The Egyptian Minister of Agriculture Amin Abaza confirmed last week that the ministry had prepared a strategy for sustainable agricultural development until 2030. (This comes after gloomy reports for the Cairo region by the year 2020) He said that the strategy is based on the study of the sensitivity of the agricultural sector to climate change, “which affects the cultivated area, the structure of crops and the migration of rural populations and how to mitigate the negative effects resulting from these changes.”
The minister noted that the phenomenon of climate change lies in the focus of all organizations and international institutions as well as regional and local communities “because of their direct and indirect effects on all sectors of the economic structure, including the agricultural sector, which requires concerted research efforts and capabilities to address these impacts and adaptations in the form of development of resistant varieties [of crops] that can bear the possible changes of climate, salinity and drought as well as continuing to exert efforts to adapt research and confrontation of these changes.”
This came in a speech Abaza gave at the opening of the conference on climate change and its impact on the agricultural sector in Egypt, which was held last week at the foreign relations department of the ministry of agriculture and organized by the Agricultural Economics Research Institute in cooperation with the Agricultural Research Center, headed by Ayman Abu Hadid.
The conference also included participation of more than 300 Egyptian and international scholars and experts to discuss climate change on agriculture in the country.
The minister also stressed that the conference was a preliminary test for an expanded international conference in the near future. He added that climate change and its impact on the agricultural sector is of vital importance and needs the coordination with the Council of Agricultural Research and Development as well as the Agricultural Research Center.
The minister noted that the center, in the last two decades, “has made a number of achievements in the face of climate change, including extracting the new plant varieties and good agricultural practices and improved livestock and developing ways for food industries.”
Through their findings, solutions have emerged that could help avoid the hindrance of the “production processes such as the changes of climate change and global warming, desertification and an increase in greenhouse gases will bring to Egypt,” the minister said.
The ministry told Bikya Masr that the scarcity of new land resources and the decline in water availability has made it “extremely important” to maximize the economic returns on agricultural resources in Egypt.
Fawzi Shazly, Director of the Agricultural Economics Research Institute, in comments given at the conference, said that the conference was held within the ministry’s “planned work in the scientific agricultural development and meet any environment variables.”
He pointed out that the institute conducted 76 studies in addition to 22 field studies “to look into the issues facing the agricultural sector and economic and social development.”
Shazly also noted that the issue of climate change is one of the “important issues that raised the concern of different countries in recent years because of their economic and environmental implications and the social impact on development issues in different countries, including Egypt.”
He stated that the seminar aimed to identify the effects of climate change facing agriculture, especially in Egypt, “and it is one of the most important environmental risks that threaten the whole world, currently and in the future.”
It was the first time that the Egyptian agriculture sector had hosted a conference on climate change and experts hope that the discussions will lead to real and fruitful initiatives.
“It is difficult to get government institutions to reach an agreement on how to battle climate change, but hopefully this kind of meeting will show the urgency needed to fight against such problems,” said Hammou Laamrani of the International Research and Development Center in Cairo.
Mohamed Nasr el-Din Allam, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation, announced in February that the government “gives high priority to address climate change and is currently studying developing a plan to address the erosion of the Delta and the Egyptian coast, through a joint study with The European Union.”
EU launched research on climate and water security
The European Union launched in February three research projects that focus on the effects of climate change on water and security, with funding from the Seventh Framework Program for Research and Technological Development (FBI 7), which is the EU’s main instrument for financing research. It said there were 44 institutions participating in this project from all over the world and the research team includes three researchers from Egypt.
The research group said it is focusing on investigating the changes in water resources as a result of climate change and its implications for security in southern Europe and neighboring countries.
Scientists expect that the Mediterranean region – due to its geographical and political – “is particularly vulnerable to the dangers of climate change and water scarcity and salt water is likely to leak to coastal aquifers due to sea-level rise, which poses an increasing threat, as well as rainfall and drought frequency and intensity,” the EU said in a statement.
Egypt is one of the countries most affected by climate change. A report issued recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that the threats facing Egypt as a result of climate change, “is sea-level rise.”
Studies sponsored by the Climate Change Unit of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Authority estimated that this “will make different areas of the Delta subjected to the possibility of drowning, which threatens the loss of fertile agricultural and inhabited land and the potential shortage of water resources on the Nile River could reach high-risk levels as a result of imbalance in the distribution of rain belts quantitatively and spatially, and the possibility of a significant reduction in national output of grain, as indicated by the different scenarios.”
Desertification, the agency said, is increasing “due to salination in the northern parts of the Delta because of lower water levels on the one hand, and the low quality of irrigation water on the other.”
On the expected impact of climate change on productivity and water consumption of agricultural crops, the results of the research conducted by the unit of the Agricultural Meteorology showed that climate change that causes the rise in temperature of the earth’s surface “would affect negatively on the productivity of many agricultural crops as well as to increase the Egyptian water requirements for it.”
The Egyptian government added that it calls on industrialized countries to “fulfill the obligations contained in agreements of the United Nations, particularly with regard to helping developing countries through technology transfer and capacity-building and financing to limit the damage of climate change.”
A statement to the UN on climate change said that foreign nations must “provide financial and technical support necessary for the development of institutional capacities and research in the field of climate change and evaluation of environmental and economic impacts that result from climate change.
“And contribute to the implementation of adaptation actions with those effects, in addition to supporting the implementation of joint research projects with donor countries to cope with climate change and reduce effects.”
(This article was reprinted with permission from Biyka Masr.)