Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Christian Henderson

Location: The Netherlands
Academic field: Development studies
Award category: PhD Holder

Guidance Memo

  • Title: “How have corporate industrial food systems been entrenched into the Arab region?”
  • Keywords: Egypt. Morocco. Lebanon. Gulf states. Agribusinesses. Investments. Governments.
  • DOI: 10.15868/socialsector.39150
  • What We Learned From It:
    • A clear, succinct picture of the rapid growth of agribusinesses and corporate food systems in the Arab region since the 1980s, especially the underlying political and economic factors.
    • The following key characteristics: 1) The critical function of capital and investment funds that come from three main sources – Gulf region; Western multinationals; local companies. 2) Agribusinesses in the region must be understood as a system, relying on personal relationships and informal ties among the region’s elites, organized as joint ventures and partnerships, with large companies monopolizing market shares, and exerting considerable power over consumers and smaller suppliers/producers. 3) The centrality of political connections and government support in the agribusinesses’ smooth operation.
    • Corporations such as Savola, Al Marai, Danone, Nestle, Juhayna.
    • Understanding the roots and key features of these corporate industrial food systems is very important because of implications for policy discussions and for actions to address concerns. For example: How does government support for free market rather than smallholder farmers affect food sovereignty? How best to address avian flu outbreaks in Egypt that usually leave large intensive poultry agribusinesses in stronger positions? Instead of focusing activist actions on Gulf and local companies which are less likely to be swayed by publicity, it is more effective to lobby multinational companies headquartered in Europe and the U.S. that have entered markets in the Arab region.


Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • Corporate food systems in the Gulf states and Middle East region are shrouded in mystery, and not that many laypersons understand them. But understand one must if one is to tackle agribusinesses (including dairy and meat corporations) involved in that region.
  • The applicant’s main reason for applying for the fellowship as being a wish to contribute to activism that will confront the power of industrial farming in the Arab region, and being motivated Tiny Beam Fund’s mission.
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