Eddy De Pauw

The countries of North Africa and West Asia, hereafter referred to as the "Near East," cover a large part of the world (more than 7,200,000 km2). This region is characterized by diverse but generally dry climates, in which evaporation exceeds precipitation. The level of aridity is indicated by the aridity index, the ratio of annual precipitation to annual potential evapotranspiration, calculated by the Penman method (UNESCO, 1979). The degree of aridity is shown spatially in figure 16.1 and summarized per country in table 16.1. These data show that the region is characterized by humid, subhumid, semiarid, and arid to hyperarid moisture regimes. In addition, temperature regimes vary considerably, particularly due to the differences in altitudes and, to a lesser extent, due to the oceanic/continental influences. For most of the region, the precipitation generally occurs during the October-April period and thus is concentrated over the winter season.

Table 16.1 shows that, with more than 90% of the land area in hyperarid, arid, or semiarid moisture regimes, aridity is very significant in the Near East. Turkey is better endowed with surface and groundwater resources due to the orographic capture of Atlantic cyclonal precipitation, but much of the interior is semiarid. If one excludes the hyperarid zones, which cover the driest deserts and have no potential for agricultural use, nearly 34% of the region, or about 2,460,000 km2, is dryland (i.e., the area with arid or semiarid moisture regime). These are the areas with some potential for either dryland farming (in semiarid zones) or for extensive rangeland (in arid zones).

In the Near East countries, agriculture contributes about 10-20% to the gross domestic product and is therefore a major pillar of their economies. However, the indirect importance of agriculture is larger because it provides the primary goods that constitute the majority of merchandise exports and because of the relatively high number of people employed in agriculture (table 16.2).

Figure 16.1 Aridity in North Africa and West Asia.

Because of the high degree of aridity in large parts of the region, agriculture in the Near East is particularly vulnerable to drought. Most of the agricultural systems depend on rainfall. Irrigation water is scarce, and although the area under irrigation is expanding, supply constraints are likely to increase. The reasons are limitations on the total size of the extractable water resources, consideration of environmental and socioeconomic impacts of large dam-building programs, continued population growth coupled with increasing urbanization, and competition among communities, industrial and service sectors, and agriculture for increasingly limited water resources. Irrigated agriculture currently consumes an average of about

Table 16.1 Climatic moisture regimes in North Africa and West Asia

Moisture regime

% Hyper-

%

% Semi-

% Sub-

%

% Per-

Country/region

arid

Arid

arid

humid

Humid

humid

Area (km2)

Algeria

71.7

15.9

8.6

3.8

0.0

0.0

2,381,741

Egypt

91.5

8.5

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

997,739

Gaza Strip

0.0

16.9

83.1

0.0

0.0

0.0

363

Iraq

11.6

69.9

17.3

1.2

0.0

0.0

435,052

Israel

2.6

55.3

34.7

7.4

0.0

0.0

20,700

Jordan

23.5

69.8

6.7

0.0

0.0

0.0

88,946

Lebanon

0.0

0.0

19.5

55.3

15.1

10.1

10,230

Libya

80.9

17.6

1.5

0.0

0.0

0.0

1,757,000

Morocco

0.0

41.8

55.5

2.7

0.0

0.0

458,730

Syria

0.0

71.3

23.1

3.3

1.4

0.9

185,180

Tunisia

14.4

52.3

30.3

3.0

0.0

0.0

164,150

Turkey

0.0

0.0

29.6

48.7

18.5

3.2

779,452

West Bank

0.0

20.4

74.4

5.2

0.0

0.0

5,900

% of total area

56.8

21.4

12.4

6.9

2.0

0.4

7,285,183

Source: Computed from the GIS data archived at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA).

Source: Computed from the GIS data archived at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA).

Table 16.2 Agriculture in the Near East countries

Importance of Main crops agriculture (in order of importance, most important first)a

Table 16.2 Agriculture in the Near East countries

Importance of Main crops agriculture (in order of importance, most important first)a

Country

% GDPb

% Agricultural workersc

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Algeria

11

26.0

WHE

POT

BAR

WAT

CIT

ONI

OLI

Egypc

18

40.0

SUC

WHE

MAI

CIT

SUB

POT

WAT

Iraq

n.a.

16.0

WHE

BAR

WAT

CIT

POT

GRA

MAI

Israel

n.a.

4.1

CIT

WAT

POT

WHE

COT

GRA

ONI

Jordan

3

15.3

CIT

POT

OLI

WAT

WHE

ONI

BAR

Lebanon

12

7.3

CIT

SUB

POT

GRA

WAT

OLI

ONI

Libya

n.a.

10.9

WAT

POT

OLI

ONI

WHE

CIT

BAR

Morocco

25

44.7

WHE

SUB

BAR

CIT

SUC

POT

OLI

Syria

n.a.

33.2

WHE

SUB

COT

BAR

OLI

GRA

POT

Tunisia

13

28.1

WHE

OLI

BAR

WAT

POT

SUB

ONI

Turkey

15

53.1

WHE

SUB

BAR

POT

WAT

GRA

ONI

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on-line FAOSTAT database (http://www.fao.org) and Word Resources Institute, Washington, DC (http://earthtrends.wri.org).

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on-line FAOSTAT database (http://www.fao.org) and Word Resources Institute, Washington, DC (http://earthtrends.wri.org).

aBAR: barley; CIT: citrus; COT: cotton; GRA: grape; MAI: maize; OLI: olive; ONI: onion; POT: potato; SUB: sugar beet; SUC: sugarcane; WAT: watermelon; WHE: wheat. Ranking based on production figures.

bPercentage contribution to GDP from agriculture.

cAgricultural workers as a percentage of the total labor force.

80% of all the water used in the Near East (Margat and Vallée, 1999). In summary, the livelihoods and food security of large population segments in the Near East depend directly or indirectly on weather conditions.

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