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Producing more food with less resources

Raised Bed Technology for Wheat Crop in irrigated areas of Al Skarkia, Egypt.

Egypt’s  Agricultural Sector to upscale Water Use Efficiency by up to 75% through Mechanized Raised Bed Farming

11 April, 2016 / Egypt – Today the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the Agricultural Research Center (ARC) and the Zagazig University hosted yesterday a high level Traveling Workshop 60 kilometers north of Cairo in the Sharkia Governorate to encourage small-scale men and women farmers to adopt an effective practice in irrigated farming that uses mechanized raised beds to enhance water productivity and water use efficiency.

The Workshop is also intended to encourage high level policy makers to consider matters of natural resources management from the angle of how to upscale nation-wide new farming technologies, to produce more food by using less natural resources.

Raised-beds are a type of planting crops in which furrows - long, narrow trenches made in the ground by a plow - are widely spaced and crops are planted on raised strips. The width of the strips is determined to ensure homogenous adequate water distribution into the soil profile to meet crop water requirements.

The raised bed farming technology along with a full production package including improved crop varieties and agronomic practices were developed to answer problems of water scarcity in Egypt. In addition to improving water use efficiency by 75% compared to the traditional surface irrigation, raised beds, along with the complementary technology package, result in lower costs of irrigation and higher crop productivity.

As wheat yields are increased by up to 25%, subsequently raised bed farming also greatly influences farmers’ incomes. The raised bed technology was successfully developed by ARC, Zagazig University and ICARDA, in close collaboration with its local partners, within the framework of the Egyptian National Wheat Campaign and the Arab Food Security Project, financed by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD), the Islamic Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for International Development, and disseminated to farmers, covering an area of over 29,000 hectares in Egypt.

Environmental benefits of raised bed farming include a reduction in soil salinity, soil and water pollution, water logging, and drainage water.

All workshop attendees joined a consolidated farmers’ platform which has adopted the mechanized raised beds package. Speaker's talks were linked to Egypt’s water scarcity initiative, along with a gender, socioeconomics and impact assessment of the raised beds production system packages.

The raised bed technology package has already been tested in farmers’ fields on wheat, berseem clover, faba bean, maize and cotton through an ICARDA-led ‘Irrigation Benchmark Project’ in the Egyptian Delta, financed by the Arab Fund for Economic abs Social Development and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The package implementation resulted in substantial improvement in agriculture productivity and on-farm irrigation management in main irrigated lands. Highlights included an increase in wheat productivity by 25% and 15% for faba bean, and reduction in applied irrigation water by approximately 30%.

Commenting on the importance of this new technology, Mr. Pasquale Steduto, FAO Representative in Egypt and Deputy Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, said “The growing impact of climate change in the Near East and North Africa Region (NENA) region is placing additional stress on our ability to meet the growing demands on water and food. The Water Scarcity Initiative (WSI) for the Near East and North Africa Region NENA was launched in 2013 came as a response to sustainably improve agricultural productivity through a better use and management of scarce water resources. This raised bed technology is one of the Climate Smart Agriculture interventions that FAO is assisting its member countries in partnership with research entities such as ICARDA and the national agriculture system to scale it out. Moving research milestones that are accepted by farmers and proven multi benefits to an adoption at scale.”

“Egypt was the first country that welcomed and cooperated with ICARDA as a strategic partner on research linked to water scarcity. Since ICARDA’s founding in 1977, the Government of Egypt and ICARDA have built a solid base for cooperation, resulting in many projects, all of them related to research for sustainable development and food security. Specific highlights of our collaboration are linked to water management in agriculture and the development of heat and drought resistant wheat and faba bean varieties for better adaptation to climate change.” Dr. Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA Director General said during the event.

The 2017 National Water Resources Plan for Egypt estimates that the total cultivated areas in the agricultural sector will increase to 4.05 M hectares by the year 2017 and to 4.83 M hectares by 2030. The plan also anticipates that cropped areas will increase to approximately 8.06 M hectares in 2017, with an intensification rate of 198 percent, and to about 9.66 M hectares in 2030, with an intensification rate of 199 percent.

In recognition of the threats that continue to constrain agricultural production systems in Egypt and the region, ICARDA and FAO strengthened their collaboration and partnership in 2015 through a new agreement with the aim to scale out proven, climate-smart technologies, including the scaling out of the integrated mechanized raised bed production package.