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Agricultural Production, Food Security and Higher Value in North Africa

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Interest in agriculture and food security issues in North Africa increased after the food price rise and continued price volatility since late 2006. North African countries are highly dependent on world markets for their food security. This did not seem to be a problem as long as world food prices were low and stable during the 1980s and 1990s. However, when they started rising and becoming more volatile after 2006, alarm bells rang all across the region.

The social unrest that started in late 2010 in Tunisia and then spread to other countries also drew attention to the importance of agriculture. Youth called for economic inclusiveness and greater social justice. Achieving those objectives requires paying particular attention to backwards regions that mainly depend on agriculture (directly or indirectly) for livelihood. Rural poverty is much higher than urban poverty in North Africa, and rural youth unemployment is particularly high.

The AfDB publication argues that the problem of food security and rural poverty in North Africa are interlinked. It proposes a strategy to enhance food security while also reducing rural poverty and rural-urban inequality by increasing farmers’ share of value added. The proposed strategy has four prongs: (1) making better use of world markets and maintaining a security food reserve, (2) greater support to domestic food producers (especially small family farmers) to link them better with national and international markets, (3) introducing new social safety net programs based on cash transfers, and (4) building new inclusive economic institutions that represent small farmers and ensure that they have a voice in the policy making process.

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