Population Growth and Food Security in the Countries of the Middle East and North Africa

  • Philippe Collomb
Part of the Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace book series (HSHES, volume 1)


At the first global Population Conference in Bucharest (1974), the international community focused only on the demographic explosion in the “third world”. Then, the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean had among the highest natural population growth in the world and, as a consequence, the youngest population and the lowest proportion of labour force at the national level (Zlotnik ch. 33). The international community seemed almost unanimous in noting the impossibility of conducting the necessary food and agricultural policies for the development of most countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Such policies seemed prohibitive in view of the enormous proportion of youth in their populations. In addition, numerous studies carried out in the region are classic examples of the very old question regarding distortions between population and resources.


Labour Force Food Security Food Insecurity Saudi Arabia Middle East 
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  1. 2.
    The reference territory for this essay in the MENA region is the one defined by the Economic Research Forum for the Arab Countries, Iran, and Turkey (ERF). ERF is an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation which initiates and funds policy-relevant economic research, publishes and disseminates the results of research activity to high-calibre MENA scholars, policy-makers, and the business community, and functions as a resource base for researchers through its databank and documentation library. This territory differs from the one used in the rest of the book. MENA as defined by the FAO. See tables 45.1 and 45.2. This geographic definition differs significantly from that of the Mediterranean used in other chapters, see ch. 2.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The source of all basic data used in this chapter is the United Nations’ database (UN 2001).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    The quality of soil will not be dealt with here because of the lack of international data comparable for most of the countries of the area.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Fertile Crescent: strip of territory inverse-U shaped which includes from bottom to top: i) from South to North: Israel, Lebanon and North West of Syria; ii) from West to East the northern part of Syria and Iraq (with the South East margins of Turkey); iii) from the North towards the South-East, the Tigris and Euphrates basins in Iraq.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Sustainable Agriculture: For the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD 1993), a sustainable agricultural system consists of: a) A system of production economically viable in its current state, b) The safeguarding and the development of the natural resources of the agricultural activity, c) The safeguarding or the development of other ecosystems affected by the agricultural activities. d) The creation of a pleasant natural framework, endowed with aesthetic qualities.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Carrying capacity: The strength of populations which can make a living from the agricultural land in an agricultural region. Three scenarios are adopted (FAO 1982). They correspond to three stages of development for people: 1) Low hypothesis: Human work is the only factor of production. Neither fertiliser, nor insecticide is used. No method of soil conservation is followed. 2) Middle hypothesis: Human labour is facilitated by some improved tools or by use of draught animals. Some pesticides and some chemical fertilisers are used to complement manure from livestock rearing. Some simple methods of soil conservation are practiced. 3) High hypothesis: Human labour is enhanced by the complete mechanisation of agriculture. Optimal genetic material is used along with the necessary chemical fertilisers. The necessary methods of soil protection are observed.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Cultivated variety: Scientific term designated to all varieties of agricultural products which are of the genetic nature. (population, clone, pure line, first generation hybrid, double hybrid, synthetic variety).Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Genetic engineering: Technology using the transfer of genes between organisms of different species in order to modify their characteristics for specific purposes.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Aquifer: Subterranean water formed by the infiltration of rainwater, or constituted by fossil water.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    Catchment Basin: A region drained by a river and its tributaries.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    As in the case of the Nile, the water distribution agreements for the Euphrates, Tigris, and Jordan Rivers are seldom made public. News clippings from different international reviews lead us to suppose that the pipeline constructed by Israel from Lake Tiberias has for a long time affected the water bodies (in millions of m3 per year) in conformity with the proposals of the Johnston plan: for Israel, 400 from the higher Jordan River, 50 from the Yarmuk; for Jordan, 400 from the Yarmuk, 250 from the Jordan River, 100 from Lake Tiberias. Since then, the evolution of this situation is not well known. In the same way the evolution of the international share of the waters of the Euphrates, Tigris, and Nile is not well known.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Renewable water (resources of a country): Average annual flow of the rivers and underground water coming from the rainwater received by country. It is from these supplies of renewable water that the population generally “extracts”.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    Energy output: This is not an output within the meaning of thermodynamics. The energetic output is the relationship between the energy value of the output (of the vegetable production used by people) and the energy value of the products necessary to obtain this vegetable production (only costly inputs). It expresses only productive efficiency of the expensive energy used in agriculture. The terms “energy efficiency” and “energy intensity” are synonyms of the term “energy output”.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    Calorie: Quantity of heat necessary to raise the temperature of a gram of water from 15 to 16 °C.Google Scholar
  15. 16.
    Sustainable development: Development that meets present needs without compromising the satisfaction of the needs of future generationsGoogle Scholar
  16. 17.
    This food transition, which results in the abandoning of diets rich in animal proteins is not exclusive to countries in which the food situation is precarious. Northern Europe has other examples of this nature. Some countries there are considerably reducing the part of their energy intake derived from animals, and are increasing their intake of vegetables and fruits.Google Scholar
  17. 18.
    Each broken line represents a country. The observation dates are 1972, 1980, 1990, and 1996. The last date is always close to the name of the country.Google Scholar
  18. 19.
    Pumping out (in Latin ex-haurire: is-out to draw): Drawing up of water from infiltration; including the installations that allow this.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philippe Collomb
    • 1
  1. 1.ParisFrance

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