Climate projections for the Middle East and North African (MENA) region indicate warmer and drier conditions with increased frequency of natural disasters. Food insecurity and climate change are the two major challenges in the region. Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable economic sectors to climate change, mainly due to the limited availability of water and land resources in the two target MENA countries (Egypt and Jordan). Together with increasing urbanization (Egypt will be doubled by 2050) and forced migration in Jordan, puts additional challenges, not only for supporting the livelihood of rural populations, but also to maintain a tolerable level of food security.
The challenge is a truly sustainable agriculture that meets both production and environmental targets. However, food production itself is only part of the problem. Food security isn’t just about exploiting scientific and technological advances to increase crop yields, it’s also about addressing the associated economic and social factors to enable people to access sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Something which is lacking in current PCs higher institution practices in this field. A thorough review of studies focusing in the two target countries (e.g. UNEP (2010) & ILO (2010) show that there is future risk of higher skills shortages in ‘niche’ areas related to the impact of climate change to agricultural sectors and food production. In particular, there is need for highly specialised scientists in the field of agriculture and food who want to combine scientific and social or policy skills to better understand and make significant contributions to climate adaptation and mitigation in agriculture and food security. Given the rapidly changing marketplace that confronts agri-food industries, there is an urgent need to integrating agro-food entrepreneurship and trnasversal skills in teaching, learning and outrech activities.
The demand for scientists with expertise in the agriculture/food sector is likely to increase in the next decade in the countries concerned and globally. There are also skills shortages in areas of expertise such as plant and crop breeding, plant physiology and pest management, large animal physiology and health, soil science, and horticulture. There is also need to bridge the gap between researchers, advisers and farmers; making climate change-related information more accessible and relevant to the local actors; to improve the information and knowledge sharing between key stakeholders; ‘give a voice’ to groups and individuals that are often excluded; strengthen local empowerment and the ability to self-organise in response to external climatic disturbances and food insecurity. It is, thus, of critical importance to integrate agricultural science with related subjects that impact on sustainability and food security such as geo-politics, legislation and regulation, consumer pressures, economics, agro-ecology and environmental stewardship.
The selection of these problems has been done carefully, taking into consideration national and regional priorities and a thorough review of documents related to climate change, sustainable agriculture and food security in the partner countries and the MENA region. In response to these challenges in the target countries, the development of new and specialised programmes that draw on climate change, agricultural sciences, food sciences and other relevant disciplines, is an immediate priority that fits governmental commitments and policies.
The impetus for developing this proposal for a new Master of Science in Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security came primarily from four key drivers. First, the challenge of merging climate change resilience and adaptation to respond in the needs identified for the agricultural sector and food security as a key strategic priority by UNEP and ILO in the MENA region and by relevant governmental agencies in the targeted countries. The Ministries of Agriculture in both countries have stressed this need and a number of key experts have highlighted the urgency of these issues to their very survival, in terms of stability, green development and democratic reforms. Also, the Ministries of Higher Education and their Supreme Councils of Universities are now encouraging inter/multidisciplinary post-graduate programmes and show more flexibility in accrediting them. The Higher Education Accreditation Commission in Jordan agreed to function as our associated partner. Second, such a programme will be designed to capitalise on the strengths of the E.U. PCs, the declared commitment of the PCs administrative authorities, government agencies. Third, the gap we identified through our market research indicated no other MSc programme in the two targeted countries on CCSFS. Fourth, our needs analysis indicated that such a MSc programme should be established at the Suez Canal University (Egypt) and Jerash University (Jordan) with the help of the CCSAFS Consortium, as these two partner institutions are in the periphery and need development. They also have undergraduate programmes in the field of agricultural sciences, which ensure the long-term sustainability of the CCSAFS post-graduate programme.
The proposed new MSc in Climate Change, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security (CCSAFS) tackles a global and European-wide issue that cannot be successfully resolved by individual countries, especially the targeted countries which lack resources, but they are committed to facilitate any global or EU initiative. This project is in close alignment with the EU Joint Programming Initiative on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change (FACCE-JPI) launched in 2010 that provides and steers academic programmes and research to support sustainable agricultural production and economic growth, to contribute to a European bio-based economy, while maintaining and restoring ecosystem services under current and future climate change.