FAO 9 March 2017, Cairo - Access to water is a fundamental need for food security, human health and agriculture, and its looming scarcity in the North Africa and Middle East region is a huge challenge requiring an "urgent and massive response," FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said in Cairo.
Accessible fresh water in the region has fallen by two-thirds in the past 40 years. It now amounts to 10 times less per capita availability than the worldwide average, underscoring the need for a significant overhaul of farming systems, he added.
A recent study by FAO showed that higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 percent to 55 percent less by the end of this century. The rising sea level in the Nile Delta is exposing Egypt to the danger of losing substantial parts of the most productive agriculture land due to salinization.
Moreover, "competition between water-usage sectors will only intensify in the future between agriculture, energy, industrial production and household needs," he said.
Graziano da Silva attended a high-level meeting covering FAO's collaboration with Egypt on the ‘1.5 million feddan initiative', the government's plan to reclaim eventually up to two million hectares of desert land for agricultural and other uses.
He expressed his strong support to the Egyptian Authorities and committed to back programmes aiming at addressing water scarcity and promoting climate resilient agriculture.
The Director-General's visit to Egypt included meetings with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Investment and International Cooperation, as well as the Secretary General of the League of Arab States.