Israel in 19th place out of 113 countries on food security — study
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Israel in 19th place out of 113 countries on food security — study

Access to food drops worldwide, Global Food Security Index 2017 shows, with Israel seen among nations most susceptible to negative effects of climate change

A woman picks out apples at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on June 16, 2015. (Micah Bond/FLASH90)
A woman picks out apples at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem on June 16, 2015. (Micah Bond/FLASH90)

Israel ranks 19th out of 113 countries in the world on food security, but is susceptible to climate-related risks and its ability to mitigate and adapt to these risks, especially in the agricultural sector, according to a new report.

The Global Food Security Index 2017, published by the Economist Intelligence Unit and DuPont, places Israel in the 19th slot on affordability, availability, and quality of food.

But with the addition for the first time this year of indicators for climate-change related risks, its ranking is pulled down to 24th by the risk to its natural water resources, where it scores just three points. Uganda, in first position with almost no risk to said resources, scores 97.8.

Because the availability of fresh water in Israel — mainly in the Sea of Galilee and underground aquifers — comes nowhere near meeting demand,  the country has developed alternative sources such as recycled sewage water for agriculture and desalinated sea water for human consumption.

Israel reportedly draws the highest percentage of its drinking water from desalination in the world, a development that may offset to some extent the vulnerability identified in the report. The study cites desalination as an ameliorating factor in Israel’s case.

“The Middle East and North Africa are most vulnerable to agricultural water risk,” says the report.

“These findings mirror results of a World Resources Institute study on the world’s most water stressed countries by 2040, which projects that 14 out of 33 countries that will be most water stressed are in the Middle East.

Hikers near the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s largest freshwater lake (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

“As these countries continue to focus on driving economic growth, additional burden will be placed on already stressed freshwater resources.”

It adds: “Some of this stress can be alleviated by innovation: though Israel is the most at risk country in the region, it is among the most innovative countries in developing man-made water resources.

“Its Sorek desalination plant, near Tel Aviv, is the world’s largest reverse-osmosis desalination facility.

Israel's desalination plant on the Mediterranean Sea at Ashkelon (Photo credit: Edi Israel /Flash90)
Israel’s desalination plant in Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast. (Edi Israel/Flash90)

“It transforms seawater of the Mediterranean into drinking water for 1.5 million people.”

This human factor puts Israel at a relatively safer 77th place when it comes to exposure to climate change (factoring in temperature rise, drought, flooding, storm severity, sea level rise, and commitment to managing this exposure), behind Jordan and Egypt (75th and 76th respectively). It comes in at 14th best position on risks to its land but 92nd on risk to its oceans.

It is in 72nd place on sensitivity to all of these risks and 54th on its capacity to adapt to them. It comes 58th on demographic stresses.

The figures also show that while public expenditure on agricultural research and development are up, investment in agricultural infrastructure is going down.

“Falls in public sector investment in the agriculture sector [worldwide] are increasingly putting strains on globalized food systems,” the report finds.

The study reveals that after four years of positive food security gains, food security has actually deteriorated around the world, with the greatest losses in the Middle East and Africa.

Delegates arrive for a Major Economies Forum meeting at the COP22 climate change conference in Marrakech, Morocco, on November 16, 2016. (AFP/ POOL / Mark RALSTON)

“While the GFSI showed improvements in food security over the past four years, the most recent iteration has shown a decline, even without adjusting for climate-related and natural resource risks. The trends noted — fluctuating global economic growth, increasing inequality, political instability and force migration — are largely responsible for the deterioration.

“No country within the index performs better in terms of its overall food security score when adjusting for these risks. Clearly, moving forward, the discussion around global food security must include strategies to confront these risks.”

Noting that regular government monitoring of nutrition is particularly weak in the Middle East, North Africa and South America, it says that Israel’s most recent population-wide nutrition survey took place at the turn of the century, nearly a generation ago.

“By 2050, a 50% boost in agricultural production will be needed to satisfy the world’s 10 billion people, and increased consumption of fruits, vegetables and meat will necessitate shifts in agricultural outputs, taxing already strained natural resources,” the report warns.

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