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Geography, climate and population
Kuwait, with a total area of 17 820 km2, lies at the head of the Persian Gulf. It is bordered in the north and northwest by Iraq, in the west and south by Saudi Arabia and it overlooks the Persian Gulf to the east. The land is generally flat with slightly undulating desert plains sloping gently towards the northeast, reaching an altitude of about 300 metres above sea level. Most of the area is desert with a few oases.
In 2003, the total cultivated area covered 7 050 ha, of which about 80 percent was occupied by annual crops (Table 1). The arable land of Kuwait is characterized by a soil with a sandy texture, containing 80–90 percent sand. It has good drainage and airing characteristics but a very low water retention capacity. It is very poor in organic matter and the nutritional elements needed by plants. Hard pans (locally known as “gutch”) prevail at different depths of the soil, and are a constraint on water permeability.
About 154 000 ha have been judged as potentially cultivable land. However, it is almost completely covered by permanent pasture. Estimates for crop production potential vary between 25 000 and 37 500 ha, mainly located in: i) the Al Wafra area near the southern border where there are an estimated 1 495 farms that cover a total area of 10 000 ha; ii) the Al Abdali area near the northern border that contains 810 farms in a total area estimated at 20 000 ha; iii) the Al Sulaibiya agricultural area in the centre of the country, where the soil is much better, as it is deep with a sandy texture, good drainage characteristics and good airing and without salt, hard pans or impermeable layers; the number of productive farms in this area, covering an area of about 5 000 ha, is estimated at 68, including 13 vegetable and crop farms, 37 cattle farms, 4 sheep and goat farms, and 14 poultry farms.
Kuwait has a desert climate characterized by a long, dry, hot summer, with temperatures reaching more than 45 °C with frequent sandstorms, and a cooler winter, with temperatures sometimes even falling below 4 °C. The rainy season extends from October to May. Over an area of about 100 km2 annual rainfall is less than 100 mm, while in the remaining part it varies between 100 and 300 mm. The long-term average annual rainfall for the whole country is about 121 mm. In recent years rainfall has varied between 106 and 134 mm/year.
Total population is 2.69 million (2005), of which only 4 percent is rural (Table 1). However, exact figures are difficult to give because of the large amount of immigrant labour. For example, in 1994 about 63 percent of the total population was estimated to be non-Kuwait residents. The average population density is 151 inhabitants/km2, but varies widely from one region to another. The annual population growth, including both Kuwaiti and non-Kuwait residents, is estimated at 3 percent (2005).