Primer: The Food Gap in the Middle East

by Martha Wenger , Joe Stork
published in MER166

As the Middle East enters the 1990s, the food situation cannot be easily captured in catch phrases like “dire emergency." Outside of the Horn of Africa, no country confronts wide-scale starvation, though poor people throughout the region face personal food emergencies daily.

Agricultural production continues to grow at a respectable rate -- often better than the world average -- in most of the region. Many countries have increased average daily calorie supply per person to levels equal to or better than the industrialized West. Where 22 percent of the population (35 million people) were undernourished in 1969-1970, this had dropped to 11 percent (26 million people) in 1983-1985, a ratio that compares favorably with other parts of the Third World.

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"Please Don't Develop Us Any More"

by Fantu Cheru
published in MER166

Fantu Cheru is an economist from Ethiopia now teaching at the American University in Washington, DC. His book The Silent Revolution in Africa: Debt, Development and Democracy (Zed) won the World Hunger Media Award for 1989. Joe Stork spoke with him in Washington in the spring of 1990.

How would you characterize the present situation in Africa in terms of food, nourishment and productivity?

Rolling Back Egypt's Agrarian Reform

by Robert Springborg
published in MER166

The publication in 1988 of the fifth Egyptian agricultural census, conducted mostly in January 1982, provides the most accurate and comprehensive description to date of the changing patterns of landholding and ownership of agricultural assets over the 20 years following President Nasser’s land reform decrees of 1961.

The census establishes several trends:

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Algeria's Food Security Crisis

by Will Swearingen
published in MER166

On October 5, 1988, fierce rioting broke out in Algeria’s capital, Algiers, and spread to many of the country’s other urban centers. The government proclaimed a “state of siege” and responses with heavy force. By the end of the week, when an uneasy calm had been restored, the dead numbered in the hundreds, with thousands wounded or in jail. [1]

Absolute Distress

Structural Causes of Hunger in Sudan

by Mark Duffield
published in MER166

Most discussion of the food crisis in Africa is a model in which subsistence economies remain essentially intact and food insecurity is a transitory phenomenon, the result of external factors such as drought or war which temporarily upset the normal balance between sufficiency and dearth. My experience suggests that in Sudan subsistence economies have all but disappeared. Food insecurity no longer defines one or another period but is a constant condition of the market economy that has come to dominate the country.

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Sadowski, Political Vegetables?

by Robert Springborg
published in MER177

Yahya Sadowski, Political Vegetables? Businessman and Bureaucrat in the Development of Egyptian Agriculture (Brookings, 1991).

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Making It on the Middle Eastern Margins of the Global Capitalist Economy

by Janet Bauer
published in MER202

Victoria Bernal, Cultivating Workers: Peasants and Capitalism in a Sudanese Village (Columbia, 1991).

Jenny White, Money Makes Us Relatives: Women’s Labor in Urban Turkey (Texas, 1994).

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"Nothing More to Lose"

Landowners, Tenants and Economic Liberalization in Egypt

by Karim El-Gawhary
published in MER204

Economic liberalization is now hitting the Egyptian countryside. After decades of Nasserist regulations favoring small land tenants, a new law will “reform” the relationship between landowners and tenants in favor of the first. It will more fully integrate the Egyptian countryside into the global market because it gives owners the right to dispose of their land as they see fit. These rights constitute a precondition for modernizing production methods in the countryside and planting more risky export crops. With agrobusinessmen able to invest and extract more income from the land, economists hope that Egypt will be able to decrease its annual agricultural deficit of $2.7 billion.

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The "Olive Branch" That Ought to Cross the Wall

by Abdul-Latif Khaled | published December 21, 2004

The autumn olive harvest used to be a time of celebration in this West Bank village. Entire families would spend days together in the groves. Even Israelis would make special trips here at this time of year to buy our olive oil. But with new Israeli restrictions on access to the fields, Palestinian farmers now have to leave their families at home, and may never even get to their olive grove.

Today, picking olives is no celebration. In the past few weeks, Israeli bulldozers began clearing agricultural land that belongs to Jayyous residents in anticipation of building 50 new houses for Israeli settlers.