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Middle East Studies: The Desert and the Sown: Land Use

Jenkins Macedo
Professor Mohamed Eskandari
March 3, 2010

Chapter 5
The Desert and the Sown: Land Use

This chapter outlined and discussed in detail the topographical composition and land use of the Middle East within the context of Agricultural productivities, landholding and reform systems, precipitation induced farming, water resources, the roles and function of animals, forestry and fishery. Agricultural conditions, systems in the Middle East are significantly different throughout the region. The geographic landscapes of the region influence greatly the kind of crops that can be grown in each country. This is also influence by the climate system in each country in the Middle East. Lands that can be used to support agricultural activities can be grouped into three headings and these headings are: sub-humid and humid areas that can be used to cultivate crops that are reliant on precipitation without irrigation, irrigated areas are situated in deserts and semi-deserts regions and arid and semi-arid topography that can be used nomads and pastoralists for the grazing of their animals.
Before the establishment and use of oil as the chief economic products by some countries in the Middle East, Agriculture and fishing used to serve as the main economic industries. However, following 1950s and 1960s, this trend changed as about sixteen countries in the Middle East started importing more than 50% of their national products. Also important to mention is the establishment of the petroleum industries throughout the region, which have dramatic impacts on the region most especially the Gulf coastal cities and major towns. Mining is also an important industry in the area. For example, in Yemen mining accounts for about 27%.
Some other factors that seem to influence the productive nature of most Middle Eastern countries are associated with the physical environment. These include the climate system, soils and traditions, techniques and technology (Held, 2006). The problem is associated with the high moisture content in the soil and air, soil structure, texture and composition. However, in areas where precipitation is minimum irrigation facilities are set up to irrigate farming lands. Soils texture, structure and composition are enhanced by new agro-technology. Also, the distribution of mountains and other geographic features throughout the region creates the inability to engage in large-scale agricultural production.
Landholdings and land reforms are two important cultural and social aspects that are directly related to land use. Throughout the region, the predominant land tenure systems that are commonly practices are as follow: the state-owned land, private land ownership and lands own my religious institutions. Before the mid-1950s and early 1960s, relatively small amount of people in the Middle East including Egypt had access to larger amounts of lands. However, as a result of the land reforms, lands were redistributed and this reform process also affected previous landowners.

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