The broad geographical area that encompasses the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa (EM/MENA), is a region that possesses not only one of the fastest growing populations, but has also been identified as the first region of the world that will remain waterless in the future due largely to man-made climate change. Currently, 14 of the world’s 33 most water-stressed countries are located within this area.

Despite sub-regional differences, the EM/MENA area is confronted with many similar but interconnected challenges, such as growing resource demand, soil degradation, desertification, and biodiversity loss. As the health of ecosystems from the wetlands of the Eastern Mediterranean to the Sahara Desert are endangered, so is the future availability of energy, water supply, and food resources to communities across this region.

These risks are also often compounded by a range of other pressures—such as spreading urbanization, political and societal transitions, armed conflict, internally displaced communities, and forced migration. Consequently, to varying degrees today, the people living across this region face a combination of unprecedented challenges to the welfare of their environments, livelihoods, food availability, to human health, and even to their cultures. If not addressed soon, many of these interconnected issues are expected to increase in severity over time, and will affect populations regardless of cultural background or socioeconomic circumstances across the region.

The impact of these realities and ways to move forward will both be explored in ACTIVATE’s new series of collaborative and research-based projects and initiatives under the overall title, The EM/MENA Project.

This project originated with the purpose to help connect individuals and research institutions around this region that are working towards the common goal of finding regionally-applicable and sustainable solutions for the future—solutions which take into account the interactions within the Water-Energy-Food nexus, and appreciate the interconnected nature of the region’s growing challenges.

The long-term objective of this initiative is to contribute to regional efforts by creating projects that facilitate the exchange of knowledge not only between countries, but also from the bottom up. In other words, to help connect the “on the ground” perspective being carried out by individuals and small communities through innovative and hands-on practices, with the work and studies being carried out in academia and scientific centers in direct contact with the policy-making sectors of the countries of this region.

Future transformations that will help the region deal with its growing challenges will require participation and partnerships that come from a variety of sectors. This interdisciplinary approach can help link the issues identified by the research communities to the human dimension and realities of peoples’ everyday lives. Taking into account the region’s cultural overlaps, but also its disparities, is an essential component for finding realistic solutions and regional strategies for the future.


The first official iterations of this project were recently presented as multiple exhibits at the "Seoul Biennale of Architecture & Urbanism", within the CITIES Exhibition (four projects); and the THEMATIC Exhibition as "Going Beyond Sustainable: Water. Soil. Land. Food",  a series of live presentations at the 'Urban Foodshed' section of the Biennale.

For a general overview of the Seoul Biennale go the summary in our NEWS section



Ministry of Education & Culture

LOGO Min. of Agr, RD, & Env..JPG

Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development & Environment

Banner image:
Kharoba Valley, Marsa Matrouh, on the north-western coast of Egypt. This valley is one of 218 of this area, where multiple water-harvesting practices are used by local Bedouin farmers. Photo: M. El Baroudy, 2017