Egypt’s fertile Nile Delta threatened by climate change
Region could lose up to 15% of its key agricultural land due to salinisation by 2050
Lush green fields blanket northern Egypt’s Nile Delta, but the country’s agricultural heartland and its vital freshwater resources are under threat from a warming climate.
The fertile arc-shaped basin is home to nearly half the country’s population, and the river that feeds it provides Egypt with 90 per cent of its water needs.
But climbing temperatures and drought are drying up the mighty Nile — a problem compounded by rising seas and soil salinisation, experts and farmers say.
Combined, they could jeopardise crops in the Arab world’s most populous country, where the food needs of its 98 million residents are only expected to increase.
“The Nile is shrinking. The water doesn’t reach us anymore,” says Talaat Al Sissi, a farmer who has grown wheat, corn and other crops for 30 years in the southern Delta governorate of Menoufia.
“We’ve been forced to tap into the groundwater and we’ve stopped growing rice,” a cereal known for its greedy water consumption, he adds.
By 2050, the region could lose up to 15 per cent of its key agricultural land due to salinisation, according to a 2016 study published by Egyptian economists.
The yield of tomato crops could drop by 50 per cent, the study said, with staple cereals like wheat and rice falling 18 and 11 per cent respectively.
In Kafr Al Dawar in the delta’s north, Egypt’s irrigation ministry and the United Nations are working on ecofriendly techniques like solarpowered watering that experts say emit less greenhouse gases and could help improve crop yields.
On site, two farmers wearing traditional galabiya gowns show off shiny new solar panels framed by row after row of corn, barley and wheat.
Syed Sulaiman, eyes bright and cane in hand, runs a group of about 100 farmers who work a plot of more than 100 hectares.
The farmer is delighted. He can now power the pumps that water his field without relying on Egypt’s faulty electricity grid and expensive fossil fuels like diesel that are responsible for climate change.
Diesel-powered generators are now only used “when necessary”, he says, such as after sunset.
After his success, a neighbouring village is also switching to solar-powered irrigation.
A farmer closes the valve of a pump in Kafr Al Dawar village in ■ northern Egypt’s Nile Delta on November 26.