Fragility, migration, and water scarcity, combined with persistently high unemployment rates, are among the key challenges hampering rural development in the Near East and North Africa (NENA).
In the Central and Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States (CEN) subregion, the main obstacles concern currency volatility and sluggish growth.
The average number of undernourished people within NENA has doubled over the past 25 years — from 16.5 million to 33 million — amid acute pressure on natural resources. Climate shocks, together with economic and political disturbances have resulted in some of the toughest and most enduring poverty challenges in the world.
Across the NENA subregion, 22.4 million people have been forcibly displaced by conflicts in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. Many young people have been driven off the land, disrupting food production, and exacerbating already high unemployment. As a consequence, poverty is on the rise, as is food and nutrition insecurity, especially in rural areas.
The crisis in Syria, in particular, is driving large-scale migration: Syrian refugees now make up some 25 per cent of the population of Lebanon and 20 per cent of the population of Jordan. Forced displacement has a strong rural dimension, as large numbers of displaced people originate from rural areas.
The consequences of the still-unfolding Syrian crisis have been far-reaching. They include the degradation of agricultural land and collapse in food production in the areas left behind, as well as increased pressure on natural resources, food security and agricultural production systems in host communities, and increased competition for jobs.
In a highly diverse region, every rural transformation challenge needs to be tackled in its proper context.
In countries of the former Soviet Union with abundant water resources, we might be called upon to address solutions for improving farming skills, whereas in the Near East and North Africa, solving water scarcity and enhancing agricultural production are our priorities.
Across both subregions, increasingly severe droughts, or floods, and related losses in productivity and incomes, have hampered rural transformation.
Money, know-how and imagination
IFAD customizes solutions to address specific key challenges. By the end of 2016, we had invested US$889 million in 43 programmes and projects in the region, in partnership with 22 recipient governments.
It is our combination of funding capacity and expertise that makes IFAD a partner of choice for so many governments, agencies and NGOs. We partner with governments to help design and implement poverty reduction strategies, and work with local people and organizations to deliver them.
IFAD recently launched its Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability (FARMS). With an overall budget of US$100 million, FARMS will focus on sustainable rural development and livelihood support for refugees, displaced persons and rural host communities.
Whether the focus is on managing land and water resources, tackling rural unemployment or linking farmers to markets, we have the skills and experience to make a long-term impact.
Water scarcity and climate change are pressing issues in both CEN and NENA. NENA has the lowest share of the world’s available freshwater.
The global crisis of forced displacement has affected an unprecedented 65 million people worldwide, of whom one third, or 22.4 million, are from the Near East and North Africa.
Young people form 23 per cent of the total population in CEN and 28 per cent in NENA. Unemployment rates among young people – at 30 per cent in NENA and 18.1 per cent in CEN – exceeding the global average of 13.2 per cent.
The number of undernourished people in the NENA sub-region has doubled over the last 25 years, from 16.5 million to 33 million. This is the result of conflict, falling incomes and high unemployment, especially among women and young people.
Supporting date palm production in the Near East and North Africa
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IFAD and Tunisia invest in improving the livelihoods of poor rural families
Morocco and IFAD to invest in smallholder farmers’ climate change resilience
Sudan and IFAD to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change and manage natural resources
Research Series Issue 60: Investing in rural youth in the Near East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia
Investing in rural people in Egypt
Egypt is IFAD’s largest recipient of financial assistance in the Near East and North Africa. It was one of the first countries to receive IFAD financing.