IWA Publishing

Food and water insecurity: re-assessing the value of rainfed agriculture

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Rainfed agriculture has potential to produce needed cereals for the growing populations of West and Central Asia even though rainfed agriculture is perceived as risky. The value of rainfed agriculture to produce competitively should be re-assessed. This requires the concerted efforts of farmers, researchers, and policy makers to work on the technical factors that determine agricultural production as well as to address the economic policy environment. Syria is a small country with a diversified rainfed and irrigated agriculture. Rainfed and supplemental irrigation technology has improved Syria’s food self-reliance, however, the policy environment is not conducive to the sustainable use of natural resources. Supplemental irrigation technology to produce wheat is used to illustrate the need to address both the technical issues as well as the economic incentives to make agricultural production competitive. Kazakhstan is a large country with a predominantly rainfed agriculture. Farmers could benefit from rainfall probabilities to use fertilizer and improved wheat varieties under rainfed agriculture as Syria did during the eighties and nineties. Implicit taxation of farmers needs to be removed and access to markets must be ensured for farmers in Kazakhstan to benefit from international wheat prices. While it is important to improve production technology, the economic policy environment needs to be addressed first to create incentives for farmers to produce commodities competitively in water-scarce regions.

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