Middle East and North Africa

Water and agriculture

Middle East and North Africa - Dimensions of food security

MENA is the most water-constrained region in the world, and water scarcity is likely to worsen sharply by 2050. Decreased water availability limits agricultural potential and leads to competition between water use in agriculture (which uses up to 90 percent of all water), industrial use, and use for human consumption. The Nile Basin, for example, is spread over 10 countries that are fraught with poverty, and water allocation issues may increase instability and conflict in the future.

Many MENA countries are pursuing an unsustainable development course to economic growth which overuses water resources. According to IFPRI’s IMPACT model, most MENA countries will struggle with severe water scarcity by 2050. These extreme water shortages, along with high economic growth projections for the region, mean that most MENA countries can be classified under “high water stress and high economic growth.” Some of the demand for water therefore must be met from carefully selected, economically efficient development of new water sources, and use of non-traditional sources, such as treated wastewater and desalinized saltwater. The agricultural sector must improve its water use efficiency (“more crop per drop”) to maintain current production levels. Making the public sector more efficient, devolving more responsibility to farmer groups, and instituting greater involvement of the private sector are other broad institutional approaches to improving water use efficiency and productivity.