FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa
©FAO/Rosetta Messori

During its last session in February 2014, the FAO Regional Conference for the Near East (NERC 32) identified water scarcity; resilience for food and nutrition security; and small scale agriculture; as the regional priorities of the Organization for the period 2014-2017.

Three Regional Initiatives will address all issues related to these three crucial themes. A new corporate monitoring and evaluation framework will assess impact and results of the initiatives at both regional and country levels, and will help in the definition of priority areas of FAO work in future biennia.

Regional perspectives

Countries in the Near East and North Africa region face numerous common challenges to achieving improved food security, nutrition and inclusive agricultural development. This is due to persistently high rates of population growth, averaging over 2.2 percent for the whole region, increasing urbanization, low growth in food production and declining productivity.  

Increasingly scarce and fragile natural resources are affecting food production which is quite low in the region. Due to its structurally high level of water scarcity and aridity, the region’s agricultural production will significantly suffer from the negative impacts of climate change.

Limitations in the supply of food make the region a large and growing importer of basic foodstuffs. This heightens its vulnerability to hikes and volatility in international food prices.

In addition to the long standing structural challenges to food security, several countries in the region remain under civil insecurity and many others are facing protracted crisis. In those countries, chronic under-nutrition is significantly increasing, greatly affecting capacities of member states to eradicate food insecurity and malnutrition. 

©FAO/O. Argenti

Food loss and waste in NENA are estimated at up to 250kg per person and over $60 billion USD annually. The social, economic, and environmental impacts are serious for a region which relies heavily on global food imports, has limited potential to increase food production, and faces scarcity of water and arable land. Reducing food losses and waste is vital for sustainable food systems and regional food security.


The cost of malnutrition to the human capital and the economy in terms of lost productivity and health care expenditure is staggering. It is for this reason that many countries in the Near East and North Africa are increasingly investing to reduce levels of malnutrition in both its forms: under- and over-nutrition.

©FAO/Aris Mihich

Because the NENA region is naturally exposed to chronic shortages of water, member states may soon face the most severe intensification of water scarcity in its history. Countries in the region need to plan water resources allocation strategically and move to ensure that water, food security and energy policies are in line with the imperative of making the best use of every single drop of water.


©FAO/Ami Vitale

With high annual population growth rates, increasingly scarce natural resources, swelling urbanization and slow growth in domestic food production, the gap between aggregate consumption and production of food in NENA countries is likely to continue to widen. This situation has recently being compounded by the incidence of natural hazards, conflicts and protracted crisis, which have been the main driving factors of food insecurity in 2012-2014.

©FAO/Farooq Naeem

Despite its social, economic and ecological importance, small-scale agriculture is not prioritized within the policy making agendas of the Near East and North Africa countries. Through farm and off-farm employment, small-scale agriculture is the major source of income in many rural areas in NENA and holds the potential of improving the livelihood of thousands of rural families that rely on agriculture for their survival.


Capture fisheries and aquaculture provide not only an important source of protein for communities in the region, but are also a key source of livelihood for small-scale fishers along the coasts and inland waterways. This is in addition to those whose livelihoods are involved in the processing and marketing of fish and fish products.

©FAO/Farooq Naeem

In recent times, food safety treats and  transboundary animal diseases (TADs) have caused major disruptions to the trade of foods and  live animals in the region. These diseases can spread rapidly, irrespective of national borders with serious consequences on human health. It is for this reason that TADs have become through the years a top priority for policy makers in the region.