1. Regional Food Security: Fragile Before the Pandemic 2. COVID-19: Emerging Challenges for Food Security in the Arab Region 3.Food Security Vulnerabilities further Pressured by COVID-19 4.COVID-19 Impacts and Alternative Scenarios for Food Security 5.The Way Forward: Enhancing Food Security Resilience in the Wake of COVID-19 Shocks 6. Annexes, References


Vulnerabilities and Pathways

This report is a culmination of efforts by ESCWA and FAO regional office and departments at headquarters. The partners collaborated with other experts to assess and provide sound analyses, and to outline an appropriate course of action through an assessment of challenges and a simulation of the short- to medium-term food outlook towards 2030.

2020 was a challenging year, bringing human suffering to an unprecedented level socioeconomically but also health-wise. COVID-19, a novel infectious disease, spread fast and wide, distressing healthcare systems and unleashing one of the fastest and strongest recessions the world has witnessed in recent memory. In the Arab region, the pandemic added to many challenges that have prevailed for decades, including, among others, high population growth, conflicts and population displacements, poverty and unemployment, food insecurity and malnutrition, and high dependence on external food markets in an environment of growing scarcity of water and arable lands. How prepared was the region to address and adapt to these shocks, and what lessons have been learned?

Many Arab countries have recently been substantially tested by a range of crises, including sociopolitical unrest and armed conflicts, and devastating economic downturns, driven by falling oil prices and currency devaluations. These added to and worsened the impacts of earlier crises. The COVID-19 pandemic thus found fertile ground in exacerbating the many vulnerabilities of the region, notably those of its food system. People’s livelihoods and health were harmed, and State budgets were further weakened, challenging the capacity of many middle- and low-income countries to respond accordingly.

The food system of the Arab region is underpinned by regional and global trade in food and agricultural commodities, and thereby requires a sustainable, well-functioning food supply chain that generates incomes and builds livelihoods while preserving natural resources. The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures adopted to stem its spread upended the functioning of food markets. Constrained movements and food hoarding led to a temporary emptying of store shelves, while fresh foods were discarded as demand from restaurants and other institutional buyers decreased. This severely impacted food-related businesses, and led to a rise in unemployment, income losses and increased poverty.

This report sheds light on how COVID-19 has impacted food security in the region while highlighting the weaknesses and vulnerabilities underlying food systems and their high susceptibility to shocks. Simulations on the impact of COVID-19, along with projections of the outcome of market shocks, such as food price hikes, and the outcome of a significant cereal yield improvement were performed to outline key recommendations to enhance the resilience of food markets. The report also presents case studies on food security in Lebanon and Yemen. Throughout, the report provides options to respond to rising food insecurity, address the current status of food and nutrition, reduce vulnerabilities and respond to COVID-19, with a view to highlighting alternative ways to enhance resiliency to future shocks.

As such, the report is a useful reference as the region aims to build back better. It is the hope of our two organizations that its content and findings will help inform policymaking and programme planning, and assist countries to move more confidently towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 2, along with others supporting the achievement of food security.


Rola Dashti
Executive Secretary

Ruba Jaradat

Abdulhakim Elwaer
Assistant Director General Regional Representative - FAO Near East and North Africa Region


Food security is high on the agenda of Arab countries. The stability of food availability and access along with food quality and nutritional impact are of paramount importance. The four dimensions of food security – availability, access, utilization and stability1 – were agreed during the World Food Summit in 1996 and reaffirmed in the World Summit on Food Security in 2009. They are intrinsic to the definition of food security, which exists when “all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO, 1996 and 2009).

The most recent challenge to food security worldwide and in the Arab region, has been the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020, suggesting that the virus is present in a wide geographic area and affects a high proportion of the population. Given its ease of transmission and its potential to severely affect vulnerable people, countries have had to take drastic measures to save lives and curb its spread. Measures have included total or partial lockdowns, the closure of borders and the reduction of occupancy inside businesses, including food establishments. The tourism industry and related services, including hotels and airlines, have suffered substantial losses in income and employment.

1. Regional Food Security: Fragile Before the Pandemic


The prevalence of food insecurity, undernourishment and obesity is high in the region,

with 116 million people being food insecure and 43 million undernourished. Rates are much higher in countries in conflict. There are 115 million obese people, with obesity rates higher in GCC and middle-income countries;

Agricultural production and productivity are poor in several countries.

Wheat yield performance is low at only 50 per cent of potential in LDCs and conflict-affected countries. Agricultural expenditure in middle-income countries is low at 0.2 per cent, demonstrating the lack of investment in the sector;


The region faces challenges in obtaining food.

High and increasing poverty rates affect 29 per cent of the regional population, and almost half of people in conflict-affected countries and LDCs. Unemployment is high at 20 per cent for women, compared to 8 per cent for men, and 26.5 per cent for youth. Access to food is further constrained by high inflation reaching over 45 per cent in the LDCs. Food consumption expenditure is high at 31 per cent of income in the region compared to 22 per cent in the world on average. Expenditure is particularly onerous in conflict-affected and middle-income countries;

Food utilization for a healthy life is jeopardized,

with 40 per cent of people in LDCs lacking access to basic drinking water services and 60 per cent to sanitation services. The region suffers from a high prevalence of child stunting (22 per cent), wasting (8.2 per cent) and anaemia among women of reproductive age (35.5 per cent);


Regional political stability regressed from a ranking of 20 in 2010 to 16 in 2018,.

indicating that conflicts plague the region, with direct impacts on food security. Climate change hinders food production, reducing agricultural productivity by up to 21 per cent by 2018.

Recommendations for action

This regional review of food security before COVID-19 shows poor performance on undernourishment, FIES and obesity. Food security is likely to remain high on the policy agenda, given an urgent need to address identified food security gaps and challenges. Some key regional and national actions are offered here.

● Lower barriers on imports and exports, particularly within the region, to boost intraregional trade in food, and inputs for agriculture and food industries producing essential goods;

● Promote and engage in regional cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination around sustainable agricultural practices with the understanding that this will also lead to national coordination. There is a need to better coordinate agriculture, food security and water management strategies.

●Improve data collection, availability and dissemination to ensure evidence-based policymaking. National statistics offices need to be involved in data collection from the diverse public institutions involved in the food security system, including ministries, departments or institutions of finance, health, water, agriculture, trade and investment, along with other stakeholders including the private sector;

● Review the use of subsidies on food, in particular wheat and sugar. Ministries, departments or institutions of finance, health, agriculture and social development, among others, need to examine the best scenarios to ensure that subsidies target the most vulnerable and extend beyond wheat and sugar to other more nutritious foods, while reducing food waste and promoting healthier diets. Examples of potential measures include cash transfers, cash for food, food baskets or school meal programmes, among others;

● Refocus social safety net programmes to better cover the most vulnerable. Governments and the international community should work together to review eligibility criteria and enroll the most vulnerable to avoid extreme food insecurity situations. Social registries can play an important role in enhancing the effectiveness of safety net programmes;

● Implement initiatives and strategies to eliminate trans-fatty acids and reduce sugar, salt and saturated fat by taxing food and beverages such as sugar-sweetened drinks and highly processed food, among others. Provide incentives for increased consumption of fruits and vegetables for healthier diets. Ministries, departments or institutions of finance along with those involved in health and social development need to agree on steps to address obesity and its implications, coupled with measures to raise public awareness;

● Expand school feeding programmes by encouraging NGOs, the private sector and donors to support these in less privileged communities, including those with refugees and displaced people;

● Increase a focus on the links between food and health by:
• Developing public campaigns to communicate nutritional information along with the importance of physical activity;
• Including nutrition education in schools and media;
• Promoting local markets and better linking producers with consumers.

● Take climate change-related actions as follows:
• Establish disaster risk management units with clear strategies and operational guidelines to improve the resilience of food systems to climate-related shocks. Cooperation and coordination among different public institutions are crucial;
• Provide access to finance and insurance opportunities along with social protection opportunities for smallholder farmers in case of weather-related threats;
• Assess the impact of climate change on the agricultural supply chain by identifying vulnerable areas through various tools, including the FAO AquaCrop model, and take appropriate actions to build the resilience of rural communities;
• Integrate climate risk and priority adaptation actions for the agricultural sector in national adaptation plans so that climate change investments and financing can be directed towards resilient solutions for agriculture;
• Enhance youth knowledge and technical capacity in farming practices and the use of appropriate green technology in food-related enterprises.

2. COVID-19: Emerging Challenges for Food Security in the Arab Region


COVID-19 is a global pandemic projected to increase the number of hungry people globally by 83 million to 132 million

beyond the already 690 million hungry people in 2019. The pandemic hit the Arab region at a time of already critical sociopolitical, economic and food security challenges. It has further revealed weaknesses in food value chains and the high vulnerability stemming from heavy dependence on food imports;

In the early days of the pandemic, local agri-food production was impacted by restrictions on movement

which prevented farm workers from accessing fields, among other constraints. Import shortages, driven by international trade disruptions, increased prices of much needed inputs including livestock feed and veterinary products, especially in countries already facing economic challenges. Food hoarding and intensified demand in the early months of the pandemic put a strain on retailers;


While workers from various sectors were able to work from home, those in the vital food sector needed to continue working on the ground.

Urgent protective measures were required for farms, food processing industries, and wholesalers and retailers. Agriculture ended up being more resilient than many other economic sectors;

COVID-19’s impact on food access resulted from increased unemployment and poverty.

Regional unemployment is projected to reach 15 per cent by 2022; poverty rates are also expected to increase. Countries in conflict had the highest pre-COVID-19 poverty rates. These are anticipated to rise to as much as 56.5 per cent of the population in these countries, or 54 million people, in 2022;


COVID-19 challenges have particularly affected women, who already face higher unemployment rates than men.

It is expected that women will lose over 700,000 jobs, limiting their access to food. At the same time, women farmers’ contributions to maintaining food supply chains during the crisis and economic shutdown proved extremely valuable. Many women turned challenges into opportunities.

Recommendations for action

The impact of COVID-19 on the food sector is still unfolding, and uncertainty continues to be high. Countries need to assess the impact of the pandemic at the national and local levels to identify needed actions. The following key measures can strengthen the resilience of the sector, taking into consideration the critical role of coordination and cooperation in national actions to address food and health impacts. The national actions are categorized as short and medium term, while the regional actions focus on the medium term.

● Enhance the resilience of supply chains to pandemics through diversifying procurement channels for needed food commodities;

● Adopt trade facilitation mechanisms, including through expediting and scaling up digital technologies, such as the electronic exchange of sanitary and phytosanitary certificates, to reduce the time and costs of trade, which in turn can help boost food availability, and reduce food losses and waste;

● Support the public and private sectors in increasing food storage capacity at the national and subnational levels. Private and/or government institutions to establish national or subnational reserves that are linked to a centrally managed electronic system can provide better and faster national market information on available food stocks among different stakeholders, including governments, suppliers, distributors and vendors;

● Ensure the provision of social protection systems, including health systems, to support the most vulnerable people;

● Engage with different stakeholders in the design and implementation of shock response measures, including farmers’ groups, women, youth and other communities;

● Provide rapid targeted support to women in the agricultural/informal sector so they can contribute to maintaining food supply chains;

● Support women’s community centres to ensure they provide reproductive health services, and nutritional, diet and health advice for underprivileged women and women in rural communities.

● Encourage investments and businesses that reduce post-harvest crop and storage losses and enhance food availability, including investments in food banks and food processing, among others;

● Address food systems as a cluster, and plan accordingly for building the resilience of the sector to shocks, starting with seed security, and access to feed and veterinary services for livestock and agricultural production, with an eye towards managing medium- and longterm impacts on food security;

● Support the access of farmers and rural women, including agricultural input suppliers, wholesalers, food retailers and suppliers from the private sector, and consumers along value chains, to information technology and fundamental tools for digital services, including by working through civil society organizations.

● Explore investment opportunities for member countries, with support from the private sector, to establish a regional/subregional food reserve/storage facility (notably for wheat and cereals) to manage risks associated with high cereal import dependency and ensure the availability of appropriate food stocks. Having reliable food in stock as well as for sale on the market can stabilize domestic prices. The World Bank asserts that good public management of stocks and involvement of the private sector (which holds most food stocks throughout the world) must be emphasized in the coming years. Coordination of physical stocks across the region has the potential to mutually benefit governments and may help to reduce pressure on thin global food markets. Regional food reserves can be based on the concept of pooling resources into a common reserve, to be drawn on based on pre-agreed rules (Konandreas, 2017);

● Improve regional and subregional collaboration on the movement of food across borders along with the movement of agricultural workers. The Arab Organization for Agricultural Development with other regional actors, including FAO and ESCWA, can facilitate dialogues among member countries to address the impact of and opportunities from the pandemic in terms of regional food cooperation.

3. Food Security Vulnerabilities further Pressured by COVID-19


Arab regional vulnerabilities include scarce natural resources, socioeconomic challenges (population growth, unemployment and poverty), import dependency and conflicts.

These are exacerbated by the pandemic, and affect the region’s ability to respond to food system shocks;

The region has limited, highly seasonal and erratic rainfall,

which is used for up to 56 per cent of agricultural production. Overexploitation of groundwater for irrigation has depleted the water table;


Demand for food is expected to continue increasing in coming years

with the total population expanding by 53 per cent and urbanization reaching 70 per cent by 2050 (670 million people will be living in the region by 2050). Arab countries already import 50 per cent of calories consumed, and dependence on food imports is expected to rise. On average, the region imports 63 per cent of wheat, the most consumed staple. Some countries import more than 90 per cent of their food;

The protracted conflicts in five countries affect food trade

through, among other issues, reduced food imports and exports, and/or disrupted supply chains. Conflicts have led to higher levels of undernourishment, propelling significant increases in child stunting and wasting, and anaemia among women. Containment measures to combat COVID-19 have pressured the livelihoods of refugees and IDPs, and restricted humanitarian aid.


Recommendations for action

To build back better from COVID-19, the region needs to focus on the sustainable use of resources, inclusive societies and sustainable economies along with dedicated efforts for peacebuilding and easing the suffering of refugees and IDPs. Gender-responsive economic and social policies must place women’s economic lives in particular at the heart of pandemic response and recovery plans. The region can benefit from existing successful strategies and policies to adopt technology, enhance education and improve resource efficiency

● Promote green and digital technologies for use by smallholder farmers that require low investment and are easily adopted in rural communities. In the short term, the focus needs to be on increasing land and water productivity, relying on already successful available technologies (drip irrigation, subsurface irrigation, cover crops to reduce evapotranspiration, organic mulching, adoption of best irrigation practices, use of shortcycle crops, use of drought-resistant crops, promotion of supplementary irrigation, rainwater harvesting, safe use of treated water, crop rotation practices, reliance on weather data, adoption of no-till practices, etc.). Supporting local institutions to pilot and disseminate practices should be a priority. Building human capital through tailored extension services, and taking advantage of information and communication technologies is core to accelerate adoption. Effective water allocation policies would create an enabling environment to encourage farmers to increase water use efficiency and productivity;

● Facilitate access to financing especially when piloting new technologies that increase water and land productivity in cooperation with research/academic institutions and the private sector. These technologies may include the use of remote sensing and artificial intelligence for identifying water requirements and soil moisture conditions. Governments and the international community should facilitate this process in coordination with civil society organizations entrusted to support adoption and dissemination;

● Support investment in reducing food losses and waste, and food transformation. The more governments invest in reducing food losses and waste, the less pressure is imposed on the region’s natural resources;

● Lead dialogues among the private sector, academia and research institutions, NGOs and rural communities on needed policies for adoption of rainwater harvesting technologies in agriculture. This includes facilitating financing and support for local NGOs to conduct community-based technical training and capacity-building.

● Encourage national and international investment in employment programmes for youth in LDCs, countries in conflict and countries receiving refugees, with a complementary focus on upgrading productive assets (agricultural roads, post-harvest units, irrigation canals, etc.);

● Engage the private sector in investing in green technologies for farmers and cooperatives, and to support rural livelihood opportunities in food processing using innovative and appropriate technologies that most likely will not be disrupted in times of crisis; 46 Arab Food Security Vulnerabilities and Pathways

● Call on NGOs and food banks to implement awareness programmes to reduce food waste and risks of consumer stockpiling and overbuying, especially in times of crisis.

● Diversify the sourcing of imported food to reduce exposure using transparent public tendering processes;

● Encourage public and private partnerships to modernize ports and facilitate the entry of food imports;

● Foster regional cooperation to enhance intraregional trade in food commodities.

● Review food aid modalities by the development community to address changing logistical dynamics, and identify safe corridors to provide food aid and protect livelihoods;

● Ensure safe access to public water collection points during periods of imposed movement restrictions in areas where water is not available on the premises of refugees, IDPs and people in host communities;

● Provide refugees in camps with in-kind assets for small animal husbandry and production of short-cycle season crops (as short as 50 days) through the provision of seeds and compost, enabling access to food in case of disruption in aid provision;

● Commit to a cessation of sociopolitical strife and armed conflicts to end civilian suffering while facilitating the distribution of humanitarian assistance by lifting all barriers to imports, supply chain functioning, and the movement of people and goods, including humanitarian personnel and their equipment;

● Rehabilitate and repair civilian infrastructure, particularly at ports of entry and road networks, to enable quick and safe transportation of food and medical supplies and other assistance to facilitate the distribution of food.

● Operationalize the Arab food security fund, a resolution by the League of Arab States, with support from different Arab and global development funds to provide relief during food shortages or emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensure a regional rapid response;

● Establish a regional and/or national social solidarity fund that supports vulnerable communities to ensure a rapid response, and provide relief during food shortages or health emergencies.

4. COVID-19 Impacts and Alternative Scenarios for Food Security


Prior to COVID-19, most countries in the region, except Sudan, were on track to record positive albeit slow economic growth for 2020-2021, with a growth rate of 2.6 per cent or below for most countries.

Inflation rates remained below 3 per cent. Economic challenges included currency fluctuations;

With the exception of Egypt, all economies in the region are projected to go into recession in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

but to resume growth in 2021;


Medium-term growth projections suggest that the current crisis will slow economic development

across the region through 2030 compared to pre-COVID-19 expectations;

Growth in total food consumption is projected at 2 per cent for major staples over the coming decade, driven mainly by population growth rather than rising per capita income.

Overall per capita food consumption will marginally increase and is expected to be only slightly below pre-pandemic projections by 2030;


Countries facing an economic crisis or sociopolitical unrest face more severe food security

disruptions with COVID-19, due to higher domestic food prices and a slower recovery period compared to more stable countries;

The continued reliance on imported cereals for the bulk of dietary energy entails a systemic risk to domestic food supply,

as countries are susceptible to food supply shocks resulting from potential production shortfalls in major exporters or other trade restrictions resulting in global food price spikes;


Consumers in the region spent on average about $90 per capita per year on imported agricultural commodities in 2017-2019,

which is projected to increase to $95 per capita per year by 2030. The net trade bill of the region is expected to reach a deficit of $46 billion by 2030, up from $36 billion in 2017-2019 (in constant 2004-2006 prices);

A scenario simulation of global trade restrictions suggests an increase in the regional basic food trade deficit by another $30 billion, reaching $76 billion by 2030.

A corresponding simulation of a potential mitigation through improved cereal yields in a number of countries results in a reduction of the regional trade deficit by $20 billion in 2030. These potential savings have to be compared against necessary investments as well as expected benefits from improved profitability in the domestic agricultural sector;


Non-conflict affected countries with a substantial agricultural sector and import capacities are less impacted by potential trade,

price and yield shocks, which might help secure the national food supply in turbulent times and prop up food security across the region;

The triple crises of economic recession, currency devaluation and COVID-19 have severely affected Lebanon,

which has seen growing poverty levels and food insecurity. In Yemen, an LDC suffering from armed conflict and currency devaluation, among other crises that now include COVID-19, 80 per cent of the population is in a precarious food security situation and relies on humanitarian assistance for daily needs.


Recommendations for action

Food security in the Arab region was at risk prior to COVID-19. The pandemic further exposed regional vulnerabilities and food security challenges. The projections above have analysed the impact of COVID-19 on food supply and demand by 2030 along with two plausible scenarios on price hikes and yield enhancement. In addition, two case studies on Lebanon and Yemen were discussed. The objective is to help member countries consider priority food security actions to enhance resilience in the coming years. Below are additional key actions to be considered.

● Support economic development as it is key to enhancing food access, which provides more avenues for enhancing food security than focusing on food availability alone. Macroeconomic stability such as sound public finances could mitigate inflation so that temporary food price fluctuations would not transmit into higher consumer spending, notably for the poor and most vulnerable;

● Promote a stable regional and global sociopolitical and economic environment that could help avert trade restrictions, regardless of their causes, including from a pandemic such as COVID-19. This requires ensuring that regional and global supply chains are resilient and world stocks are sufficient for a determined period to weather trade restrictions or sudden price hikes, and work for all, particularly vulnerable and food import-dependent countries; ● Support the development of intraregional trade. This could provide opportunities for the region to weather potential trade restrictions in times of crisis, while offering better utilization of regional resources, including natural, financial and human. These would arise from opportunities offered by an increased exchange of goods and services, and greater labour mobility;

● Support rural income and development through investments aimed at increasing yields wherever achievable sustainably by promoting, among others, agricultural innovation, including improved technologies for more efficient water use, wastewater treatment, seed technology, and urban and peri-urban agriculture;

● Integrate trade as part of food security strategies and as a means of economic growth. The COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity to advance agriculture modernization and transformation and to boost productivity and enhance resilience, keeping in mind environmental constraints and sustainability.

● Undertake joint investment and partnership in countries with relatively high production potential. Despite potential increases in domestic production, no country can achieve food self-sufficiency and reduce food import dependency on its own. Countries have the opportunity to cooperate in ways that complement each other’s economic and competitive advantages through enhanced regional links. Disruption to global supply chains offers a chance to enhance food security at the regional level through comprehensive policies such as those of the European Union (Common Agricultural Policies) and the African Union (Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme). These can aim at enhancing production where possible while allowing greater and freer regional agricultural trade;

● Support the regional joint water and agricultural coordination mechanism, coordinated by the League of Arab States, to put forward harmonized regional policies for these two key sectors;

● Explore policy options to mitigate the potentially negative effects of integrating agriculture in preferential trading agreements, and to increase benefits in terms of food security, employment and exports.

5.The Way Forward: Enhancing Food Security Resilience in the Wake of COVID-19 Shocks

Arab countries are challenged by fragile food security, which is expected to deteriorate further in the near future due to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Arab governments have renewed their focus on food availability and access, while also acknowledging the tight food and health nexus. The pandemic provides an opportunity to reimagine food security in the Arab region and “build it back better”.

Food security involves a complex and integrated ecosystem that goes from farm to fork, and from individual to national to global levels. Food security-related policymaking is inherently complex, multidimensional and spread across socioeconomic factors and natural resources. It involves a set of diverse stakeholders interacting with each other, including different public institutions, farmers, households, communities, businesses, academia and research centres, and civil society institutions. Addressing food security in the region requires vision, and governance mechanisms that enhance the agility, robustness and functioning of the region’s food systems for all.

Building resilience to rising food insecurity to allow countries and communities to withstand and recover from shocks that affect it, be they natural (floods, drought, climate change), human-made (conflicts, social unrests, trade restriction), marketbased (market volatility, price hikes) or health related (COVID-19) has to become an urgent key policy objective to allow countries to meet their commitments to the SDGs by 2030. Building resilience entails preparing for, protecting against, enhancing responses to and recovering from short-, mediumand long-term shocks. Countries and all actors from the regional to the subregional, national and community levels should embrace an emphasis on resilience. This starts with addressing regional vulnerabilities through careful assessment and prevention programmes aimed at identifying early signs of shocks and acting quickly to minimize their impacts on food security.

The region needs to strengthen existing mechanisms, and develop effective institutions and programmes flexible enough to respond to sudden shocks to food security. Building resilience will entail measures to:

● Ensure that the food supply chain is working as intended, and that the necessary infrastructure and appropriate incentives are in place. Food must be available at all times and reach all corners of any given country. Steps should be taken to reduce food loss and waste;

● Ensure that plans to address food insecurity are in place and able to respond to food shortages and provide food assistance in case of limitations in social safety nets;

● Promote healthy diets and implement more robust social protection programmes V. The Way Forward: Enhancing Food Security Resilience in the Wake of COVID-19 Shocks The Way Forward: Enhancing Food Security Resilience in the Wake of COVID-19 Shocks 79 to ensure vulnerable people have access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food to address under- and overnutrition;

● Ensure constant monitoring of food security status through data and information collection, evaluation and dissemination, which would include building effective early warning programmes and utilizing appropriately innovative technologies;

● Leverage existing resources at the country and community levels to arrest problems as they arise, and distribute and reallocate limited resources;

● Strengthen multistakeholder collaboration across groups of actors and sectors to achieve greater impacts on food security and nutrition.

In addition to these measures, specific strategies to address the consequences of COVID-19 in the short, medium and long terms are detailed below.

In the short to medium terms, governments are expected to prioritize addressing macroeconomic difficulties such as currency devaluation, poverty and unemployment, insufficient social safety nets for the poor and food subsidies. This may involve higher cooperation with the international community along with stronger regional collaboration to alleviate the effects of the pandemic. Since there is still great uncertainty around how long the pandemic will last, promoting local agricultural production remains an important component of a food security strategy, where natural resources and infrastructure are available, as in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Sudan and Tunisia.

At the same time, natural resource constraints can be mitigated if countries can invest heavily in technological innovations such as aquaponics, vertical agriculture, water efficiency technologies, urban and peri-urban agriculture, remote sensing and modernized integrated farming systems, among many others. The region can draw lessons from the water-energy-food nexus to maximize resource efficiency. While agricultural production helps enhance food security, support to the agricultural sector can also develop rural areas, and protect natural resources and biodiversity for future generation.

Given natural resource constraints, namely in terms of water and arable land, domestic agricultural production must be continuously re-evaluated in the mid-to long term to avoid further depletion of resources, for example through more emphasis on virtual water trade.1 Trade will continue to play an important role in promoting food availability and access, and as such, countries may consider facilitating practices to reduce procedural and administrative bottlenecks, and boost intraregional trade to strengthen resilience to global shocks.

In the medium to long term, the private sector needs to focus on food processing to aid the development of a profitable, sustainable and inclusive regional food industry. This would present an opportunity to engage available human capital, with a young and educated population one of the region’s most promising assets. In the medium to long term, the region will benefit from further trade liberalization, while a monitoring system to track food prices, food production, export potentials and market access could further enhance food security.

Share On Whatsapp