Future Directions

FAO recognizes that about 70% of the agricultural areas in the Near East region (chapter 16) are arid or semiarid. Only 20% of the total lands are cultivable. The most serious challenge to agriculture is water scarcity because the average annual rainfall is only 205 mm. Although the region covers 14% of the world's surface, its water resources represent only 2% of the total renewable water resources of the world. FAO has called on the Near East governments to establish a drought watch and early warning system and to support a recently launched Drought Information Network for the Near East and the Mediterranean (http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/ OIS/PRESS_NE/english/2002/3084-en.html (FAO, 2002)). The great global challenge for the coming years will be how to produce more food with less water. To highlight this challenge, FAO dedicated the year 2002 as the World Food Day with the theme "Water: Source of Food Security" by bringing together government representatives and civil society organizations in FAO member countries to focus on solutions to the problem of water scarcity and its impact on food security. "The future emphasis must be directed towards increasing the efficiency of water management systems and increasing water productivity, getting more production per drop, as well as to move seriously towards tapping new non-conventional water resources to increase agricultural productivity," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told the Near East Agriculture Ministers at the 26th FAO Regional Conference for the Near East (March 9-13, 2002; http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/OIS/PRESS_NE/english/2002/3100-en.html (FAO, 2002)).

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