Kuwait Kuwait is not self-sufficient in agriculture but the country will be in the future. Its production of cereals, vegetables and fruit grown in the oasis of Jahra and scattered smallholdings is not sufficient for the population’s needs, due to limitations of water supply, fertile soil, climate and manpower. Much of its food needs to be imported but government investment and the work of the Kuwait Experimental farm have led to improvements whereby existing resources are more efficiently utilized. Kuwait is a small arid desert land of about 6200 square miles. There is virtually no natural source of fresh water. Climatic conditions entail occasional high winds and dust storms, little or no rainfall, and summer temperatures as high as 120F. “Consequently, arable land amounts to less than 9% of total acreage.”1 Soil deficiencies and the intense heat and sunlight allow continued cultivation only by expensive underground pipe-fed irrigation or by hydroponics.
Ordinary irrigation under these conditions results in gradually increasing soil salinity. this phenomenon has been the cause of the estimated 1% annual decrease in arable land for the region as a whole. Hence, development of traditional agriculture is severely restricted. 1El Mallakh, Ragaei (Kuwait, Trade and Investment. Boulder, Westview Press Inc., 1989) pg 117 Kuwaitis are under no illusion that self-sufficiency will take less than 20 to 30 years to attain and even then it cannot include such items as beef and cereals.
For Kuwait cereal production is considered too expensive and unnecessary. Self-sufficiency in poultry, vegetables and fruit is a visible goal: already Kuwait produces 60% of the eggs it needs, 40% of the poultry meat and 100% of the tomatoes. The next emphasis is likely to be on dairy farming and animal husbandry to increase the 25% of the required milk supplies that is produced in the country. The Kuwaitis are very conscious of the fact that urban growth and the hunting of animals which used to live in the desert has meant the virtual extinction of wildlife. Kuwait is importing from many countries animals such as cows, chickens and sheep.
In view of Kuwait’s extremely unpromising natural environment which was made even worse after the Persian Gulf War, the key to all its hopes for self-sufficiency lies in research and experiments. Their experimental farm research farm:Omariya, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and the Kuwait Fund for the Advancement of Sciences are engaged in a variety of projects concerned with the hybridization of plants, animal breeding, the increase of yields in desert conditions, the treatment of brackish water and effluent water, irrigation methods, etc. “For example, the use of plastic mulching films as a cover for the soil is already widely known as a method of preventing evaporation, reducing soil erosion and retarding weed growth.”2 Winstone, H.V.F.(Kuwait:Prospect and Reality. London, McGraw- Hill Inc., 1990) pg. 198 Kuwait only has 100 acres or so under cultivation in the whole country. This makes Kuwait one of the least agriculturalized countries in the world.
The dependence on imports of foodstuffs is almost complete. This state of affairs has had economic as well as sociological effects on the population since the oil exports pay for the food imports. The urbanistic character of the indigenous population has been reinforced by the lack of farming opportunities. Kuwait is trying to change this in order to diversify and balance its economy which at present is highly dependent on finite amounts of petroleum. “Agriculture (including fishing) accounts for but a small portion of Kuwait’s gross domestic product (0.24%). This economic sector utilized only 3% of those privately employed.”3 3El Mallakh, Ragaei (Economic Development and Regional Cooperation. Chicago, University of Chicago, 1988) pg.
55 Government studies have shown the feasibility of commercial scale production of fruits and vegetables using hydroponic methods. However, little progress has actually been made in terms of expanding the income base of the country. The reasons for lack of progress are obvious:deficiencies of soil, lack of irrigation water, the harsh climate, and the limited supply of agriculturally trained manpower. There is a heavy dependence on expatriate labour since Kuwaitis possess an almost “agriculture-less” mentality, aside from fishing. If agriculture is an industry of the future, fishing, together with pearling have been a major occupation in Kuwait since the foundation of the state.
Today with the increase in population and rise in living standards “the local industry provides about 99% of consumption, which is over 5000 tons a year.”4 The harvesting and eating of shrimp has progressed most rapidly-doubling in 2 years during the early 1980s. The individual fishermen who still supply two-thirds of the local market, use much of the traditional equipment. Gradually they are acquiring more modern equipment which will allow them to be more efficient. There is also a United Fisheries Company which was setup by government to reduce overfishing which a constant problem. 4The State of Kuwait:The Ministry of Information (Kuwait:Facts and Figures 1988.
Kuwait City, The State of Kuwait, 1988) pg. 22 Kuwait will be self-sufficient in agriculture in the future. It will be able to grow more of its own food through new techniques and it will continually be able to buy food should the country ever find itself in that situation. Many of the new techniques proposed are feasible and there is no lack of monetary resources to spend on this problem. They already have succeeded in reducing their dependence on imports of vegetables, fruits and poultry.
The government will spend the money also because it wants to diversify its economy instead of being mainly based on the country’s petroleum resources. Bibliography El Mallakh, Ragaei Kuwait, Trade and Investment. Boulder, Westview Press Inc., 1989 El Mallakh, Ragaei Economic Development and Regional Cooperation. Chicago, University of Chicago, 1988 Mansfield, Peter Kuwait:Vanguard of the Gulf. London, Hutchinson Publishing Co., 1990 The State of Kuwait:The Ministry of Information Kuwait:Facts and Figures 1988.
Kuwait City, The State of Kuwait, 1988 Winstone, H.V.F. Kuwait:Prospect and Reality. London, McGraw-Hill Inc., 1990.