Women and Labor Migration

One Egyptian Village

by Fatma Khafagy
published in MER124

Women are now the heads of between 25 and 35 percent of all households in developing countries. [1] In the Middle East and North Africa, women head about 16 percent of all households. [2] One main reason for the increasing number of households headed by women is male migration to seek work outside their own countries, unaccompanied by their wives and children. When male villagers from Egypt emigrate, they do so without their families. [3] For one thing, a large number emigrate illegally, with neither official work contracts nor legal residence in countries of employment. It is much easier for them to move alone and leave their families behind.

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Egyptian Migration and Peasant Wives

by Elizabeth Taylor
published in MER124

In the 1960s, Egypt supplied the labor markets of the Middle East with professionals and administrators seconded by the government. Carefully regulated and controlled, the export of labor was consistent both with Egypt’s policies in the area and with its own manpower needs. In the 1970s, government-seconded labor was overtaken in volume by a huge and largely unregulated flow of labor at all skill levels. By 1975, Egypt had overtaken Yemen as the major exporter of labor in the area, and its share of the total Arab migrant labor market had reached one third. By 1980, Egypt had at least doubled its migrant stock, an estimated 10 percent of which are women.

Gabbay, Communism and Agrarian Reform in Iraq

by Tom Nieuwenhuis
published in MER125

Rony Gabbay, Communism and Agrarian Reform in Iraq (London: Croom Helm, 1978).

Modern Iraqi history suffers from a lack of monographs and case studies on subjects such as rural affairs. Rony Gabbay’s research helps to fill this vacuum, at least in the area of social and political developments in the countryside and their relation to communism and agrarian reform. Published in 1978, even today Gabbay’s is an important source for the history of the Iraqi Communist Party.

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Sudan's Economic Nightmare

by Tim Niblock
published in MER135

Ten years ago, Sudan was described in a Food and Agriculture Organization report as a potential “breadbasket of the world.” Hopes for the development of Sudan’s economy were running high at the time: the investment of Arab oil-generated revenues in Sudan's agricultural sector seemed to hold immense promise. Vast quantities of hitherto unused arable land could be brought under cultivation. This would transform the Arab world from an area of food deficit into one of food surplus, laying the basis also for the development of extensive processing industries in Sudan.

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The Fate of the Family Farm

by Karen Pfeifer
published in MER145

Samir Radwan and Eddy Lee, Agrarian Change in Egypt, An Anatomy of Rural Poverty (London: Croom Helm, for the International Labor Organisation, 1986).

Alan Richards, ed., Food, States and Peasants, Analyses of the Agrarian Question in the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1986).

 

These two books are welcome additions to the sparse literature on recent agricultural development and agrarian change in the Middle East. Neither makes easy reading, but students of both economic and social change in the Middle East (mainly Turkey and Egypt) and agrarian change in general will find them useful.

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"Food Security"

published in MER145

As Egypt’s dependence on food imports has increased, so has the cry for food security. The phrase “food security” (al-amn al-geza’i) can have several meanings in Egyptian policy debates. It is usually taken to mean either “hedging against fluctuations in world food prices” or “increasing domestic production of food crops.” The Ministry of Agriculture has recently been renamed Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

Public Law 480: "Better than a bomber"

published in MER145

The US food aid program originated in 1954 as a means of disposing of costly domestic agricultural surpluses. In that year, Congress passed the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, known as Public Law 480. PL 480 enables food-deficit “friendly countries” to purchase US agricultural commodities with local currency, thus saving foreign exchange reserves and relieving US grain surpluses.

The Language of Food

PL 480 in Egypt

by Jean-Jacques Dethier , Kathy Funk
published in MER145

“I went down to Cairo with a little wheat in my pocket and they had the red carpet out for me there…. I was speaking the language of food and they understand.” -- US Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, 1974

 

For more than a decade now, the political embrace of Washington and Cairo has directly affected what Egypt’s 45 million people eat and how much they pay for it. Once a leading granary for the entire Mediterranean, Egypt today is one of the largest food importers in the world, and one of the largest markets for US agricultural exports. Each year more than $4 billion worth of imported food comes through its ports. About one quarter of this comes from the United States.

Iraq's Agrarian Infitah

by Robert Springborg
published in MER145

Egypt’s infitah is finding an echo in Iraq. The Iraqis are grappling with many of the same problems which caused the Egyptians to adopt such a policy: the shortcomings of public sector manufacturing and of collectivized and semi-collectivized agriculture. As in Egypt, the sudden and dramatic rise in oil revenues made it possible to consider far more than minor rearrangements. The sudden surge of revenues also made it possible to allocate investment capital to an emerging private sector without taking it out of the budgets of the public enterprises. Skilled labor shortages in both countries required new approaches in agriculture and industry.

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Shafir, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

by Joel Beinin
published in MER164

Gershon Shafir, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

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