FAO, Private Sector Collaborate for Agrifood System Transformation in the Near East and North Africa

The transformation of the Agrifood System in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region is currently underway through a strategic collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and key private sector entities. This significant initiative, commended by Beth Bechdol, FAO Deputy Director-General, underscores a commitment to exploring innovative, scalable, and sustainable solutions.

During an interactive dialogue titled “Engaging the Private Sector in Accelerating Agrifood Systems Transformation in the Near East and North Africa,” co-organized in partnership with the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), and the Group Business Forum (THIQAH), and held in preparation for the 37th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for the Near East (#NERC37), AbdulHakim Elwaer, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, emphasized that the organization’s private sector engagements should facilitate transformational change with measurable, sustainable impact and broad-based benefits, aligning with their strategic framework.

The partnership advocates for supportive policies that encourage private-sector investment in sustainable agriculture, creating an enabling environment for investors. This endeavor aims to contribute significantly to the global pursuit of a hunger-free world. According to recent FAO figures, hunger in the NENA region, particularly in Arab countries, peaked in 2022, affecting 12.9 percent of the population (59.8 million people), surpassing the world average of 9.2 percent. This represents a 75.9 percent increase since 2000, prior to the region experiencing a series of extreme natural events and political shocks.

In 2022, moderate or severe food insecurity affected 170.1 million people (36.6 percent of the population), a slight decrease from 2021 when 173.3 million people (37.9 percent of the population) lacked regular access to sufficient and nutritious food. Severe food insecurity impacted 61.0 million people in 2022, an increase of 3.8 million from the previous year.

The collaborative efforts between FAO and key private sector players become imperative in light of these challenges. Recognizing the power of working together in this transformative partnership is crucial. Moreover, recent food policy measures in the region, when further supported by this partnership, seek to enhance the sustainability and resilience of agrifood systems. These measures include initiatives to increase water security, invest in sustainable food projects, adopt modern agricultural technologies, establish green seaports, and promote agritourism.

Private sector engagement is pivotal for both Food Security and Rural Development. Carlos Watson, FAO Senior Coordinator of Private Sector Partnerships, emphasizes that the collaborative strength of these transformative partnerships is central to FAO’s mission to eradicate global hunger. The collaborative and joint approach to policy-making and implementation signals positive growth and advancements, addressing food insecurity and striving toward a hunger-free world, with far-reaching effects across various industries within the sector.

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