As a result of the recent outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, the global agri-food supply chain has collapsed, thereby raising concerns about food security in Africa and the Middle East. The international community is paying greater attention to the issue of food security caused by climate change, which is actually affecting food supply and demand in Africa and the Middle East as a result of frequent weather conditions, such as droughts, flooding, and heat waves. As a result of an intensifying drought, North Africa increased its imports of external grain in January 2022, and East Africa has experienced droughts that have adversely affected its crops in recent years. It is therefore increasingly important for the international community to cooperate to respond to the food security crisis resulting from climate change, and Korea should expand its cooperation to address climate change, food security, and agriculture in Africa and the Middle East.
Climate change has both a global and a national impact, and African and Middle Eastern developing countries, especially those with insufficient climate resilience, are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change on agriculture and food production. It is therefore necessary to develop policies that can help lead the discussion of climate change in the international community while also increasing support for the agri-food sector through official development assistance (ODA) funded by Korea.
Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to analyze the food security crisis in Africa and the Middle East caused by climate change from the perspective of supply and demand, and to identify potential areas of cooperation. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food security as “a situation in which everyone is always physically, socially and economically accessible to a sufficient amount of safe and nutritious food, while meeting individual dietary needs and preferences for a healthy and active life.” Therefore, food security should be considered throughout the entire food production and consumption process, toward which this study also examined the current state of the African and Middle Eastern food security crisis, causes of food insecurity, and policies to address it.
This study can be summarized as follows. A first observation is that the average temperature is increasing across Africa and the Middle East, and this represents a higher increase than in previous years, particularly in East and North Africa. Additionally, droughts and floods have become more frequent in recent years, which can pose a threat to agricultural production in the future. The impact of climate change on agricultural production is increasing, but the FAO and the World Food Program have already warned of the increase in hunger and undernutrition caused by climate change, which means that rising temperatures and frequent droughts could pose a greater external shock than normal.
Second, when droughts occur frequently and intensify in Africa and the Middle East, agricultural prices generally rise, especially for corn and rice. The agricultural production of developing countries in Africa and the Middle East is largely dependent on natural water rather than irrigation and shows various structural characteristics susceptible to weather changes. Moreover, most countries except North Africa have high rates of self-sufficiency in corn, rice, sorghum, and millet, whereas Africa and the Middle East lack adequate stockpiling capacity to buffer drought. As soaring food prices in Africa and the Middle East between 2007 and 2011 caused instability, and the recent prolonged Russian-Ukraine war caused public discontent, climate change and long-term increases in food prices could also contribute to instability.
Thirdly, as natural disasters such as droughts and floods become more frequent, problems related to consumption such as nutritional disorders and slow development are exacerbated. In Africa and the Middle East, malnutrition has generally declined, with the exception of conflict-affected countries such as Yemen and Iraq. Consequently, indicators also improved in terms of strengthening food security and sustainable agriculture, which are the second goal of the Sustainable Development Goals. There has been a rise in both absolute and proportional food crisis populations in recent years, especially in Africa. In West Africa, in particular, the proportion of the population experiencing serious levels of food insecurity has doubled to 20.7% in 2021, compared to 10.2% in 2014. There is a higher incidence of children’s poor development and nutritional disorders in countries with more droughts or floods, indicating that climate change impacts both agricultural production and consumption.
Fourth, the international community and major African and Middle Eastern countries are taking a variety of measures to combat climate change. Several countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, and Tanzania, have developed comprehensive policies aimed at addressing climate change and protecting water resources, as well as establishing support systems for the vulnerable. Despite this, few countries have developed production and reserve policies to ensure food security, and technological capabilities are lacking, necessitating international cooperation. Climate change response strategies and social protection strategies have been developed by international organizations. The African Climate Innovation Mission (AIM for Africa), the African Agricultural Climate Change Adaptation Plan (AAAI), the African Green Revolution Alliance (AGRA), the World Bank, the International Agricultural Development Fund (IFAD), and the International Agricultural GIAR Group are representative organizations addressing climate change and food security in Africa and the Middle East. Likewise, international cooperation on food security is on the rise, and is on the agenda of both the 2021 Foreign Ministers' Meeting and the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Convention (COP27).
Using the results of the analysis, this report proposes policies in the areas of climate change and water resources, agricultural production and stockpiling, crop consumption, and assistance for the vulnerable. First, it is important to cooperate to introduce an early warning system during times of drought or flooding throughout Africa and the Middle East, as weather events such as these are becoming more frequent. Climate risk and early warning systems have been established by the World Bank and the World Meteorological Organization in 60 countries, including most of the countries in West and Central Africa. As Korea expands its disaster warning system domestically, it may be possible to extend its cooperation with vulnerable countries in Africa and the Middle East. Furthermore, cooperation for the application of low-carbon agricultural technology should be expanded. Low-carbon farming methods include mixed farming, forestry, and cultivation, and agriculture is considered one of the major greenhouse gas emission factors in Africa and the Middle East, so cooperation in introducing agricultural technologies to combat climate change should be conducted as well. In areas where Korea can cooperate with either Africa or Middle East in agricultural production, heat-resistant and resistant varieties can be developed, as well as pilot projects for smart farming in low- and medium-sized countries.
Secondly, it is necessary to increase cooperation in order to ensure the security of water resources and prevent flooding. The expansion of irrigation water facilities is the first factor to ensure the security of water resources in Africa and the Middle East. The Korean government has provided support for the modernization of irrigation facilities in Ghana as well as the construction of irrigation facilities in Ethiopia coordinated by KOICA, as securing agricultural water during the sowing season becomes increasingly important. The scale of Korea’s development cooperation with Africa and the Middle East is expected to increase in the future, and Korea should also expand its support for irrigation channels to improve access to water resources. It is also becoming increasingly important to ensure fresh water through wastewater recycling and desalination.
The third recommendation is to expand support for the vulnerable in Africa and the Middle East in terms of consumption. Approximately 50,000 tons of rice were provided to six countries by Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in 2021. Due to a lack of stockpile capacity, there are few alternatives available in Africa and the Middle East to support the residents in these regions in the event of severe changes in weather patterns. Accordingly, major donor countries and international organizations continue to provide food to areas affected by the food crisis. In order to prepare for the rapid increase in food insecurity and severe food shortages occurring in Africa and the Middle East as a result of climate change, Korea will also need to establish a support system in advance for vulnerable groups in Africa and the Middle East.
As a final point, the cooperation system should include not only bilateral cooperation but also multilateral cooperation with international organizations. In the area of expanding technical research cooperation with international researchers, the Rural Development Administration should assume a more prominent role. The majority of African and Middle Eastern countries are classified as vulnerable countries due to climate change, and accordingly, Korea has limitations in cooperating in agriculture or food assistance alone. Therefore, it is necessary to cooperate with international organizations that have already entered many countries and are carrying out projects in those countries. Moreover, CGIAR research institutes have conducted a number of studies on the demand for agricultural technology in Africa and the Middle East, facilitating the development of agricultural technology research and development projects in Africa and the Middle East by conducting joint research with CGIARs and internationally recognized agricultural research institutes.