The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA), in collaboration with the International Drylands Development Commission (IDDC), has hosted the 12th International Conference on Dryland Development from 21 to 24 August, titled “Sustainable Development of Drylands in the Post 2015 World” in Alexandria.
Over 250 national and international scientists and experts, from all over the world, took part in the conference. A group of scientists and researchers from universities and academic research institutions in Egypt participated in the conference. Adel el-Beltagy, President of IDDC; Ismail Serageldin, Director of the BA; Pasquale Steduto, Deputy Regional Representative at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Abdelhaq Hanafi, representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and others opened the conference.
Researchers presented scientific work that serves the cause of developing drylands and aims at raising the standards of living of more than 2.5 billion resident of drylands worldwide. The conference discussed topics concerned with the sustainable development of drylands, the application of new technology to raise crop efficiency in coping with dehydration and high temperatures, as well as problems of the agricultural management of drylands.
The conference also tackled issues on land degradation and desertification, sustaining biodiversity at drylands, developing communities at drylands, reducing poverty levels, providing job opportunities, and new and renewable energy.
In his word to the conference, senior water expert at FAO regional office Fawzi Karajeh warned of the scarcity of water in the Near East and North Africa which, he said, was bound to place the agricultural sector before challenges that directly affected food security and rural economy. The water quota per individual in NENA, he said, has gone down 60 per cent throughout the last four decades and is expected to go down 50 per cent of what it is now by 2050, he said. Climate change in the region, he said, has helped make water scarcity a dire reality.
As far as Egypt is concerned, Dr Karajeh said, several positive initiatives have been implemented through cooperation between the Egyptian government and FAO. As examples he cited the use of solar energy as a power source in agricultural projects, the application of irrigation methods that achieve better efficiency as far as water consumption is concerned, and the study of the effect of climate change on the yield of strategic crops.
Interestingly, Dr Karajeh said that there is no reason to fear the Nile Delta will disappear off the map owing to climate change, as many scientists repeatedly claimed. Such claims are inaccurate, he said, and are based on inaccurate assumptions. The only area in the Delta which is really threatened, he said, is that which lies near Port Said, east of the Delta.
Egypt has been reaching out to FAO, Dr Karajeh said, for studies on the greening of 1.5million feddans of desert land. The FAO, he said, one month ago presented the Egyptian government with studies on the soil, water supply, energy, fish wealth, and agricultural investment needed for the project.