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Prospects for agricultural water management
A FAO study entitled ‘Comparative advantage, competitiveness and policy options for sustainable agricultural development in Bahrain’ was conducted in 2003. The results of the study indicated that most plant production and livestock activities showed a good level of comparative advantage, as measured by the Domestic Resource Cost (DRC) indicator. The activities that appeared to have the best comparative advantage were the production of high-quality date palm varieties, Khalas and Khinezi in particular, and greenhouse production of cucumbers and tomatoes. Most open-field vegetables under drip irrigation also seemed to have a clear comparative advantage, although leafy vegetables generally showed much higher values than other vegetables. However, the production of vegetables under traditional irrigation systems did not show any clear comparative advantage with the possible exception of green onions (FAO, 2003).
Since the 1980s, the government has been taking several steps and courses of action to provide solutions to the water crisis in the country and to stem deterioration in the agricultural sector. These include: water conservation campaigns in all sectors, water pricing in the domestic sector and more reliance on non-conventional water sources (TSE in agriculture and desalinated water for domestic purposes).
Government policy with regard to water use is to reduce groundwater dependency for the domestic water supply, the second main water user, by constructing additional desalination plants. It is planned that groundwater will be exclusively used for irrigation. Additional requirements for future agricultural development should be supplemented by TSE water, which is expected to reach 73 million m3 by 2010, especially through the expansion and upgrading of the plant production facilities at Tubli under TSE Phase-2 and the construction of transmission and distribution networks. On completion of 150 000 metres of closed pipes distribution network, it will irrigate 588 farms over an area of 2 200 ha. In addition, a drainage network to dispose of highly saline subsoil water will be constructed. However, these plans are still awaiting major government funds for the construction of a TSE conveyance system and farmers’ acceptance. Although the intentions exist, an agricultural licensing system and water pricing have still to be put in place.
Although government policy indicates the will to develop a modern farming sector on larger production units using mechanization and up-to-date techniques, these aims have not yet been reflected clearly in the government’s capital investment and subsidy programs.