Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Siwa Oasis

Date palm garden mixed-cropped with alfalfa in foreground, olive and fruit trees in background (credits: M. Hermann 2016)


Site location : Siwa Oasis, Maaraqi area, Egypt

Area of GIAHS site

Population working for this system : 28,300 person in the region

Topological characteristics : sand dunes

Climatic classification : desertic climate with extreme aridity

Primary Income Sources : Agriculture, date palm production


Siwa oasis is one of the best illustrations of farmers’ ingenuity to adapt agriculture to very harsh climatic conditions. Situated in a very dry region, this oasis provides an effective way to grow food, livestock and preserve wild flora and fauna, which rely on a very scarce resource: water. Recognized as a very ancient agrarian area, Siwa oasis is a repository of distinctive date palm varieties and other crops, of which the history go back to distant past.

This smart adapted systems is based on date palm agriculture combined with other crops such as olive trees and alfalfa allowing local people to respond to their needs. Water management has allowed to preserve the resource. Strongly linked to local culture, Siwa is unique because Siwans people have Berber ancestry and have managed to preserve much of their linguistic and cultural heritage.

Challenges to oasis agriculture, biodiversity and cultural identity are currently addressed by a number of national and local initiatives, including sustainable agricultural practices, improved irrigation management, the protection of wildlife in and around the oasis as well as sustainable tourism. GIAHS programme is one of the most effective measures to recognize and allow a sustainable development of the system.