Drought and climate variability are the primary climate hazards in Central and West Asia and North Africa, the world’s most water-stressed and socially-fragile region. These hazards exacerbate other challenges, fueling a perpetual cycle of vulnerability and inequality, worsened by active armed conflicts. West Asia and North Africa host over 40% of global internally displaced people and 33% of the world’s refugees. And in Central Asia, youth unemployment has led to widespread labor migration. Across the region, the increasing “feminization” of agriculture indicates new exposure levels for women, who make up more than half the agricultural labor force.
Rainfed systems constitute the main source of staple food and proteins, making rainfall variability a key concern. Irrigated systems—important for local nutritious foods, diversification, and incomes—use more than 85% available freshwater resources in the region. Increased inter-sectoral competition, including for aquatic food systems, demands that agricultural water consumption, productivity, and quality be addressed urgently. Land degradation and salinization from poor water and soil management, compounded by erosion and overgrazing, amplify these challenges. The conditions lead to critical loss of the region’s biodiversity, while value chain actors struggle to access resources to manage risks and are not adequately supported by policies and institutions.
This Initiative aims to co-develop, scale, and implement solutions that reduce fragility and accelerate resilience to drought and climate variability across Central and West Asia and North Africa’s agrifood systems, from farm to regional level.
By 2024, hundreds of thousands of stakeholders will adopt innovations that enhance production and marketing of staple and locally-important nutritious foods while restoring water resources, soil health, and agrobiodiversity.
This will be achieved by:
- Promoting gender- and socially-inclusive governance, and decision-making for common benefits and opportunities across value-chains, responding to market-demand and generating enhanced value-addition. This will improve livelihood security, raise incomes, and reduce poverty among tens of thousands of value chain actors.
- Building integrated capacity at multiple scales to mitigate drivers of fragility and conflict particular to the region that propagate inequality and insecurity and threaten systems resilience.
- Supporting a transition to more coherent policies promoting joint benefits across water management, energy, food production, and growth, in proposed countries.
Proposed 3-year outcomes include:
- At least 100,000 smallholders, agribusinesses, and value chain actors, with a focus on vulnerable groups (youth, migrants, conflict-affected), including 30% women, use innovations that increase productivity by 5–20% and maintain agrobiodiversity under limited and variable rainfall while generating market access and more stable incomes, and enhancing carbon sequestration.
- At least 100,000 smallholders, agribusinesses, and value chain actors, with a focus on vulnerable groups (youth, migrants, conflict-affected), including 30% women, use innovations that help them better manage drought across irrigated systems, improving land and water productivity by 5–20%, and enhancing market and employment opportunities, while restoring freshwater resources and agro-biodiversity.
- Stakeholders in four countries, from a range of “stable” and fragile contexts, collaborate across sectors and geographies, and lead a transition to more coherent policies, governance, and data platforms, promoting synergies between water management, energy, food production, and economic growth at watershed and country levels to drive impact at scale.
|CLIMATE ADAPTATION & MITIGATION
Millions of value chain actors benefit from climate-adapted innovations, making their livelihoods more resilient to drought and climate variability. Mitigation co-benefits contribute to a reduction of CO2eq emissions by 20% across value chains.
|NUTRITION, HEALTH & FOOD SECURITY
Adoption of innovations increases food production stability and enables access to affordable, safe, contextually relevant, and nutritious foods for millions of households and consumers in the region.
|POVERTY REDUCTION, LIVELIHOODS & JOBS
By 2030, value chains will are more inclusive, benefiting millions of people. Innovations intended to enhance profitability and incomes assist hundreds of thousands to exit poverty, with a particular focus on women, youth, and migrant/displaced and conflict-affected groups.
|GENDER EQUALITY, YOUTH & SOCIAL INCLUSION
Hundreds of thousands of women, youth, and migrant/displaced and conflict-affected groups are empowered through the strengthening of their roles in decision-making and enhancement of their economic opportunities through more equitable access to financing, inputs, services, markets, and jobs.
|ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH & BIODIVERSITY
The management of hundreds of thousands of hectares of degraded land in the region is improved. Consumptive water use in food production is reduced. Preservation of dryland agrobiodiversity and availability of plant genetic accessions are also improved.
Header photo: Arab Food Security project. Photo by ICARDA.