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Prospects for agricultural water management
In the short term, low water and energy costs are still likely to encourage development of private irrigation from private wells in the southern parts of the Libya.
In 2025, the water demand is estimated between 8 200 and 12 500 million m│ depending on the sources (Tinmore Institute, 2012; Lagwali, 2008). To fulfil these demands, phases 4 and 5 of the Great Manmade River Project (GMRP) are still to be implemented. However, considering the population growth, the amount of water transferred from the south to the coastal areas will certainly be used almost entirely for domestic use, despite the fact that the GMRP was originally intended for irrigated agriculture.
Any increase in irrigated agriculture will have to come from an increase of production and use of non-conventional water, either:
- directly in agriculture with increase in the collection and treatment of wastewater and its use in agriculture; or
- in other sectors that might free some transferred water from the GMRP for agriculture. For example, increased desalinated water for both municipalities and industries.
Some desalination plants are planned or already under construction for an anticipated production capacity of 86.5 million m│/year in 2025 (CEDARE, 2014).
Finally, in response to water scarcity, the Libyan government also made strategic agricultural investments outside the country in areas where water for irrigation is still available. The largest of these investments is the Malibya fund in Mali which obtained a 50-year renewable lease for 100 000 ha in the Office du Niger in exchange of the construction of an irrigation canal. The land comes with unlimited access to water for a small user fee. By 2009, a 40-km irrigation canal, using the same water irrigating the rice fields of small farmers in the Office du Niger, was completed. The project was suspended after the 2011 Libyan crisis, but in 2012 the new government confirm that it will maintain their investments in Mali (GRAIN, 2016).