Managing Drought Risks in the Low-Rainfall Areas of the Middle East and North Africa

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Case Study #7-5 of the Program: ''Food Policy For Developing Countries: The Role Of Government In The Global Food System''
The need to improve methods for managing drought risks in the low-rainfall areas of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has increased in recent decades as population growth and climate change have contributed to greater demands on the resource base and accentuated both the incidence and severity of drought losses. Government interventions have typically been initiated on an ad hoc basis in response to crisis situations, and little thought is usually given to their long-term impacts on the way farmers and herders manage resources and the productivity of agropastoral systems. There is now accumulating evidence to show that once drought management interventions are institutionalized, they lead to changes in how resources are managed, including the increased cropping and privatization of rangeland resources and more settled patterns of livestock production. These changes can contribute to greater productivity and improved livelihoods. If drought management interventions are subsidized, however, they can also lead to moral hazard problems whereby herders adopt excessively risky farm management practices, with increased losses in drought years and a growing dependence on government assistance. Drought management interventions need to be designed so that they assist farmers and herders to better manage risk and to improve their productivity and incomes, but without distorting incentives in inappropriate ways. The experience with feed subsidy and credit programs in the MENA region has had mixed results, and although they have helped protect incomes and food security in drought years, they have had negative impacts on the way resources are managed. Better alternatives could be area-based rainfall insurance, particularly if offered by the private sector; the development of more accurate and accessible drought forecasting information; and a switch to safety nets that are tied to poverty criteria rather than agricultural outcomes. Your assignment is to propose an appropriate mix of drought management policies for the MENA region, giving careful thought to the kinds of additional information needed to inform these choices.
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10 pp.
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Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences
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Peter Hazell (2007). Case Study #7-5, ''Managing Drought Risks in the Low-Rainfall Areas of the Middle East and North Africa''. In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), ''Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies.''10 pp.
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