Environmental protection, food security and nutrition, inclusive development and resilience to crises and tensions are the four core Mediterranean challenges. These are precisely the main axes of the work of CIHEAM, which adapts its cooperation mission to the new context and emerging needs of the region.
The Mediterranean countries are facing the following difficulty: producing more with fewer resources, using them more sparingly. In this perspective, the issue of waste and losses is becoming essential for food security policies. The problem of food losses and waste has various dimensions (social, economic and environmental) and should be approached from three different yet complementary perspectives. Indeed, combining the analysis of natural resources, production and knowledge allows the issue to be situated more globally from a sustainable development perspective, where human beings are the priority.
The struggle against waste can act as leverage for Mediterranean cooperation. Water and land resources must be preserved, as well as biodiversity, forest systems and the marine wealth of the Mediterranean Sea. Then, we must fight against post-harvest waste, during transport, storage, processing, retailing and consumption. Finally, it is also appropriate to struggle against waste of knowledge as, in agronomy or the environment, traditional knowledge should be valued and protected.
Agriculture and fishery are the basis of Mediterranean identity and decisive for the region’s societies. In 2020, due to demographic growth, there will be some 530 million persons to feed in the region. Agriculture remains a major economic factor in Mediterranean countries, as it employs one-third of the active labour force in the majority of them. Overall, agriculture represents more than 10 % of GDP in many States and agricultural products represent an average of 10 to 25 % of trade for several Mediterranean countries.
The Mediterranean is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change and it is predicted to become even hotter and dryer than it already is. These phenomena add complexity to the already vulnerable situation of the Mediterranean agriculture, which struggles in increasing quantity and quality of production, while preserving scarce natural resources at the same time. Producing more but better with less…This is the very complex equation to be solved by the Mediterranean countries.
Mediterranean countries have strong human, economic and agricultural assets. Nevertheless, there are also inequalities. A series of economic, social and demographic indicators show a general improvement in standard of living, but in a context of major disparities between and within countries. In this context, Mediterranean countries share a common problem: migration of its youth in search of a more promising future. This is a true squandering of the human resources of the entire region.
The establishment of inclusive development ensuring social and territorial cohesion is an absolute priority for Mediterranean countries.Therefore agricultural and rural worlds have to be promoted as strategic sectors/issues for economic growth and political stability. Agriculture is multi-purpose. Besides providing food, the sector is also a provider of jobs and stability in often-marginalised rural areas where more inclusive policies (both social and economic) must be implemented.
The Region sadly holds some of the world records in terms of conflicts and insecurity, demographic growth, unemployment, migration, food dependency, natural resources’ scarcities and depletion, and climate change expected impacts. The current displacement of populations is forcing us to see this phenomenon as a two-fold challenge. In the first place, we have to manage the humanitarian crisis and meet the political challenge. However, we also need to look into a more distant future and identify the most effective instruments to alleviate the tensions in the Mediterranean region on the long term. Insecurity related to water, land and climate cannot be dissociated from economic and social migration and environmental problems.
In a context marked by the intensification of trade, the acceleration of population and goods mobility and climatic changes, crops are becoming increasingly vulnerable to pests and diseases. They consequently become a growing problem for the countries as they affect the key sectors of their economy and present a series of emerging risks. Another important challenge is the management of animal health in the region. The prevention and the control of animal and plants diseases, the epidemiological surveillance and the animal health information exchanges outside of each country’s borders are becoming more than ever essential for the domestic production, export and import.
Agricultural trade is fragile in the Mediterranean area. For the majority of the countries the food balance depends on agricultural imports. This characteristic make the Mediterranean countries particularly vulnerable to international food price volatility. International and national actions can seek to mitigate food price volatility and its impacts on vulnerable people. However, longterm resilience must be built. Investing in agricultural productivity growth and resilience is paramount to addressing food price volatility. The establishment of regional networks focusing on the main strategic commodities traded in the Mediterranean and the promotion of producers association are therefore essential.