1. Mr. R. C. Michaelides, Director-General, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources
2. Dr. M. H. Abbas, on behalf of the Director-General of FAO
3. Mr. V. Pavicic, Resident Representative of the UNDP in Cyprus
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to extend to you all a very warm welcome on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources and to say how grateful we are to FAO and the UNDP who have accepted our invitation to convene this Regional Seminar on the Reclamation and Management of Sandy Soils, here in Nicosia.
It is an opportune time to renew contacts and discuss problems of mutual interest with delegates from member countries of the Region.
It is gratifying to note that the agenda of the Seminar covers a wide range of very interesting items relating to the physical and chemical properties of sandy soils and especially those directly related to aspects of water and fertility management.
Although the extent of sandy soils in Cyprus is limited, and by no means comparable in importance to that in most member countries of the Region, yet where they are cropped, they may present special problems in the management of irrigation and fertilization.
Under unsaturated moisture conditions, the unimpeded movement of water and nutrient ions imposes the necessity for effective and proper methods of irrigation in order to regulate moisture and ion movement, thus ensuring an efficient use of water and fertilizers, yet preventing through ease of leaching the build up of salinity from irrigation waters of marginal quality.
Generally under our soil conditions sandy soil horizons overlay finer texture layers or intermingle in sequence of layers of varying textural classes. It is in this latter connection that their physical properties, such as hydraulic conductivity modify the properties of the whole profile.
Naturally, a thorough knowledge of the behaviour of sandy soils and their internal drainage characteristics are of fundamental importance both in the process of reclamation and also in the prevention of salinity and secondary salinization.
We are aware of the tremendous effort made, and the large investment in funds and scientific effort by a number of member countries in reclaiming large areas of sandy soil and in making the desert bloom. We wish them every success in their noble endeavours to develop their land and water resources and increase agricultural production. We are only too anxious to hear our distinguished colleagues report on their recent research developments in the field of land reclamation and management.
It has become commonplace to say, and repeat saying, that scarcity of water resources is the most severe constraint to the impetus of agricultural development. Yet this fact pervades omnipotently in our minds The increasingly serious situation relating to the world-wide decline of water resources has been amply focused by the important document, Water Problems affecting Agriculture Development presented to the recent Seventeenth Session of the FAO Conference. Indeed, this could provide the guidelines for a collective approach for efficient water use, water conservation and salinity control in sandy soils and for that matter, to other soil types.
No matter how much we can do by ourselves on the national level, whether it be research or development, it is never enough. In a spirit of true cooperation, we in this region of the world., proud of nurturing all past and present civilizations and cultures, must join in an action-oriented effort to attack and solve the problems that beset land and water development.
If on the national level we can, and must, pursue agricultural development as a multi-dimensional concept, encompassing the economic, social, institutional and physical elements of development, in a wider sense, it would be relatively easy to effect the necessary adjustments for a truly effective cooperation on the regional basis. This is fully consonant with our official position taken and the full support of the concept of international agricultural adjustment at the recent Seventeenth FAO Conference.
In concluding, I wish you every success in your deliberations and a very pleasant stay in Cyprus.
Mr. Chairman, Honourable Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my privilege to address you, on behalf of the Director-General of the Pood and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Dr. A H. Boerma, and welcome the participants to this Seminar on the Reclamation and management of Sandy Soils in the Near East and North Africa Regions.
The Director-General requested me to express, on his behalf, our thanks and gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Cyprus for hosting this Seminar and for all the facilities which will undoubtedly highly contribute to the success of this Seminar. This magnificent meeting room with all modern interpretation equipment is but one example of these facilities.
I wish to take this opportunity to welcome the participants from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia and the representative of the Arab League; these participants have joined this series of technical seminars for the first time.
I also wish to welcome Mr. Pavicic, the Resident Representative of the UNDP in Cyprus, and wish to thank this Programme for financing the Seminar. Mr. Pavicic will address you soon, on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme.
Mr. Chairman, Honourable Delegates, it should be pointed out that this Seminar was held in accordance with the recommendation of the Regional Commission on Land and Water Use in the Near East. In fact, this is the fourth seminar held under the auspices of FAO. The first seminar dealt with improvement of saline and waterlogged soils and was held in Baghdad in December 1970. The second seminar dealt with efficient use of water at the farm level and was held in December 1971. The third was held in Cairo in December 1972 and dealt with reclamation and management of calcareous soils.
Mr. Chairman, in view of the large areas in this region which are covered by sandy soils and sand dunes, and in view of the limited available cultivable areas, it becomes necessary to expand agricultural lands into some of the sandy soils. Therefore, it becomes essential to find out the ways and means of utilizing and maintaining this natural resource; of course, this is the purpose of this Seminar. I may add that there is a prevailing idea which indicates the high cost of the reclamation and management of sandy soils. With modem agricultural practices, it may, however, be economic to use some of these sandy soils.
There is another important consideration and that is the population growth which might necessitate the utilization of some of these sandy soils even though the cost of their reclamation and management may reach non-economic limits.
On this occasion I should like to advise that the latest figures available to FAO indicate that about 40% of the total area of the Near East is covered by sandy soils. Thus from the total area of about 13 million m², sandy soils cover an area of about 5 million m².
Mr. Chairman, improvement and reclamation of sandy soils are not difficult to achieve in view of the advanced techniques in land reclamation and use of fertilizers and other inputs. We will have the opportunity to listen to experts at this Seminar on this matter. I am confident that the discussions held during the Seminar will lead us at the end to important technical conclusions on the subject of reclamation and management of sandy soils.
In conclusion, I should like to wish you, on behalf of the Director-General of FAO, every success in your work.
On behalf of the Administrator of UNDP, it is my pleasure and privilege to welcome to Cyprus all the distinguished participants to this UNDP/FAO Seminar.
He know that, basically, the main purpose of the Seminar is to exchange ideas. And participating in this exchange will be, on the one hand, senior Government officials and, on the other, high level experts of international repute. The result, it is hoped, will be to the benefit of those countries represented here, which are involved in the reclamation and management of sandy soils.
Frankly, as a layman I do not know very much about sandy soils, but I know one good example how sandy soil has become good and fertile land. A great majority of you will remember an eminent colleague, Dr. Abdel Razzak Sidky, ex Minister of Agriculture in Egypt and retired Assistant Director-General of FAO for the Middle East Region.
Dr. Sidky, whom I had the pleasure to meet in 1965 in Egypt, had a piece of land behind the Pyramids. I cannot recollect the exact year, but I think it was in 1963/64, when Dr. Sidky sent samples of his land for analysis, and the reply was: Pure sand. Despite the disappointing news, Dr. Sidky continued to investigate all possibilities for the improvement of his land. At first, he brought water and then fertilizers. He planted tangerines, lemon trees and orange trees; later he planted mangoes. The whole operation from the very beginning was approached in a full scientific manner and today, after ten years, Dr. Sidky has an economic and sound project of his own on ex-sandy soil, with good profit and excellent prospects.
This example shows, I think, what can be achieved when perseverance and a scientific approach are joined in marriage. Perhaps, it may also be a headline for other people - private entrepreneurs, co-operatives, and others.
But let me return to the work of the Seminar. Personally, I feel one absorbs information best when the surroundings are congenial. Here, on the island of Aphrodite, you have the most pleasant framework possible. As hosts, you have an obliging and hospitable Government, on an island renowned for its beauty. As if this were not enough, at your disposal are new conference room facilities, of which you are the first international clients.
You carry with you the best wishes of UNDP for a productive and successful Seminar, and a pleasant stay amongst us.