The potential of small-scale rainfed agriculture to strengthen food security in Arab countries
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In most Arab countries, domestic agricultural production is insufficient. The gap between production and demand is likely to increase due to climate change and other factors. This review paper examines the challenges and possible solutions to ensuring food security in the future. It focuses on rainfed agriculture, which accounts for two-thirds of the region’s cropland, the bulk of its food staples, and almost all its rangelands. Given the scarcity of water and arable land, there are few opportunities in the region to expand cultivated area. But numerous effective, proven technologies are available that can increase productivity per unit area of land or volume of water. Crop technologies include, for example, new stress-tolerant varieties, supplemental irrigation and other techniques to increase water productivity, and conservation agriculture and other land management methods. Livestock nutrition and productivity could be increased with new forage or dual-purpose varieties, and greater use of alternative feed sources such as feed blocks made from crop by-products. The paper describes some of these technologies, and summarizes results obtained from on-station and on-farm testing. The key issue is poor adoption of available technologies. The priority for researchers and policy makers must therefore be to scale up investments in research and extension; encourage private sector participation; and create enabling policies to encourage technology adoption, market participation and more sustainable use of natural resources, by smallholder farmers.