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Gulf Co-operation Council Plans Regional Food And Water Security Center

Via Future Directions International, a report on a new Gulf Cooperation Council initiative to foster dialogue and partnership around food and water security:

Background

Joint action within the agriculture and water sectors is a key objective in achieving food security for the GCC member states. This year’s GCC Agricultural Co-operation Committee meeting, hosted by Qatar on 13-14 June, focussed on ways to enhance co-operation and initiate joint projects between the member states in the agricultural, livestock and fishery sectors. Opening this year’s Committee meeting, Qatari Minister of the Environment Ahmed Amer Mohamed al-Humaidi called for greater efforts to address the challenges of increasing food demand, the depletion of natural resources and rain scarcity as a result of climate change.

Comment

The recent approval for the establishment of a centre for food and water security jointly co-ordinated by the GCC member states is a crucial step towards increasing food and water security in the Gulf Region. Environmental challenges, water scarcity and limited domestic food production are common problems faced by all the GCC countries. Increased co-operation through a joint research centre has the potential to strengthen the regional response to progressively more challenging food and water security threats.  

The Gulf states are some of the most water-insecure and food-deficient countries in the world. Importing between 60 to 90 per cent of their food requirements, only 1.8 per cent of the total land in the GCC states was under cultivation in 2012. Regional food demand is expected to expand exponentially due to population growth, urbanisation trends, diversified food preferences and increased disposable incomes. The lack of arable land and water scarcity limits the domestic agricultural output of the Gulf countries.

Newly proposed strategies also include greater co-operation, project integration and increased trade between the GCC countries in all fields of the agriculture, livestock and fishery sectors. Under the new agreements, the Qatari environment ministry will provide medication and vaccines for livestock and assist in monitoring livestock diseases, while other countries will provide subsidies for fodder. Efforts are also in place to enact unified laws to protect fisheries and introduce preventive measures against communicable diseases in livestock. Agricultural trade between member states will also be boosted to reduce their reliance on external markets.

The Agricultural Committee also approved plans for a project to survey shrimps across the region as part of a co-ordinated approach to fisheries protection. Laws are already in place across the GCC countries banning trawling between March and July this year to allow shrimp stocks to replenish, but illegal trawling remains a significant issue. This is not the first GCC shrimp survey project, though. A three-year survey of shrimp in the waters of four Gulf countries was initiated in 1998, but due to insufficient funding, the project was cut short in some countries, while other countries unable to conduct sufficient research expeditions to complete the survey. Adequate funding and support will be required if this survey is to achieve its intended outcomes.

The outcomes from the GCC Agricultural Committee meeting are a positive step in tackling food and water security challenges in the region and the development of a co-operative research centre for food and water security should be prioritised by all the member states. Greater law enforcement strategies will also be required, alongside the development of unified laws to protect fisheries, to address the ongoing issue of illegal trawling. Joint research, information sharing and a regional focus on food and water security will increase the overall success of these strategies and, as a result, the long-term food and water security of the GCC states. 



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