Understanding Mediterranean challengesPermanently adapted to the emerging needs of the region, the work of the CIHEAM focuses on four core challenges: planet protection, food and nutrition security, inclusive development and resilience to crises and tensions.
Struggle against "triple waste"
Mediterranean countries are producing more with fewer resources. In this perspective, the issue of waste and losses becomes essential for food security policies. It should be addressed from its social, economic and environmental perspectives. Indeed, combining the analysis of natural resources, production and knowledge enables to tackle waste and losses from a sustainable development perspective, where human beings are the priority. The struggle against waste provides leverage for Mediterranean cooperation. Water and land resources, biodiversity, forests and the marine wealth of the Mediterranean must be protected. We must also fight against waste occurring throughout the food chain and against knowledge waste as traditional knowledge and know-how must be preserved and enhanced.
Food and nutrition security
Agriculture and fisheries are decisive for the region’s societies. Due to demographic growth, in 2020, there will be some 530 million persons to feed in the region. Agriculture remains a major economic factor in Mediterranean countries, as it employs one third of the active labour force in the majority of them. Overall, it represents more than 10% of GDP in many States and agricultural products represent an average of 10 to 25 % of trade for several Mediterranean countries. The Mediterranean is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change and it is predicted to become even hotter and dryer than it already is. These phenomena add complexity to the already vulnerable situation of Mediterranean agriculture, which struggles to increase quantity and quality of production while preserving scarce natural resources.
Mediterranean countries have strong human, economic and agricultural assets. Despite the existing inequalities, a series of economic, social and demographic indicators show a general improvement in living standards, but there are major disparities between and within countries. In this context, Mediterranean countries share a common problem: youth migration. This is a true squandering of human resources. Inclusive development ensuring social and territorial cohesion is an absolute priority. Agricultural and rural areas must therefore be promoted as strategic sectors for economic growth and political stability. Besides providing food, these sectors also provide jobs and stability in fragile rural areas where more inclusive policies (both social and economic) must be implemented.
Resilience to crises and tensions
The Region holds some of the world records in terms of conflict, insecurity, demographic growth, unemployment, migration, food dependency, scarcity and depletion of natural resources and expected climate change impacts. The current displacement of populations is obliging us to see this phenomenon as a two-fold challenge. Firstly, we have to manage the humanitarian crisis. Secondly, we also need to look into a more distant future and identify the most effective instruments to alleviate tensions in the Mediterranean on the long term. Insecurity related to water, land and climate cannot be dissociated from economic and social migration and environmental problems. In a context marked by trade intensification, acceleration of the mobility of population and goods and climate change, crops are becoming increasingly vulnerable to pests and diseases. This affects the key sectors of the economy and presents a series of emerging risks. The prevention and control of animal and plant diseases, the epidemiological surveillance and the animal and plant health information exchanges outside of each country’s borders are becoming more than ever essential for domestic production, export and import. The majority of countries depend on agricultural imports. This makes them particularly vulnerable to international food price volatility. International and national actions can seek to mitigate food price volatility and its impacts on vulnerable people. On the long term, investing in the growth and resilience of agricultural productivity is fundamental to address food price volatility. Regional networks focusing on strategic commodities and the promotion of producer associations are therefore essential.