Regional agriculture and water conference aims to 'maximize efficiency'

Jonathan Spollen
4 Min Read

CAIRO: The fifth session of the Agriculture and Land and Water Use Commission (ALAWUC) for the Near East got underway yesterday at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Cairo.

A branch of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 23 of Alawuc’s member states participated in the session, which concludes tomorrow, along with several NGOs and international observers, including UNESCO and the World Food Program.

Dr Adel Aboul-Naga of the Ministry of Agriculture opened the conference with an overview of the water situation in the Near East, stressing that most countries in the region fall below their population’s water requirements, and that water management and agriculture had to be handled efficiently.

Both available agricultural land and water supplies had to be maximized, Aboul-Naga said, adding that more land needed to be reclaimed and drainage water recycled, and that the cooperation of the private sector was essential.

Plans had already been drawn up in Egypt by the Ministries of Agriculture and Water and Irrigation to this end, and 150,000 fedans of land are expected to be reclaimed annually, he said.

Dr Taha Mostafa Hussein, Deputy Director of the Water Management Research Institute, told Daily News Egypt after the conference that the modern irrigation techniques and land reclamation plans being discussed were of particular interest.

He said that Egypt’s growing population and commerce, and subsequent water demands, were putting more strain on the country’s need to find water and suitable agricultural land.

“Our job is to align requirements with supply, he said. “But our only real water resource is the Nile. We are here to find better ways to manage the resources we have and to identify new resources at the same time.

Among the conference’s main aims are tackling public-private partnerships in operating irrigation systems, and reform of marketing rules regulating agricultural production.

These issues and more were the subject of the day’s main lecture given by the FAO’s senior officer for Water Resources and Irrigation, Dr Mohamed Bazza.

Bazza also gave updates on initiatives previously launched at Alawuc’s third session including water efficiency projects ongoing throughout the region in countries like Algeria, Yemen and Syria, and agricultural programs in Somalia and Egypt.

The program in Egypt was helping farmers improve food security through crop intensification and diversification activities, and a continuous analysis of constraints to agricultural development in the area, he said.

“There is a lot of good work going on, Dr Abdelaziz Zaki, Manager of UNESCO’s ‘Friend Nile’ Project, told Daily News Egypt.

“There are many land and water management projects and activities here involving UNESCO, the government and other organizations, which will improve efficiency in the coming years.

Dr Gamal Abdel Nasser, Deputy Director of the Drainage Research Institute, told Daily News Egypt that the conference’s discussion of ‘unconventional’ water was the most pressing issue.

“This is the main topic for the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, he said.

Bazza concluded the lecture by calling on ALAWUC members to improve cooperation, develop more projects in the region and allocate adequate funds to ensure their success, and prioritize water and land use in general.

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