Libya Agriculture and Fishing Overview

Agriculture and fishing

Libya is a desert country with limited resources for agriculture. Over 90 percent of the area consists of desert. Only one percent of the land is cultivated and only one tenth of the agricultural land is irrigated. Most of the agricultural production takes place in the coastal regions around Tripoli and Benghazi.

  • CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Libya. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.

Major efforts were made during Muammar Gaddafi’s time on irrigation and cultivation of desert areas, but they rarely proved cost-effective.

Despite significant investments in agriculture, Libya has to import food, about 75 percent of the need. However, the country has been self-sufficient in fruits and vegetables, dairy products and poultry. Barley is the most important base crop. In the western part of the country olives, citrus fruits, tomatoes and beans are mainly grown. Dates are grown in the southern oases and on the coast. Livestock management plays a central role in agriculture.

A more surprising product, though not actively cultivated, is white truffles that have been exported to the Gulf states even during the war years. The quantities are not such that they make an impression in the statistics, but the search for truffles under the sand shows that those who have the right knowledge can also benefit from the desert landscape. For Libya defense and foreign policy, please check prozipcodes.

Under a 1977 law, the land is public property. However, individuals can lease land to meet their own needs.

One controversial project is the Great Artificial River (al-Nahr al-Sinai al-Adhim or in English the Great Manmade River, GMR), the world’s largest irrigation project that Gaddafi described as the world’s eighth wonder. It is a system of deep-drilled wells and huge water pipes, linking large groundwater reserves that are hidden during the Sahara desert with coastal areas and Libya’s major cities. The project began in the early 1980s, but was delayed as a result of the UN sanctions 1992-1999. It has also been plagued by misjudgments and corruption, and warnings have been issued for the ecological consequences. However, despite all the problems, the pipelines have become the mainstay of Libya’s water supply system. Like the oil pipelines, the water network has become the subject of war actions (see Calendar).

Libya has a long coast that offers great opportunities for fishing, but it has traditionally not been an important industry. The domestic fish industry is weak. Most of the catches have been recorded by Italian, Greek and Maltese fishermen. An investment in the sector began in the early 1990s and the industry’s capacity has since expanded.

Very little of the land is suitable for forestry, but there have been attempts to plant forests in western Libya.


Agriculture’s share of GDP

1.8 percent (2008)

Percentage of land used for agriculture

8.7 percent (2016)



The AU will evacuate 15,000

December 5

The African Union will help 15,000 migrants in Libya return to their home countries before the end of the year. According to the announcement from AU Deputy Chief Kwesi Quartey, the evacuation will be voluntary for those involved and will be done in collaboration with the International Migration Organization (IOM). At least 20,000 migrants are estimated to be held in detention camps in Libya.


Migrant agreement after slave disclosure

November 29th

Libya agrees with leaders of both the EU and the African Union that migrants in detention camps should be evacuated to their home countries within days or weeks. The message comes at an EU-AU summit in Ivory Coast. The vulnerability of migrants in Libya has become a main focus at the summit following the alarm reports on slave auctions a few weeks earlier. France, Germany, Niger, Chad and four other countries are reported to be in the agreement to quickly evacuate migrants. The UN-backed Libyan government also reiterates a promise to identify camps where slave auctions are going on. Within the AU, criticism is directed at the EU, which is considered to have created the conditions for the slave trade by urging Libya to arrest migrants and preventing them from continuing to Europe.

Slave auctions raise the frame

20th of November

UN Secretary-General António Guterres joins the line of people voicing the horror of pictures showing how migrants are sold as slaves in Libya. According to Guterres, the auctions may constitute crimes against humanity that should be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The UN-backed Libyan government has launched an investigation since the broadcasting company CNN published images where black Africans appear to be sold as labor. The President of the African Union, Guinea’s President Alpha Condé, is demanding prosecution, saying that the AU will do everything to stop the “heinous” trade that “belongs to another era”. UN agency The International Migration Organization (IMO) has previously raised alarms that human smugglers in Libya are selling slave migrants.


Reduced number of migrants via Libya

October 31st

The number of migrants reaching Italy has decreased by almost 70 percent since July, and by 30 percent so far in the year compared to the same period in 2016. The decrease is a result of Libya blocking offshore vessels, according to the disputed settlement with Rome at the end of June. The settlement includes Libyan authorities and tribal leaders, and according to some sources, human traffickers. At the same time, the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Spain has tripled.

Several dead in flight towards Darna

October 30th

At least twelve people are killed in a plane attack against Darna in the east. The majority of victims are said to belong to one and the same family. It is unclear who is behind the attack condemned by the UN, the Tripoli-based government and a spokesman for Khalifa Haftar’s forces. For months, loyalist forces have been encircling Darna, held by jihadist groups with ties to al-Qaeda.

Street fights in Tripoli

October 17

Rival militia groups are fighting street battles for the second day in a row in central parts of Tripoli as well as in districts in the eastern parts. At first, fighting erupted when a group attacked Mitiga airport, in what is perceived as an attempt to release a member who was detained at the scene. The next day, another group of rivals attack the port – although both parties are formally subordinate to the Interior Ministry and the UN-backed government.

Abuse against arrested persons

October 12

There are widespread abuses in Libyan prisons, says UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in connection with a visit to the site. Among people imprisoned are also migrants from other countries who have traveled to Libya in the hope of moving to Europe.

Remnants of IS victims in mass graves

October 7

The remains of 21 men killed by jihadists have been found in a mass grave south of Sirte. In 2015, the Islamic State (IS) released a video in which the men, 20 of whom were Copts from Egypt and an African of unknown origin, were beheaded on a beach.

Migrants arrested in Sabratha

October 6

A militia fighting for the country’s internationally recognized government says the city of Sabratha has been “liberated” after three weeks of fighting, which claimed about 40 deaths. A day later, it is announced that the force has arrested more than 3,000 migrants from various countries, designated as illegal immigrants.

British Minister provokes anger

October 5

The Libyan government demands an explanation for an opinion by British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson that has provoked outrage. Johnson said in August that Libya would have the conditions to attract foreign investment and tourists if they made sure to remove all corpses on the beaches.


Struggles in refugee city

September 17th

Extensive fighting erupts in the city of Sabratha between security forces loyal to the UN-backed government in Tripoli and a militia linked to a person who previously led a smuggling network in the city. Sabratha is one of the country’s centers for refugee traffic across the Mediterranean to Europe.


The coastal waters are closed to charities

10th August

The fleet orders foreign vessels to stay away from the Libyan coastal waters where rescue operations for migrants are carried out, citing that the presence of the vessels encourages illegal migration and human smuggling. Save the Children is one of the organizations that then announces that they are leaving the area. Libya is supported by Italy’s decision. The number of migrants registered in Italy in July amounted to just over 11,000, less than half compared to the same month in 2016. A total of over 95,000 refugees reached Italy in the first seven months of the year. Since 2014, around 600,000 migrants – the majority of Africans – are estimated to have traveled from Libya to Italy.


Basic draft clear

July 29

The Constitutional Assembly, which was appointed in February 2014, finally votes a draft constitution. The vote is held in Baida, where protests are ongoing. The draft is adopted by 43 of the 44 members present. According to the proposal, Libya is to be a republic with a president and a two-chamber parliament, and Islam is to be a state religion and to form a basis for the legislation. Arabic should be the official language, but the language of Berbers, Tuaregers and Tubuers should be recognized. The Prime Minister is advocating a referendum on the proposal.

Leaders agree on conditional cease-fire

July 25

A meeting in France between Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and military leader Khalifa Haftar reached an agreement on a ceasefire between the UN-backed government’s army and Haftar’s rival forces. In a joint document, the two also promise to work for elections to be held, perhaps as early as 2018, and law and order are introduced. The meeting is led by UN new Libyan envoy Ghassan Salamé and is being held in the presence of France’s President Emmanuel Macron.

Occasional fighting in Benghazi

July 9

Just days after the LNA force leader Khalifa Haftar proclaimed victory over the Islamists in Benghazi, other LNA fighters state that fighting is still ongoing in parts of the city.

LNA claims to have taken Benghazi

July 6

The Haftar-loyal Libyan National Army (LNA) claims to have conquered Benghazi from Islamist armed groups after three years of offensive. LNA commander Khalifa Haftar describes the victory as “Benghazi’s liberation from terrorism”. LNA is not recognized by the UN-supported government in T ripoli.


Saif al-Islam Gaddafi on the loose

June 10th

The armed group that has held Saif al-Islam Gaddafi since November 2011 announces via Facebook that he has now been released. The Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade in Zintan states that he was released in accordance with an amnesty law adopted by Parliament in the east. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi should have left Zintan.

Tripoli airport is withdrawn

June 1st

Forces loyal to the UN-backed government take control of Tripoli’s international airport, which was largely destroyed during the fighting in 2014. Flights to and from the capital have since used the former military airport Mitiga east of Tripoli.


Islamist suspects arrested

24th of May

A special force in Tripoli seizes the father and a brother of the 22-year-old who committed suicide two days earlier in Manchester in the United Kingdom. The father, Ramadan Abedi, is said to have been a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a now disbanded jihadist group with ties to al-Qaeda. The brother, 20-year-old Hashem Abedi, must have acknowledged that both are now members of IS and known about the plans for the Manchester attack, which claimed the lives of 22 people.

Many dead in attack on air base

May 18

Around 140 people are killed in an attack by a government-allied militia group against the air base Brak al-Shati in the south. The purpose of the attack was to expel troops belonging to the Haftar-faithful Libyan National Army (LNA) but reportedly there are civilians among the victims, while many of the militia members must have been summarily executed. The attack is condemned by the UN, the Arab League and Human Rights Watch, among others. Both the commander of the attacking militia and the defense minister in Tripoli are suspended from their posts and an investigation is initiated, but the prime minister denies that the government should have ordered the attack. LNA had been in control of the base since December.

Excited in Tripoli after statement about Haftar

May 8

Tanks and armored vehicles surround the Tripoli government headquarters since Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Taher Siala said in a statement that “Haftar has been appointed by a parliament elected by the Libyan people” and “is the head of Libya’s army”. Siala backs the following day and declares that Haftar must accept civilian rule and formally approve the political settlement of a unity government.

Offensive should drive out jihadists

May 8

Eleven soldiers are reportedly killed when the Haftar forces (LNA) launch an offensive to expel jihadists from the last two fortifications in Benghazi. Over 50 soldiers are also injured when the attack begins on parts of al-Sabri and the city center.

Sarraj in meeting with Haftar

May 2

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj meets Khalifa Haftar in the United Arab Emirates. This is only the second time the two have met since Sarraj was commissioned to form a government at the end of 2015. No details leak out about the meeting that came after pressure on Haftar from the host country, Russia and Egypt, among others, who are all considered his protectors.


Detention order for Gaddafi’s security manager

April 24

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague announces that an arrest warrant exists for Gaddafi’s last security chief, Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled. The order was issued in 2013 and applies to war crimes and crimes against humanity between February and April 2013, when Khaled was head of the security service. It is unclear where Khaled is today. The ICC is still trying to get Libyan authorities to release Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam (see May 2013).


Troubled in Tripoli

February 25th

Fighting breaks out in Tripoli between two rival groups, after one group accused the other of kidnapping four members. The city center is paralyzed by the fighting before a ceasefire is concluded after two days. Nine people are reported to have been wounded in the fighting.

Young people are prohibited from traveling without a permit

February 23

In eastern Libya, a ban is imposed on persons between the ages of 18 and 45 to travel abroad without first obtaining permission from the authorities. The aim is to prevent people from joining terrorist groups abroad. The order follows a previous ban for women under 60 to travel at all without male companionship, a ban that was quickly withdrawn.

Migrant agreement with Italy

February 2

Between Italy and Libya, a declaration of intent is made to stop the large influx of migrants across the Mediterranean. Libyan Prime Minister Sarraj will visit Brussels and meet EU President Donald Tusk ahead of an EU summit, which will also address, among other things, how EU countries should relate to human trafficking from Libya. It is estimated there are up to one million migrants in Libya who want to try to get to Europe. The majority are believed to come from sub-Saharan countries and have little chance of obtaining asylum.


Islamists are losing important territory in Benghazi

January 25

General Haftar’s forces say they have driven jihadist fighters away from one of their last major fortifications in the city. The area has been besieged for months and fierce fighting has raged there.

IS warriors killed in US attack

January 19

Over 80 jihadists in IS are reported to have been killed in a US air strike against training camps just over four miles southwest of Sirte. According to the US Department of Defense, two B-2s from Missouri in the United States flew to bomb the camps. In this case, it is the first time since 2011 that the large bombers were used in Libya.

Deputy Prime Minister resigns

January 2

One of the unitary government’s three deputy prime ministers, Moussa al-Khouni, leaves his post and says that he and the entire government have failed. Khouni is from southern Libya and represents Tuareg rule.

Libya Agriculture and Fishing