Environment

Jordan helps farmers to boost food security

By Mohammed Ghazal in Amman

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A farmer stands in a vineyard in Mafraq. The closure of the border with neighbouring Syria has cut off one of the area's main agricultural markets. [Photo courtesy of Jordan Agricultural Engineers Association]

Jordan recently revealed new plans to enhance the productivity of its agricultural sector and improve food security, which has been strained by population growth and the massive influx of Syrian refugees.

Minister of Agriculture Khaled Hneifat announced the 14 million Jordanian dinar ($19.7 million) initiative on February 2nd, noting that it will begin in March.

The kingdom's agricultural sector has been adversely affected by the security situation in the region, he said.

Jordan used to export 700,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables annually to Syria and Iraq, he said, but only 90,000 tonnes were exported to the Iraqi market in 2016.

Increasing self-sufficiency

The Ministry of Agriculture has been working to develop a "framework to support the marketing process, and at the same time working to increase the level of self-sufficiency so as to reduce import", Hneifat said.

It has subsidised export costs, especially air freight and refrigerated transport, to offset losses incurred by the closure of borders with neighbouring countries.

It also has "regulated agricultural production, implemented cropping patterns, put focus on product and seed quality, activated scientific research, and made available interest-free loans through the Agricultural Credit Corporation", he said.

The project will offer participants two months of advanced training on production projects, "such as agricultural, food and traditional industries", Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Nimr Haddadin told Al-Mashareq.

This will help them set up small enterprises and establish permanent product exhibits to be run by marketing companies in exchange for 10% of the sales revenue, he added.

A market will be built on three dunams within the Greater Amman Municipality to promote these enterprises, Haddadin said, adding that the project "aims to enhance food security and increase productivity in the agricultural sector".

Dozens of people across the kingdom will undergo training to enhance their skills in managing small income-generating agricultural enterprises, he said, adding that the project is expected to be completed by the end of the current year.

Developing the sector

The project is "vital to Jordan and will restore luster and vitality to the private sector", said Jordan Farmers Union president Odeh al-Rawashdeh.

Providing advanced training on agricultural skills will encourage many "to launch income-generating enterprises, contribute to increasing agricultural production and help enhance food security in Jordan", he told Al-Mashareq.

This is especially important in light of the dramatic increase in demand as a result of population growth and the presence of Syrian refugees, he said.

"The project should focus on training citizens on modern technology and advanced cultivation methods, as this would help increase productivity and efficiency and reduce costs," he said.

"About 200,000 families work in the agricultural sector and earn their livelihood from it," al-Rawashdeh noted.

He stressed the need for new enterprises to be continuously established to strengthen the agricultural sector due to the difficult circumstances farmers are experiencing.

Marketing and promotion

The project provides farmers with much-needed marketing and promotion assistance for their agricultural products, al-Rawashdeh said.

"Farmers are in desperate need of assistance with marketing, especially in view of the financial pressures they are under and their lack of experience in this area," he said.

According to Salameh al-Adwan, who owns a farm in the Jordan Valley region, the most important benefit of the project is the promotion and marketing.

"Farmers are facing great difficulties because of the closure of the borders with Syria and Iraq due to the terrorist acts by terrorist groups such as the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL) and others," he told Al-Mashareq.

He stressed the need to "give farmers greater attention, because improving the productivity and income of farmers would have a positive impact on food security in Jordan".

"Food security is the foundation of social and economic security and stability," he said. "Accordingly, the existence of projects that radically help [farmers] meet the challenges and encourage people to work in agriculture is of utmost importance, given the difficult regional circumstances and difficulty of exporting to traditional markets."

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