Dear Laila has kindly translated my Al akhbar article
Exploitation or Independence?
This month, Lebanon has witnessed three conferences and seminars on Arab food security. This interest is primarily led by the deteriorating food situation in the Arab world. Arabs import half the food they consume, with market fluctuations compounding the fragility of their food security. On this note, many of the conference participants pointed out the coincidence between the rise of world food prices and the outbreak of the Arab uprisings.
In reality, the food production sector in the Arab world faces great challenges. These originate in the economic policies followed by the Arab countries, which have favored neoliberalism and facilitated the reliance on the service sectors instead of bolstering the production sector. This has led to gaping inequality in the distribution of land and government bias towards the interests of the rich. All these factors together have led to the collapse of the countryside and the spread of unemployment (30% of youth). Despite all of this, the rural population in Arab countries continues to rise. They represent one-third of Arabs, and of course most of them are poor.
Despite some naive suggestions which talk about the importance of supporting the migration of the youth to cities, there is general agreement on the role of agriculture in the move from revenue to production and in combatting poverty and unemployment. However, mystery still shrouds the kind of policies that have to be adopted and the mechanisms of implementing them. These questions may focus on the quality of growth for the sector and the nature of work opportunities. Here, we have to answer this important question: what kind of agriculture do we want for our countries? A capital investment agriculture based on the exploitation of agricultural workers under the pretext of creating jobs? Or do we want to revive family agriculture which secures food sovereignty and supports sustainable economic growth? In light of the Arab revolutions, is the choice going to be between exploitation and independence?