Agriculture in the Arab world: still important after all these millennia

Summary: despite some decline in its relative contribution to Arab economies, agriculture remains important in both economic and social terms. Improved management, less bureaucracy and better access to markets could make it more so.

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  1. The division often amounting to hostility between the agriculturalist (villager, peasant, fellah) and the herdsman (shepherd, nomad, bedouin), goes back to the story of Cain and Abel for Bible readers (Genesis 4) and Qur’an readers (Surah 5, verses 27 to 31). It is often a key to understanding socio-political problems in the Middle East, equating more or less with the division between the citizen and the tribesman, and surviving when its economic origins have passed into history. Examples where the political consequences are evident include Jordan (Palestinians and trans-Jordanians) and Egypt (Nile dwellers and Sinai bedouin); there are many others.

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