There’s really no way to sugarcoat it. Libya is facing an agricultural crisis.
The country is in the middle of the Sahara Desert, one of the driest and least hospitable environments for farming on the planet. Natural water sources are virtually nonexistent, and most of the land is devoid of the resources necessary for a successful agricultural program. In fact, only about 5 percent of the entire country is farmable.
The lack of farmable land means the majority of food produced is for domestic consumption and it’s still not enough. Libya is importing nearly $800 million in agricultural products each year.
And to make matters worse, the country and its government are still reeling from the Libyan revolution more than five years ago. Agricultural production is dropping, forcing officials to import even more food.
But while the present-day situation may look bleak, there is hope on the horizon. An emphasis on industrial agriculture in Libya could one day help make the struggling nation self-sufficient.
The Challenges of Industrial Agriculture in Libya
Agricultural endeavors in Libya are not new. There is evidence of a thriving agricultural system in Fezzan more than 2,000 years ago. This region in the southwestern portion of the country is home to a handful of ancient villages and dried-up riverbeds, so we can assume at one time this area was ripe for agricultural production.
In the present, much of the country is barren of the natural factors needed to support large-scale agricultural projects. However, there are still pockets across the country that are being developed for cultivation.
How Industrial Agriculture in Libya Is Working Today
To combat the natural challenges, private organizations have begun teaming up to develop plans to increase agricultural output in the nation.
One of the greatest accomplishments in Libya’s quest for sustainable and self-sufficient agriculture is the completion of the Great Man-Made River. This series of underground pipelines funnel fresh water from aquifers deep underneath the Sahara Desert in the southern portion of the country to the more populated cities along the northern coast. Along the way, the water is also used for irrigation to supply agricultural needs.
In addition, private companies have stepped in to help boost agricultural production. There are a handful of organizations working to improve farming and output in Libya. Many of these groups partner with the Great Man-Made River Water Utilization Authority to develop sustainable farming infrastructures and some even use their own money to provide seeds, fertilizers, and technology to maximize production.
The goal of these programs is to use water and irrigation from the Great Man-Made River and agricultural necessities provided by each individual organization to create a system that will increase crop yields. The hope is that by producing more crops, more food can be used for domestic consumption.
The Pros of Industrial Agriculture in Libya Outweigh the Cons
Despite the proof that industrial agriculture in Libya is improving the nation’s output and reducing its dependency on foreign imports, we know there will always be some people who point to the negatives of this type of farming.
And there is no arguing the numbers – studies have found that industrial agriculture is to blame for nearly 30 percent of deforestation in Africa and Asia.
When these areas are cleared for farming, it increases the risk of erosion of nutrient-rich topsoil, which can harm fertile land and contaminate the water supply. In addition, overproduction and use of fertilizers and plant and crop protection products can also wreak havoc on the ecosystem. None of these threats are new – we’ve all been hearing about the negative effects of deforestation and flash clearing of wildland since childhood.
However, most of these negative impacts of industrial agriculture are seen in the lusher countries further south on the African continent. In Libya, the majority of these issues are moot points because there is little forestland to clear and freshwater sources are scarce. If anything, industrial agriculture is creating more lush and fertile lands and adding to the fresh water supply rather than reducing it.
Therefore, the benefit to the country and its population far outweighs the minimal environmental risks associated with industrial agriculture in Libya.
The country definitely still has a long way to go, and a major challenge is ahead. But if more private organizations and government programs step in to assist, we don’t see why industrial agriculture in Libya couldn’t help steer the country on a path to self-sufficiency and sustainability.