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Climate-smart agriculture key for Jordan in mitigating climate change impacts — WB report

By Batool Ghaith - May 23,2022 - Last updated at May 24,2022

AMMAN — The suitability profile of the key crops currently grown in Jordan is expected to change, according to the World Bank’s Jordan Climate-Smart Agriculture Action Plan: Investment Opportunities in the Agriculture Sector’s Transition to a Climate Resilient Growth Path report.

The report, issued earlier this month, said that the crops currently grown in Jordan will change, as potato suitability will deteriorate, and barley and wheat will become more marginal. However, olive yields will remain stable, while tomatoes and dates are expected to increase.

The report noted that climate change will pressure Jordan’s water resources and adversely affect agricultural production through water scarcity, higher temperatures, and more frequent extreme events. 

“Jordan is facing harsh climatic changes that affect agricultural production, and these challenges are expected to worsen in coming years. Climate change will place significant food security and livelihood stress on Jordan’s poor and vulnerable populations. It may also hamper the further development of Jordan’s agricultural sector, which increasingly depends on export markets,” the report said.

To address climate change, and in collaboration with the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, and with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, the World Bank assisted the government of Jordan in preparing this Climate-Smart Agriculture Action Plan.

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) heightens productivity in an “environmentally and socially sustainable way”, strengthens farmers’ adaptation and resilience to climate change, and supports mitigation efforts while offering opportunities to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change, and promote continued growth and job creation, the report said.

“This CSA Action Plan used quantitative and participatory tools to prioritise investment packages for each of Jordan’s agro ecological zones: Expansion of date palms and protected vegetables in irrigated parts of the Jordan Valley and highlands, olive production and processing and barley production in rain-fed regions, and small ruminant value chains and Badia restoration in agro pastoral areas,” the report stated.

Agricultural investment in the country overall is about half the regional average, the report indicated.

According to the report, all the investment packages proposed by this CSA Action Plan also promise to increase water productivity, create jobs in high-value export chains, and benefit farmers and vulnerable populations both directly and indirectly.

They also have a negative net carbon balance, with a total reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 823,665 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent combined. The total estimated GHG reduction represents a value of more than $25 million, the report added.

The report noted that Jordan produces only about 3 to 4 per cent of the wheat and barley it consumes, as “nearly all its barley is dedicated to livestock feed”.

Jordan’s agriculture is increasingly productive, and as of 2020, the sector contributed about 5.9 per cent of the total national gross domestic product, according to the report.

Jordan’s agricultural sector produced about 1.15 million metric tonnes (MT) of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017, the report said.

In addition to being one of the most water-scarce countries, the report indicated that Jordan is experiencing accelerating “land degradation and desertification” due to a loss of vegetative cover.

“Solutions to these issues are undermined by a dearth of funding and weak institutional coordination among ministries and between the public and private sectors,” the report said.

“Water resources for agriculture are expected to decrease by 20 to 25 per cent in the coming years, which will particularly threaten the irrigated agro-ecological zone (AEZ), where the bulk of Jordan’s agricultural gross domestic product is generated,” the report stated.

The report highlighted the barriers to investment in Jordan, such as political and security issues, resource scarcity and conflicts, climate risks, financial constraints, and market failures, most of which are embedded in the policy environment, and as a result can be addressed or controlled as part of the CSA programme design and implementation.

“A vital aspect of the CSA Action Plan is monitoring and evaluation [M&E]. Several additional steps are still needed to build an M&E system in Jordan. Investments in M&E will result in institutional capacity building and generate comprehensive data sets that can be used for policy- and decision-making,” the report said.

Jordan’s CSA Action Plan aims to enhance CSA across Jordan’s AEZs and major value chains in alignment with national climate priorities and international commitments, including the Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement.

Less than 1 per cent of total agricultural workers nationwide and about 2.3 per cent of rural agricultural workers are women, but rural women often engage in unpaid agricultural work, such as seeding, weeding, thinning, and harvesting, the report noted.

Jordan’s agricultural system generally classifies agricultural products as livestock, field crops, vegetables, and fruits. The livestock subsector dominates the vast agro pastoral AEZ and is valued at $1.38 billion.

In terms of crops, olives and barley occupy by far the greatest area, followed by wheat and tomatoes. Tomatoes are the largest crop by production volume, followed by cucumbers, potatoes, olives, and citrus fruit, the report said.

According to the report, Jordan is self-sufficient in olives, olive oil, tomatoes, goat meat, fresh milk, and eggs. 

Eyas Shuaibi, expert from Geneva Centre for Studies and Research, said that the productivity of GDP per worker in Jordan has increased tremendously in the past 10 years in the agriculture sector, which he described as “encouraging for seeking more employment opportunities in agriculture”.

“CSA will provide high-end jobs instead of physically difficult manual labour, and will focus on capacity building and skillsets for farmers, affecting the actual job context not only in terms of numbers but in general conditions,” he told The Jordan Times.

Shuaibi noted that CSA would help balance the import and export ratio for Jordan. “We will still import but we will compensate with exporting as well,” he said.

He indicated that Jordan may not have the full requirements for the CSA yet, however, there are many projects in various governorates working to make it happen, noting that the Kingdom has a “good start”.

Economist Wajdi Makhamreh noted that the agricultural sector is one of the most important sectors in which the government must invest in as it has an impact on food security, especially after the pandemic.

“There are very great opportunities in the local agricultural sector, but unfortunately there is no government strategy to exploit the sector optimally,” Makhamreh told The Jordan Times.

He said that Jordan needs to reduce imports due to problems with the smoothness of supply, the rise in freight charges and the decline in imported materials from Ukraine and Russia due to the war.

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