Mediterraneans around the Mediterranean have been struggling for years to grow their own food.
In the early 20th century, Italy, Greece and Greece itself were the centers of Mediterranean agriculture, but by the 1980s, those countries had all gone bankrupt, leaving little to offer.
Meanwhile, the Middle East and North Africa, the former home of most of the world’s wheat production, was flooded with the cheap produce of the Arab world.
Today, the region’s wheat output is estimated to be at a 30 percent market share, compared to the U.S. and Europe.
But there’s a new frontier opening up on the Mediterranean as farmers and farmers’ associations across the region are coming together to develop a new agricultural infrastructure that would allow the region to grow its own food for the future.
The first step in this new infrastructure is to create a sustainable farm, says David Ochoa, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Agriculture and Resource Management.
That means finding ways to improve farming practices, reducing pesticide use, and building up farm-to-table farming systems.
The world’s biggest producer of wheat, the United States, is currently producing about two tons of wheat per hectare, but that doesn’t reflect the current situation, says Ochoab.
Most countries in the Middle Eastern and North African regions are producing a little less than half that, which means we’re only producing about four to five tons per hectade.
And the number of people who are growing food in the region is very small.
So there is still some space for growth, but we need to get to scale.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement in the supply chain, and we’re not there yet,” Ochoas says.
So far, the Mediterranean has been the region with the most progress, says Paul Siegel, the director of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Department of Agriculture.
For example, wheat production has been booming in the Mediterranean since the mid-20th century.
But it hasn’t been this rapid since 2000, when the region produced a little more than three tons of grains a hectare.
Now, with the rise of agroecology, Ochoo says, the industry is in a much better position to produce more.
“Agroecological techniques have dramatically increased the productivity of production over the last two decades, which has led to more production per hectar,” he says.
“The Mediterranean has become a major agricultural center.
The last few years, we have seen some significant improvement, especially in terms of wheat production,” he said.
But the real boost has come from the region as a whole, says Siegel.
“As countries that were once on the margins of agricultural development have begun to open up and diversify, they’ve been able to take advantage of a lot more of the available opportunities,” he adds.
For instance, many of the countries in Latin America have started to produce their own wheat.
Siegle points to a few of those countries, including Brazil and Argentina, as examples of what he calls the emerging “milk and eggs” of the region.
But he says the biggest breakthrough has come in the area of agronomy.
In Brazil, for instance, the country has become the largest producer of beans in the world, and it’s also the largest exporter of soybeans.
“Now, Brazil is in the process of diversifying its agronomic sectors, and is seeing an increase in the availability of wheat,” he explains.
And that’s only a part of the story.
“In the Middle States, there is a lot that is happening,” says Sauer.
“There are some really good examples of the importance of agrological technologies.
In a few years there will be a lot [of] soybeans coming to the Midwest and in Europe.
And it’s not just soybeans that are being grown, but also corn and other grains, and vegetables,” he points out.
As the region expands, Sauer says, “the world will be more and more reliant on these agronomies.”
In addition to agrology, there’s also new technology being developed that can help farmers produce more of what they need for their families and communities, such as greenhouses and biofuel crops.
“These technologies are already being developed in the developing world, so there’s an opportunity to use these technologies in areas that have not yet been touched by agrologics,” says Ochota.
One of the most promising agricultural innovations is the biofuels market.
While many of these biofuel crops have been developed in China, the U and other developing countries, the first biofuel crop developed in Africa is being developed on a small scale in Ethiopia.
Biofuel crops can be grown in very different locations than crops like wheat and barley.
The crops have more flexibility and are more resistant to drought, which is key to the region achieving a food security