FAO in Egypt

FAO concludes Water Efficiency, Productivity and Sustainability Project and discusses future prospects for water management in Egypt


Al-Minya, Egypt - Management of available water resources and increasing water productivity in Egypt were among the most important objectives under the framework of the regional project "Implementing the 2030 Agenda for the water efficiency/productivity and water sustainability in the Near East and North Africa region". The project’s activities have been implemented on eight countries in the Near East and North Africa region.

The activities of the regional project have been implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) in cooperation with the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation (MWRI) and the Agriculture research center (ARC), the research arm of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR), were announced during the project’s final workshop organized in Al-Minya, one of the governorates in which the project is being implemented.

The project has been started by 2017 and will be delivered by the end of 2022. Along 5 years of project life cycle, several activities related to water accounting and water productivities have been implemented. During the national final workshop, the outcomes and results were reviewed, the lessons learned were presented and future prospects for water management were discussed, especially in light of water scarcity, which is one of the great challenges in Egypt and the region," said Domitille Vallee, Chief Technical Advisor of the project.

The project aimed to achieve the sixth goal of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 by supporting eight countries in the Near East and North Africa region - including Egypt - to manage and strategically allocate water resources by integrating water, food security and energy policies, through the use of four main action packages:

  1. Water accounting through the development of strong water accounting systems;
  2. Enhancing water productivity by enhancing crop water productivity in selected agricultural systems with assessment and adaptation processes;
  3. Defining the relationship between water, energy and agriculture while setting the limits of safe conditions to ensure water sustainability;
  4. Strengthening communication, involving stakeholders, and working on raising awareness and developing capabilities.

The final national workshop witnessed wide participation from all parties involved in the implementation of the project from MWRI, MALR, the Life Vision Foundation, and a number of beneficiaries including agricultural extension, irrigation engineers and farmers (male and female). The workshop highlighted the key results from the different components under the framework of the project, including:

Water Accounting

  • In terms of water accounting, which is a methodology for management and evaluating available water resources, and guide strategic planning and water allocation. In the context of water account unit institutlization, MWRI has established a unit dedicated to water accounting within the Planning sector. Intensive water accounting trainings have been delivered to water accounting unit’s members. The trainings included water accounting’s concept and methodologies, rapid water accounting, advanced water accounting. The unit conducted rapid water accounting exercises in Kafr El Sheikh and Malawi (Al-Minya), and advanced water calculations using remote sensing in Fayoum, Delta region and Al-Minya governorates. Water accounting system has been specifically designed for the Egyptian context for a systematic monitoring and reporting approach for decision-making.
  • Producing of crop maps based on remote sensing data have been implemented in 3 pilot sites in Egypt; Menia, Kafr elSheikh and Zankalon8 with an accuracy of 90 percent. A qualified stuff from MWRI and SWERI trained 90 engineers from 3 targeted governorates on collecting samples for crop map production using remote sensing. Twenty-two selected engineers have received advanced training in map analysis and production. Whereas the applications introduced by the project are dedicated to accelerating data collection work with a focus on priority crops.
  • Maps for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021 were produced on 225,000 acres in three locations, and in 2022, the crop mapping team enlarged the area in Al-Minya to support the ongoing water accounting work.
  • A team of 20 experts from MWRI and MALR were also trained on the use of the ODK application and data collection to prepare crop maps. Also, two experts were trained to achieve crop maps using remote sensing and using the FAO WaPOR database.
  • The project implemented a series of water accounting courses and webinars (Rapid Water Accounting/Advanced Water Accounting).
  • Advanced water accounting was implemented in Al-Minya Governorate by combining different methods and tools, with the aim of providing sustainable water management with data on water resources, infrastructure, water demand and access. The capacity of multidisciplinary teams has also been built, between 2018 and 2020, FAO supported the training of staff in Egypt on rapid water accounting in cooperation with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the IHE delft Institute. From 2020 to 2022, customized trainings for each project country on water accounting using remote sensing was developed under the newly created Water Accounting Unit (EU STARS) project.
  • In addition, a regional training program has been implemented by IHE delft to build a team of trainers in advanced water accounting and to support balanced water accounting teams with appropriate skills. Between 2018 and 2022, interested Egyptian experts were invited to follow a different series of virtual water accounting seminars on: Water Accounting Fundamentals, Water in Use Accounting, Water Acquisition, Evapo-transpiration using Remote Sensing and measurement, and Crop Mapping.
  • Egypt joined the regional network for measuring evapotranspiration, which is led by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). With the support of the Telemetry Department of the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, the ET-Cordova prototype was piloted in three different locations, which aims to provide a true evapotranspiration measurement for field crops and support calibration of remote sensing estimates.

Water Productivity

  • In terms of water productivity, a series of interventions have been implemented to increase the efficiency and productivity of water in selected agricultural systems with the aim of achieving sustainable development goals for food security. Interventions included baseline survey and reviewing surveys with farmers along the value chain, expanding farmers' experiences and developing models.
  • The Soil, Water and Environment Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture reviewed all available information on the biological, physical and economic water productivity of all strategic crops. Furthermore, a survey was conducted to investigate farmers' practices towards water in Al-Minya governorate.
  • The AquaCrop model was also used to explore different options for improving water management, taking into account the impacts of climate change.
  • The project established seven farmer field schools, one business school for farmers, four junior schools, and training courses on nutrition, recycling and treating slugs in Al-Minya Governorate to promote good agriculture and irrigation practices and experiment with ways to increase water productivity for farmers under the slogan more crop per drop. Water, with the large participation of rural women who play a critical role in agricultural and irrigation practices, highlighting the need to include women in development plans for the agriculture and irrigation sectors. Preliminary findings on sugar cane, sugar beet, wheat and maize indicate that yields per cubic meter of water consumed can vary along value chains, taking into account food loss and waste rates that represent significant water losses and waste.

Ismail Radwan, Senior Undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation in Al-Minya Governorate, said: “The project contributed greatly to developing the capabilities of agricultural and agricultural extension engineers and providing farmer field schools for male and female farmers to train them on good agricultural practices and how to use water resources in a scientific manner. The project also succeeded in creating a general atmosphere of necessity. Working on developing agricultural techniques and selecting crops that consume less water and are more resilient in light of climate changes”.

For his part, Dr. Mohamed El-Khouly, Director of the Institute of Soil, Water and Environment research institute of the Agricultural Research Center, highlighted “Modern technologies and mobile phone applications for making crop maps helped determine the appropriate crops for different regions. In light of the presence of integration between the MWRI and MALR in all directorates of Egypt to provide data and information that help decision makers to determine the quality of crops grown in different seasons, as well as crops for export, while maximizing the use of water”.

Engineer Abdel Hamid El Barkawy, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in Al-Minya Governorate, stressed that the project focused greatly on the importance of maximizing the benefit and economic return of each water point in light of water scarcity and Egypt’s fixed share of water from the Nile, seeing as the ministry is keen in generalizing modern irrigation methods, especially in the lands and increasing crop water productivity.

In turn, Engineer Amal Muhammad Gasser, Director of the Information Center in the Planning Sector at the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, said that the project contributed to raising the capacity of the ministry’s engineers to prepare crop maps using remote sensing technology in selected areas, in addition to introducing ET-Cordova stations to measure evapotranspiration.

This regional project “Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/productivity and water sustainability in NENA countries” was implemented by FAO under the Water Scarcity Initiative and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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