Naïm Messelhi: Water is the main challenge – Food self-sufficiency – Dossier

Al-Ahram weekly : What is rohCenter for Research on deused in the implementation of stratewent the deagricultural development in Egypt?

Dr. Naïm Messelhi: The Desert Research Center is the oldest in Egypt. It dates back to 1950. Its main mission is to explore the natural resources that can be used in agriculture, whether it is groundwater or arable land, and this thanks to specialized research teams that travel around the deserts and perform soil, groundwater, vegetation and cattle. production surveys. These studies help the state implement agricultural development strategies and the launch of national mega-projects. Recently, Egyptian universities have started cooperating with us.

According to you, the projects from regedoes noteration of deserve they are the solution to fill defood history? Is there dother solutions?

– Global challenges have led each country to reconsider its food production strategy. Egypt has adopted an agricultural development strategy based on increasing the productivity of former agricultural land while developing high-yielding crops that are able to withstand adverse environmental conditions with lower water needs. In addition, the application of modern agricultural techniques and the development of irrigation systems. Agricultural intervention in the valley and the delta is a problem. We seek to compensate for the decline in agricultural land by exploring new areas in desert areas. In addition to the desert rehabilitation projects, we resumed the old projects that were suspended in Tochka and Sinai. The president asked to complete these projects after studying the reasons for their shutdown, the water sources and the infrastructure.

Lar staterecently launchede alikeerie of large agricultural projects to fill defood shortages. ISLANDwhere where are we todayToday?

– The project of one and a half million feddans was 30% complete. In Tochka, the goal was to cultivate 500,000 feddans. However, after studies conducted by the Desert Research Center and the Soil Research Institute in collaboration with Egyptian universities, this target was raised to 1.1 million. feddans. In addition, the Central and Northern Sinai Development Project had an initial goal of cultivating 400,000 feddansbut this area has risen to 500,000 feddans. It has also succeeded in surveying new arable land, finding suitable crops in northern and central Sinai and building the Bahr Al-Baqar water treatment plant, which supplies 5.6 million m3 of water per day, in addition to the 2 million m3 provided by the Al supply. . -Salam canal, which means that we have 7.6 million m3 per. The New Delta project, with an area of ​​2.2 million feddans, has many benefits. Part of this project, Mostaqbal Misrhas already managed to cultivate 350,000 feddans. It is planned, before the end of 2023, to cultivate one million feddans in the new delta. These projects will add 2 million feddans to the area of ​​agricultural land dedicated to the production of strategic crops, especially wheat, maize, oilseeds – because we lack them – fodder and legumes. These projects will cover part of the food deficit, especially with regard to cereals, and will allow a certain degree of self-sufficiency and thus reduce the import bill. They will guarantee a degree of food security and allow the installation of food industries equipped with modern technologies that will attract residents to new areas, create new urban communities and reduce overcrowding in the valley and delta.

Coandt of these projects are exorbitant and require time and effort. What is your opinion ?

– It is well known that new soil has low productivity the first year. Productivity then increases from year to year depending on crop type and yield. Growing wheat, for example, has become profitable. It is true that the infrastructure is expensive, but the costs are paid over a long period of time. If the restoration of feddan costs around LE 200,000, 50% of this cost is spread over a longer period. With the application of modern technology, mechanization and smart contract farming, everyone will strive, whether it is a private sector, an investor or a farmer, to get the better performance. For example, the project crops Mostaqbal Misr is very promising and of good quality: wheat, sugar beet or potatoes. The productivity of the project varies with soil type, location and water used. Each project has its own feasibility study. We can not say whether we will make a profit from the first year. Budgets are governed by the choice of crops, as each region is suitable for specific crops. In fact, the state is forced to expand horizontally because there is no other alternative, due to the fact that the current agricultural areas are limited and fragmented, not to mention the encroachments on these areas, the population growth and increasing demand for food. Agriculture is a slow-return investment, but over time it is a very important investment and does not involve much risk.

And what is the culture map of the new projects?

Each region has its own climatic conditions, its soil and its water sources, which determine the type of cultivation that is suitable for it. If we talk about Tochka, we find that the conditions there are different from Al-Dabaa. For example, citrus cultivation is not suitable for Tochka, while date palms give a better yield. In the Al-Dabaa region, the most suitable crops are, in other words, grapes, apples and citrus fruits. Strategic crops like wheat and yellow corn can be grown in many, many parts of Egypt, and it is a gift from God.

What is defacts we faceesay the culture of deserving?

– The biggest challenge is the lack of water. The state wants to rationalize the irrigation water by using modern irrigation systems and treat the wastewater from agriculture. The two largest agricultural wastewater treatment plants were built at Al-Mohsena in Sinai and at Bahr Al-Baqar. Yes, water is the biggest challenge. The problem is not to dig wells, but instead to maintain, to provide the necessary energy to extract the water, to build infrastructures to transport the water and to secure the transport costs for wastewater and the cost of building treatment plants, etc. All of this represents a significant but long-term cost. There are challenges, but with the development of technology, they are affordable by using modern technology and smart agriculture in the new countries.

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