Combating "Triple Waste”
Sharing better the Knowledge and Defending traditional know-how
The Mediterranean region is the cradle of great civilisations built around agricultural traditions. Throughout its History, several practices adapted to the natural conditions of the region have been developed and passed on to new generations. Over time, farmers have acquired skills and knowledge of which they are the primary guardians. This knowhow should be shared, transmitted and preserved to meet the requirement of agricultural production. The establishment of networks for the sharing of scientific, technical and empirical knowledge enables to promote and spread this knowledge combining tradition and innovation.
Managing more responsibly natural resources and energy (Water, soil, forests, energy, biodiversity...)
Agriculture is which relies on the use of natural resources and energy. Agricultural activity has a severe impact on fresh water resources, arable land and on maritime and terrestrial biodiversity. The sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations include the preservation of terrestrial, marine and forest ecosystems as well as responsible consumption and production. Agriculture must therefore adapt its activities to, not only use but also preserve and protect these natural resources while reducing its dependence on polluting fossil fuels. The restoration of arable land, the improved irrigation efficiency, the conservation of forest systems, biodiversity enhancement and the adoption of green energy are therefore fundamental elements for sustainable development.
Reducing Food losses and waste all along food chains
A third of the food production for human consumption in the world is lost or wasted. From production to consumption, food loss and waste are observed throughout the food chain. These losses are mainly caused by financial and technical limitations as well as by the behaviour of actors along the food chains. Modernised infrastructure and increased awareness among consumers, retailers and agro-food industries could allow a significant reduction of lost amounts and thus improve food security and the economic growth of Mediterranean countries.
Boosting Sustainable Agriculture and Food
The Mediterranean diet is considered a model for a healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle that is conducive to local producers. Yet, the Mediterranean region is currently undergoing changes affecting its traditional diet. International trade exchanges and changes in lifestyle are disrupting the eating habits of the region. Under-nutrition and malnutrition are still present in the South and East of the Mediterranean while all Mediterranean countries are increasingly faced with the issue of obesity and with diseases that are related to poor diet. A “return” to the Mediterranean diet should therefore be encouraged.
Learn more about the Mediterranean Diet
Agrobiodiversity is defined as ‘the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture, including crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries. It comprises the diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds) and species used for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceuticals. It also includes the diversity of non-harvested species that support production (soil micro-organisms, predators, pollinators), and those in the wider environment that support agro-ecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) as well as the diversity of the agro-ecosystems’. Agroecology is a way of developing agricultural systems based on the benefits provided by ecosystems. The aim is to increase or maintain agricultural production while reducing pressure on the environment and natural resources.
Food security is not only quantitative. The qualitative dimension is equally significant. Food safety is a major component of the chain that links producers to consumers. Throughout this chain, products can be exposed to multiple risks as for contaminants (pesticides residues, microorganisms and mycotoxins) that could affect the quality in terms of nutritional, healthy and safe aspects. It is therefore essential to develop best practices in the production, handling, processing and distribution of food products meeting product traceability, too. In this context, logistical and commercial issues are also crucial and may play an important role in reducing food losses and extending the shelf life of products, thus supporting market development dynamics. Prevention is the best way to reduce contaminants ensuring food safety and quality. To this aim, an adequate legislation and efficient tools for contaminants detection should be developed and adopted at Mediterranean scale.
The concept of physical and economic access to food is an important pillar of food security. To ensure Mediterranean population’s access to food is necessary to act simultaneously on production and consumption phases of the food chain. The ability to produce, to have the means to produce or to buy food for a nutritious diet, and thus have the necessary purchasing power, affects food security. This access must be stable, sustainable and continuous, including in adverse circumstance (conflicts, disasters, etc.). Access to food regards also farmers' access to inputs (land, water, seeds), markets as well as available services (e.g. credit) to facilitate the use of technologies. Water is the most important food product. Water is the lifeblood of ecosystems, on which depend the food security and nutrition of present and future generations and supports the economic growth, and income generation, the basics for economic access to food, food production (fisheries, crops and livestock), food processing, transformation and preparation.
Investing in New Generations and Fragile Territories
Many Young people in the Mediterranean are struggling to find decent jobs. When opportunities are available, they are more attracted by service-related jobs in cities. Employment related to agriculture, the rural world, fishing or forest proves to be quite unattractive. Yet, given the strong trends of unemployed young people in the Mediterranean, agriculture (and associated sectors) must be considered as sectors offering employment opportunities. Agricultural practices are experiencing significant innovations that redefine the work of farmers. Agricultural entrepreneurship is likely to provide the new generations with a rewarding and remunerative employment, a more competitive food production and economic wealth while struggling against food insecurity and reducing food imports. This development is only possible with the involvement of younger generations and a deep change in the perception of these issues that are crucial for the future.
The development of rural and coastal areas should aim to enhance specific resources of those often fragile territories and to improve the living conditions of their inhabitants. They represent issues that are economical (provision of basic infrastructure, agriculture products, fishery, tourist activities and services, sources of employment, economic resources), social (poverty, role of women, access to land, exploitation of sea) and environmental (protection and sustainable use of ecosystems and natural resources). The integrated development of coastal areas whereas agriculture, rural activities and fishery are strictly connected, would enable to adapt to new challenges related to these areas and to benefit from the complementarities and potential multi functionality that may raise from both fishermen and farmers. In addition, there are strategic considerations like the necessary inclusion of rural and coastal populations (farmers and fishermen) in order to avoid inequalities and frustrations of marginal regions whose stability is valuable to the socio-political and territorial balance.
The notion of vulnerable groups refers to categories of populations, individuals or organizations having some specific characteristics (age, sex, religion, social, economic, ethnical, physical etc.) that make them at higher risk falling into precarious situations. Vulnerable groups are less able to anticipate, resist and recover from shocks and disasters. They are not only more likely to suffer from food insecurity and poverty but also to be marginalized in development projects and growth processes. Inclusive development must ensure that all the populations marginalised for geographical or social reasons are included in the development process. It is both a process and a goal with a twofold approach: erase the barriers excluding vulnerable groups and increase their capacity and influence. When women and men do not enjoy the same opportunities in the sectors of society, including economic participation and decision making, and when the different aspirations and needs of women and men are not equally valued and favoured, gender equality become a central issue in the perspective of vulnerable groups’ inclusion.
Faced to changes and challenges, rural areas have shown their ability to be resilient and to provide solutions. There are many “smart rural areas” across the Mediterranean and they tend to spread. In these areas, good governance, public policy support to local initiatives, societal responsibility, multi-stakeholder dialogue in decision-making and implementation efforts, inclusive investments and synergies between research, development needs and value creators are combines. An agricultural revolution is needed in production methods and practices implemented to provide consumers with products of sufficient quantity and good quality but also to provide more sustainable options in view of increasing environmental constraints and social challenges.
Preventing Risks and Managing Tensions
Historically, the Mediterranean region is a place of strong mobility of peoples. This melting pot is also one of the strengths of this deeply mixed area. Migration can be internal with a rural exodus that continues to dominate while socio-economic perspectives in cities seem to be less favourable than before. Migration can also be international where people move to seek better living conditions abroad. There are also displaced people that are forced to migrate particularly due to security problems. The recent amplification of distress mobility in the Mediterranean region leads to many humanitarian and political issues, positioning debates on the management of emergency and short-term management of these complex dynamics. In parallel, the root causes of migration should be addressed in order to highlight possible solutions from the perspective of agricultural and rural development and food security in the Mediterranean.
The struggle against climate change cannot be done without taking consideration of the agricultural component and without ensuring food security. Often accused of being an important emitter of greenhouse gases, the agricultural and forestry sectors offer many solutions for the adaptation and mitigation of climate change. The ability to sequester greenhouse gas soil and biomass can help reduce global warming and the adoption of sustainable irrigation systems can sustainably refresh the region and fight against desertification. The development of agroforestry is also an opportunity to reduce emissions from deforestation and combine different crops.
Harmful organisms in animals and plants may seriously compromises food security and safety with severe economic and environmental consequences for specific species crops and territories, thus inducing a social destabilization. Globalization (trade intensification associated with the movement of travellers) increases the risk of introducing harmful organisms in new areas; moreover, these organisms may become invasive also due to climate change effects, thus inducing serious health crisis. Moreover, organisms which are already present in the area may become harmful due to climate change. This health crisis may be also risen by conflicts, poor storage and transport infrastructures, weak quarantine measures or lack of veterinary care; moreover, a critical role is played by a poor communication to stakeholders and civil society. High Technology is now available and handled by most of stakeholders (young generation as first) and may greatly support actions in the control of pests and diseases. The strengthening of quarantine measures, the adoption of advanced tools in the whole production chain for plants (i.e. IPM) and animals, the increase and sharing of knowledge and the networking can greatly contribute in limiting the occurrence of health crises.
The majority of Mediterranean countries depend on international markets to meet a significant part of their food needs. This trade is key to their food security but also to their own economic dynamics since the export of agricultural products still represents a significant part of the goods that these Mediterranean countries place in foreign markets. The increased unpredictability of budgetary dimensions of this agricultural trade echoes the growing trade partners with globalised and multi-stream fluxes. Price volatility is increasing and weighs on producers or consumers, especially the most vulnerable ones, not to mention the state of public finances. The resilience of countries, societies and farmers / fishermen proves to be essential in such an uncertain environment.