As a country that consists mostly of the Sahara Desert, Libya has a brutally dry climate that does not lend itself to agriculture. Between the lack of natural resources and low rainfall levels, freshwater supply in Libya is limited. Water for the agriculture industry has to be sourced from dams and aquifers, but it also has to be shared for domestic use. Only 5 percent of the land is farmable and it is easily exhausted, making sustainable agriculture in Libya a challenge.
The physical and economic climates of the country do not support a healthy agriculture industry. Fortunately, the oil industry makes up the majority of the country’s income now. Though sustainable agriculture in Libya used to make up a third of the country’s gross revenue, as of 2008 agriculture only accounts for 1.87 percent of Libya’s income.
The country’s economy does not depend on agriculture, but the population is starting to face the threat of food insecurity without a sustainable agriculture industry. The Libyan crisis forced the emigration of many laborers in the country. Agricultural production dropped and resulted in a major increase in food imports. The residents who have remained in Libya during the crisis are experiencing life in a food desert, forcing them to forgo necessities like medical care in order to pay for food.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the U.N. has been attempting to combat these threats by providing resources such as pest control, quality seeds, technical assistance and education to Libyan farmers. In 2017, the FAO supplied a $3.5 million grant to strengthen the capacities of the agriculture industry.
Additionally, water pockets found throughout the desert have spurred the government to sanction new agriculture projects to utilize the hidden desert resources.
While the Libyan government and the FAO focus on resurrecting sustainable agriculture in Libya, organizations like the World Food Programme are helping families get the food they need in the meantime. Continued focus on maximizing the available resources will help sustainable agriculture in Libya reach its full potential.
– Anna Sheps