Back to the roots

While the World Bank, one of the main providers of financial aid in the region, has been warning for years that food insecurity is a growing challenge, it also sees some potential solutions.

Baking bread in Egypt (photo: AFP)
In Egypt, around 70% of the population depends on subsidised bread: the Egyptian government runs a food subsidy programme for 70% of the population – above all for bread, a staple food that is usually consumed with every meal

"Domestic agriculture and food can be engines of economic growth, creating jobs for entrants to the labour market," Ferid Belhaj, vice president for the Middle East and North Africa region at the World Bank, wrote in an essay last September. 

The Middle East and North Africa "can regain its ancient leadership in agricultural innovation by investing in the cutting-edge practices and technologies responsive to a changing climate, such as hydroponics, conservation agriculture and the safe use of treated water."

The Abu Dhabi-based agri-tech company 'Pure Harvest' is seen as such a pivot. The company grows produce by using hydroponics, which allows crops to grow on mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil. This technique is widely seen as an innovative answer to desertification, another challenge in the Middle East.

So far, the company has made it to No 1 in another field already: in 2020, Kuwait's Wafra International Investment Company invested $100m in the start-up, making it the largest ever commitment to an agri-tech firm in the Middle East.

Jennifer Holleis

© Deutsche Welle 2022


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