0.6m ha of wheat and on summer cash crops. More humid areas are characterized by tree crops (olives and fruit), melons and grapes. There is some dry-season grazing of sheep migrating from the steppe areas. Poverty is moderate, but would be higher without extensive off-farm income from seasonal labour migration.
Dryland Mixed Farming System. The system is found in dry subhumid areas and contains an agricultural population of 13m people with 17m ha of cultivated land. Population density tends to be lower than in the other main cultivated systems and average farm sizes are larger. The main rainfed cereals are barley and wheat, grown in a rotation involving an annual or two-year fallow. The risk of drought is high and considerable food insecurity exists. Livestock, including 6m cattle and a greater number of small ruminants, interact strongly with the cropping and fodder system. Poverty is extensive among small farmers.
|Table 3.1 Major Farming Systems of Middle East and North Africa|
|Farming Systems||Land Area
(% of region)
(% of region)
|Irrigated||2||17||Fruits, vegetables, cash crops|
|Highland Mixed||7||30||Cereals, legumes, sheep, off-farm work|
|Rainfed Mixed||2||18||Tree crops, cereals, legumes, off-farm work|
|Dryland Mixed||4||14||Cereals, sheep, off-farm work|
|Pastoral||23||9||Sheep, goats, barley, off-farm work|
|Sparse (Arid)||62||5||Camels, sheep, off-farm work|
|Coastal Artisanal Fishing||1||1||Fishing, off-farm work|
|Urban Based||<1||6||Horticulture, poultry, off-farm work|
Source: FAO data and knowledge.
The most significant trend over the past 30 years has been accelerating urbanization and the consequent growth of cities. This trend is likely to continue, resulting in rapidly rising demand for water and food - particularly cereals and livestock products. During the period 2000-2030, the population of the region is projected to almost double from its present 296m. This could have a considerable negative impact in areas with fragile or vulnerable soils and sloping land, and will certainly be of importance for water resources everywhere. Although there is limited scope for further expansion, cultivated land use will increase to 82 percent of total potential. However, the newly cultivated land will often be seriously constrained by climate, slope or poor soils. During 2000-2030, the total irrigated area is forecast to grow by 20 percent. This will bring total irrigated area to a level equal to 77 percent of all land with irrigation potential. Overall irrigation water requirements are expected to grow by 14 percent and efficiency of water use is estimated to reach 65 percent. The overall total of 6 percent projected growth in calorie consumption is low, but the region will still achieve an average daily intake of 3170 kcal by 2030; comfortably exceeding the developing world average of 3020 kcal.
The priority roles of the State are to develop vital infrastructure (roads, water supplies, services, power systems) and to regulate resource use and foster markets for increasingly scarce resources - notably water. Greater devolution and subregional disburse-ment of resources appear to be essential, together with greater participation in the development of collective stakeholder responsibility for management and protection of land, water and grazing resources. This requires the strengthening of local institutions and community empowerment, plus the development of more constructive partnerships between the private sector, major donors and the State. Legislation and regulation is needed to control the grazing pressure on drylands and uplands. These actions should be linked to: the elimination of import subsidies, particularly for grains used for intensive livestock production; the establishment of producer marketing groups; and the formation of action research groups.
Irrigated systems, unlike many others, offer the possibility for greater diversification, intercropping and tree or crop intensification. A further area for investment is the diversification and shift to water-saving cropping patterns. This requires rapid development and access by farmers to micro-water distribution systems that are currently used only by a relatively small group of commercial farmers. New systems of cropping sequences, inter-cropping and in-season management need to be explored by proactive farmer-researcher groups. The introduction of conservation agriculture techniques, equipment and strategies that make better use of labour, soil and water resources are also of the highest importance in the region.
Despite the oil-based wealth of some countries of the region, agricultural production and water resources are still vital to the livelihoods of many farming families. Prospects for reducing agricultural poverty and adhering to the current international goals in this respect are fairly good. For the region as a whole, exit from agriculture is the most important of the available household strategies for reducing poverty and food insecurity, followed by increased off-farm income. Among on-farm household improvement strategies, diversification and intensifi-cation are of equal importance, following closely behind off-farm income in the overall ranking. Increased farm size appears to be of minor importance overall.
Two major groups continue to be excluded from most development initiatives: poorer farmers in dryland areas and pastoralists. There are many threats to the stability and sustainability of natural resource based systems and additional pressure has resulted from weak or inappropriate food policies, which have supported low urban prices at the expense of poorer farmers and livestock herders. Nonetheless, lessons have been learned and there has been a gradual acceptance of the need to re-orientate development towards the elimination of poverty, based upon sustainable resource use. Five broad strategic initiatives are proposed:
Sustainable resource management. Natural resources need to be conserved, through improved watershed management in hill and mountain areas, soil conservation in sloping lands and improved range management in pastoral areas. Components include: strengthening local resource-user groups; better management practices; and improved long-term policies.
Improved irrigation management. Increased efficiency in irrigation water management is essential to support the intensification and diversification of production and to reduce resource depletion. Components include: schemes based on both surface and underground water technology; and adjustments to water charges and other regulatory measures.
Re-oriented agricultural services. The re-orientation of agricultural research systems to fully involve farmers will underpin intensification in the Irrigated and Rainfed Mixed Systems and enterprise diversification in all systems. Components include: extension services based on a variety of public and private service providers; and greater support for rural agribusinesses to create off-farm employment for farmers.
Revitalized agricultural education systems. New approaches to science and higher education learning systems are particularly important in the training of agriculturalists who will work in both the public and private sectors. Components include: the adoption of the significant advances in interdisciplinary learning and systemic thinking which have played such an important role in agricultural education elsewhere in the world.
Rationalized agricultural policies. Policies need to re-orientate development towards the elimination of poverty based upon sustainable resource use. Components include: eliminating subsidies for the importation of cheap grains, as well as other forms of support for low urban prices at the expense of poorer farmers and pastoralists.
8 See Annex for a list of countries in the region. Turkey is not considered to be part of this system, being included within the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region.