FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa
©FAO

Agriculture is the biggest user of the region’s increasingly scarce water resources and it fuels biodiversity loss as well as land and ecosystems degradation. With the adoption of innovative technologies, smart investments in Blue and Green Transformation, and supportive policy frameworks, it could however, become an engine of positive change in food systems, minimizing losses through the adoption of innovative and efficient production technologies as well as energy-efficient post-harvest chains. Conservation, restoration of land and aquatic ecosystems (including soil and forests), as well effectively managed capture fisheries can mitigate the impacts of climate change, while contributing to greener and more productive agri-food systems. 

Priority 3: Greening agriculture: addressing water scarcity and ensuring environmental sustainability and climate action

The scarcity and degradation of land, water and agrobiodiversity on land and in aquatic ecosystems are among the most important risks to food security, nutrition and the well-being of the region’s population. The pressure on natural resources and the environment are felt more strongly in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region than in other parts of the world.

NENA region is the world’s most water-insecure region with water scarcity growing and its quality deteriorating. Water resources are used beyond their replenishment capacity. Arable land constitutes less than 5 percent of the total land area in the region. Climate change will have severe impacts on parts of the region and will further increase vulnerability and exacerbate productivity losses and degradation of its natural resources.

The situation is not better in the aquatic environment, with 672 fish species that were threatened in 2018 and only 38 percent of stocks harvested at sustainable fishing level in the Mediterranean. Misuse of fertilizers and pesticides has led to pollution of water and land, and extreme pressures on natural resources have direct effects on biodiversity and adaptive capacity. Nearly 3 000 species are under threat, as the region’s small forest area is shrinking and its rangelands degrading.

The effective management of land, water and aquatic systems, forests, soils and other resources is necessary for addressing root causes and the environmental drivers of vulnerability and risks for food and nutrition security. The Greening Agriculture priority, in conjunction with the Blue Transformation of aquatic food systems, will help FAO support its member countries to address the region’s challenges, which disproportionately affect smallholder and vulnerable populations. Often countries lack the capacity to design and implement a coherent vision for sustainable use and protection of their natural resources.

The programme focuses on sustainable management of land and water, climate action, landscape restoration, and the sustainable management of fisheries and aquatic resources.

FAO interventions will aim at:

  • Protecting and restoring natural resources by raising awareness of their state and relation to provision of social benefits (e.g., food, income, ecosystem services)
  • Promoting valuation of ecosystem services and negative externalities (degradation of natural resources) in formulation of food system policies.
  • Tightening the tide on deforestation and encouraging afforestation/reforestation and biodiversity preservation and mainstreaming across agricultural sectors.
  • Implementing effective management of fisheries through a Blue Transformation of aquatic food systems.
  • Preventing over-grazing of rangelands.
  • Encouraging sustainable land management (SLM) practices that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • Promoting nature-based solutions such as integrated agriculture-aquaculture.
  • Promoting knowledge, awareness and action on climate change adaptation of the agriculture sectors and their mitigation potential.
  • Protecting and sustainably management of water resources through use of appropriate technologies and policies.
  • Promoting the use of non-conventional water resources.

These actions are in line with the goals of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), for the implementation of which FAO acts as a co-leader along with UNEP, aiming to step up efforts to tackle ecosystems degradation.