GLOBAL VIEWS OF LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS: The Fatal Synergy of War and Drought in the Eastern Mediterranean


  • Rami Zurayk American University of Beirut



Food Systems, Drought, Lebanon, Mediterranean, Middle East, Syria, Turkey


First paragraphs:

Winter is not coming to the Fertile Crescent. No rain, no snow, no cold weather. A drought has taken hold of the land. Trees have blossomed but no one knows if they will bear fruits.

The countries affected include Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and southern Turkey where the headwaters of the Tigris and the Euphrates are located. The region is politically unstable and the scene of many of conflicts and intrigues. Since the end of WWII it has witnessed tens of coups, large-scale invasions, and occupations, as well as wars, all of which have caused repeated displacement and exodus. These countries today host, in addition to their populations, 3 millions Palestinian and 2.5 millions Syrian refugees.

The region is also ecologically fragile and water deficient, and is expected to suffer as climate change unfolds. In this part of the world, winters are short and wet and summers long and dry. Long-term meteorological data (1902–2010) indicates that wintertime droughts are not unusual, but their frequency appears to have increased over the past 20 years. Anthropic climate change is believed to only partly explain this phenomenon (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 2011).

The countries concerned are in the midst of profound agrarian transformations. They have all witnessed massive rural-to-urban migration over the past 50 years as their rural economies were transformed by the global food regime. Except for Turkey, all are today net food importers. A 2011 IFPRI study (Breisinger, Zhu, Al Riffai, Nelson, Robertson, Funes, & Verner, 2011) predicted significant declines in agricultural yields accompanying climate change. This year's drought may irreversibly damage the resilience of the landscape and have far reaching consequences on agrarian communities. It may also impact countries far beyond the political borders of the region....


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Author Biography

Rami Zurayk, American University of Beirut

Rami Zurayk is professor at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. He studied at the American University of Beirut and at Oxford University. His research addresses issues at the nexus of food, landscapes, and livelihoods. He is an active member of Lebanese civil society and a founder of Slow Food Beirut.



How to Cite

Zurayk, R. (2014). GLOBAL VIEWS OF LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS: The Fatal Synergy of War and Drought in the Eastern Mediterranean. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 4(2), 9–13.

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