FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Addressing climate change in agrifood systems

Climate projections estimate that the NENA region will become hotter, drier and more vulnerable to extreme events. Higher temperatures and reduced precipitation will increase the occurrence of drought. Densely populated low-lying coastal areas in Egypt, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates are particularly at risk from rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion into agricultural land. 

Agriculture contributes 14 percent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) (excluding the oil-rich countries) and employs 38 percent of the economically active population. These sectors will be particularly exposed to climate change, with crop and livestock production projected to decline under all climate change scenarios. This threatens food security, and exacerbates water scarcity and land degradation. Fisheries and aquaculture resources are also at risk from changing temperature and salinity conditions in the Arabian and Mediterranean Seas and along the coasts. 

Based on the latest FAO nationally determined contributions (NDCs) NENA analysis, adaptation strategies prioritized by NENA countries range from land and soil conservation and the deployment of drought- and heat-resistant crop and livestock varieties, to measures improving livelihood resilience of smallholder and vulnerable populations. Countries are also exploring the mitigation potential of agricultural practices, such as improved feeding and breeding practices, reducing food loss and waste, and implementing water-energy-food (WEF) nexus solutions across agrifood chains. 

Addressing climate change requires taking action across the agrifood system, including agricultural supply chains, for example minimizing food loss and waste in a region where imports of food are among the highest in the world. Taking account of virtual water use in imports of food and agricultural inputs is also important to reflect the true cost of water. 

Adopting climate-smart agriculture approaches and land and water resources management practices are considered necessary adaptation practices for agriculture and livelihoods in the region. As for mitigation measures, enhancing carbon sinks through afforestation, reforestation and sustainable forest management, livestock-specific mitigation and integrated crop-livestock-fisheries & aquaculture strategies are considered the most important in the region.

FAO works to combat climate change and its impacts in the NENA region

FAO provides technical guidance, data, and tools to implement adaptation and mitigation actions for the agriculture sectors and create synergies between the two, towards countries’ achievement of national climate goals. 

FAO provides technical and implementation support to climate finance projects, including Green Climate Fund (GCF), readiness, and Global Environment Facility (GEF) projects. 

These projects support the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, climate-resilient, low emissions and sustainable agrifood systems to achieve the (SDGs), in particular, SDG2 and SDG13.

  • The NENA region is among the most affected by climate change in the world, with temperature increases of 1.7-3 °C expected in most areas and up to 5 °C in some inland areas. 
  • The areas particularly vulnerable to water stress include the Nile Valley, the southwestern Arabian Peninsula and the northern Horn of Africa. 
  • 80 percent of NENA countries project food insecurity and malnutrition under climate change, particularly amongst small-scale farmer and pastoralist communities. 
  • Rainfed and irrigated agricultural areas (which cover 22 percent of the region’s surface area) and livestock production (practiced in 33 percent of the region) will suffer moderate to high vulnerability to climate change, with at least 20 percent declines in production expected. 
  • Although water, salinization and productivity losses are adaptation priorities, funding for water and sanitation and agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sectors is 5 to 7 times lower than for energy, transport, storage, industry and banking/finance.