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Drivers and challenges for transnational land–water–food investments by the Middle East and North Africa region

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Abstract Over the last decade, transnational land–water investments in farmlands abroad by the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) economies have been adopted as an alternative strategy to address water–food scarcity and security narratives. Large‐scale land acquisitions in farmlands abroad are often attributed to the food and fuel crisis of 2007/8 and 2010/11. Land–water investments entail several drivers and challenges in light of demographic growth trends, physical water stress, commodity market fluctuations, food sovereignty concerns, and climate change uncertainties across diverse countries of the MENA region. Despite the ongoing reliance on virtual water trade to secure their food needs, transnational investments were adopted by MENA economies as an alternative strategy for water–food security. From a political economy standpoint, such investments are founded on state‐capital alliances to achieve both; profit as well as larger strategic objectives. Critical literature attempted to unpack transnational land–water investments through different analytical lenses including accumulation by dispossession, resources grabs, nexus, and water security mercantilism. Yet, the materialization of the investments on the ground go beyond these debates, and is often associated with challenges related to infrastructure, energy, investment climate, labor, as well as other environmental, social, and sovereign risks. Most importantly, land–water–food investments may also entail hydropolitical risks on local, national, and transboundary levels. This article is categorized under: Human Water > Water Governance Engineering Water > Planning Water
Average per capita internal renewable water resources per year and average population in MENA. MENA, Middle East and North Africa. Source: Antonelli, Laio, and Tamea ()/data from AQUASTAT ()
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MENA cumulative virtual water imports and export country contributions (2010). MENA, Middle East and North Africa. Source: Antonelli et al. ()
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Consumption and production of cereals in the Arab region (1,000 MT). Source: Konandreas (, p. 36)
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Water availability per capita, 2018, 2025, and 2050. Source: Keulertz ()
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Engineering Water > Planning Water
Human Water > Water Governance

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