The area which Med-O-Med focuses on, namely the Middle East and the South Mediterranean countries, constitutes the world region that depends the most on food imports. Their local food production does not meet population’s growing needs, so these countries are forced to buy those products required to meet their basic needs in the international markets, especially in the EU and the emerging powers.
Agriculture represents in average around 10 % of the region’s GDP. Such low percentage results from the priority given to investments on hydrocarbon production, as well as from the various environmental problems suffered by this region, ranking first the lack of water resources and available lands. Middle East and South Mediterranean countries make up the region having the fewer amounts of water resources in the world, which are used by agriculture by around 80 %. Besides, climate change will make this situation worse, entailing that these countries suffer from an even more serious water stress.
Currently, the percentage of hectares reserved for conventional farming, based on irrigated crops, chemical inputs and single-crop farming (which is the heritage of the colonial period), enjoys priority over traditional and ecological farming. In this respect, the most developed countries are Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey, where only 1 % of the lands are dedicated to ecological farming. According to the UN Rapporteur on the right to food, ecological farming constitutes an adequate technology for the most vulnerable areas and it is able to reduce food problems in the world. Furthermore, this kind of farming makes the most of water resources (which are vital in Med-O-Med’s area of work), respects society and environment to a great extent and fulfils many of the premises regarding the relationship between nature and human being inherent in the Islamic culture.
The countries making up Med-O-Med’s area of work have not allowed the use of transgenic farming so far and in many of them traditional trade of seeds and the use of local species are still a priority over commercial seeds. Only Egypt presents small farming areas dedicated to GMOs.
Over the last few years, public policies seem to be aimed at the protection of population’s food security, but unfortunately the paradigm of sovereignty does not still address it. Policies such as those related to research on genetic engineering, the lack of support to ecological agriculture or the purchase of lands in third countries in order to increase imports may guarantee local feeding in a short term, but it may also entail serious risks in a long term regarding biodiversity, environmental sustainability, as well as other countries’ sovereignty.
Med-O-Med promotes Food Sovereignty in this region by supporting traditional techniques in farming, a sustainable management of water resources, the use of local seeds and ecological inputs, multispecific crops, as well as producer cooperatives and unions. It advocates the recovery of traditional techniques, species and knowledge that may provide a solution for the current and future problems in this respect, which have extremely close ties to local and Islamic tradition and culture.
Moreover, Med-O-Med worries about the current trend experienced in countries of this region regarding the purchase of lands and productions in third countries, such as Pakistan or Mali, because of its consequences on sovereignty in the aforementioned countries. We think that this practice should focus on the provision of support to producers in such third countries and their investments rather than on the collection of lands to improve production, the use of resources and to raise standard of living with a view to guarantee sovereignty in these countries and their exports towards investor countries.