Egypt is suffering from severe water scarcity, with the average per capita freshwater availability having steadily declined from about 1,893m3 in 1959 towards 700m3 in 2012. This puts the country below the International water scarcity threshold of 1,000m³ of renewable water available per capita per year. Per capita water availability is expected to continue dropping to 534m3 by 2030, as Egypt’s population is predicted to reach 128 million by 2030 (87.8 million in 2012), which will further increase the demand for water.
The primary water-using sector in Egypt is agriculture, which corresponds to more than 85% of Egypt’s share of Nile water. This poses a problem since the Egyptian economy relies heavily on agriculture, the sector contributes with about 13.3% to the GDP and employs around 25% of the labor force. Thus, exploring innovative solutions to improve agriculture water management is a major goal in dealing with water and food security in Egypt.
Actors and content
In this context, the Arab Organization for Agricultural development (AOAD) co-organized a training on the integration of water and agriculture sectors, together with the Nexus Regional Dialogue Program-MENA upon the request of the Egyptian Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI). In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MoALR) was invited to participate in the workshop “Integration of Water and Agriculture Sectors: Concepts and Applications” to convey the importance of a Nexus approach to integrate the water and agriculture sector. The participants were high-level governmental officials working on water and agriculture, environment and energy, in addition to participants representing Academia and NGOs.
The main objectives of this workshop were to introduce the WEF Nexus approach and its assessment tools, to present exemplary Nexus applications in the region, to discuss the mechanisms of how to apply the Nexus approach in Egypt, and to conduct an interactive group work on WEF Nexus case studies.
The first day was dedicated to introduce the WEF Nexus concept by Dr. Nisreen Lahham, Coordinator of the NRD-MENA:
to illustrate water and food security from a Nexus perspective by Dr. Kamel Amer, Head of AOAD Middle Regional Office):
and to shed light on the challenges and opportunities the WEF Nexus concept can have in Egypt (Dr. Diaa El-Quosy, International Water Expert).
In the afternoon session, the Coordinator of the NRD-MENA presented the main WEF interlinkages in Egypt, derived from the GIZ study; National Guidelines Mainstreaming the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus into Sectoral Policies and Institutions in the Arab Region:
The Technical Director at the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), Dr. Maged Mahmoud, gave an insight on a hands-on application of the WEF Nexus with the example of solar-pumping irrigation systems (SPIS). He discussed mechanisms to strengthen the design and implementation of SPIS for improved water, energy and food security. During an interactive session, where the participants joined working groups to discuss the different dimensions of SPIS in Egypt, policy-relevant governance, incentives, capacity building as well as financial and technical topics were discussed:
The second day started with a presentation of Dr. Hammou Laamrani, Water Expert of the League of Arab States (LAS), on planning and investment compatibility for water and agriculture sectors to achieve water and food security in the Arab region.
Dr. Amer then presented the most prominent Nexus assessment tools compiled by the GIZ Nexus manual.
Afterwards, Dr. Nisreen Lahham illustrated the governance dimension of WEF Nexus, giving some examples from the Arab region as well as from Germany.
The final session of the workshop was dedicated to Nexus applications in the region. AOAD presented its project on water harvesting, solar pumping, ground water recharging and food security in South Sinai. Dr. Tina Jaskolski and Dr. Hussein Hassan from the School of Sciences and Engineering at the American University in Cairo (AUC) presented two other Nexus applications, urban agriculture for water efficient food production and aquaponics for realizing water and food security.
The training workshop’s interactive open discussion developed recommendations to guide future steps in the process of integrating water and agriculture sectors in Egypt. Some of the recommendations are:
- Empowering the technical secretariats of existing high-level committees on water and agriculture in order to activate its decisions, with no need to establish new committees or entities.
- Mainstreaming the planting of aromatic and herbal plants in Egypt for in improved economic return, replacing other crops in need of large amount of irrigation.
- Benefiting from the inherent knowledge of indigenous Egyptian famers while modernizing the water- agriculture system in Egypt.
- Introducing small scale solar desalination plants along the shores of Red sea and Med Sea
- Empowering the role of agricultural cooperatives in marketing the agricultural products of farmers, to minimize the role of intermediate traders and maximize the return of farmers.
- Eliminating the agricultural losses in post-harvesting to save water, food and energy.
Feedback and way forward
Bringing a regional perspective to the debate was extremely important in having access to broader points of view on the subject.
A follow-up workshop is planned with the objective to identify how expert knowledge could contribute to informing the High-Level Committee of water and agriculture in the Arab region, steered by the League of Arab States.
It was agreed by the organizers of the training workshop (the NRD-MENA, AOAD and LAS) together with RCREEE to draft a proposal for a national project on replacing Diesel pumps with solar pumps all over Egypt, as suggested by RCREEE in this workshop with the inclusion of the FAO. Currently, a joint meeting is organized to discuss the next steps for drafting the proposal and informing high-level decision-makers in Egypt on this initiative.
For questions and further information, please contact Dr. Nisreen Lahham.