Arab nations should invest oil revenues in agriculture, says senior UN official

4 March 2008

The head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today urged Arab countries to invest oil profits into boosting agriculture in their region, which has to tackle with such challenges as food insecurity, land degradation and water scarcity.

“Investment in agriculture, from both domestic and external sources, remains low in most countries of the region,” Director-General Jacques Diouf told those gathered in Cairo for the 29th FAO Regional Conference for the Near East.

He stressed the need for “ambitious policies” to address the decline in overall external assistance to the agriculture sector in the Near East region which has been falling since 1995.

“It would also be desirable for the countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which contribute 17 per cent of total regional aid to the agricultural sector, to increase their support by allocating more funds to agriculture,” he added.

According to FAO, hunger and undernourishment are on the rise in the region, and some 13 countries are currently facing emergencies, caused by natural disasters, conflicts and trans-boundary animal diseases such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease.

In addition, the agency noted that water will be among the major challenges facing the agriculture sector in the years to come. “With less than two per cent of the world’s freshwater resources but 11 per cent of its population, the region’s food security is dependent on extracting extra output from each drop of water. Despite improved water use and more effective irrigation thanks to advances in technology, results remain inadequate,” he said.

FAO is assisting countries in dealing with these and other issues, including through technical support, the provision of tools and seeds, and techniques to rationalize the use of water and land resources.

 

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