International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Combat Degradation and Desertification of Rain Fed Areas
in Northern Coastal Region of Egypt

Ahmed Said Kamel

Field Crops Research Institute, Agricultural Research Center, Giza, Egypt


The Northern Coastal Region of Egypt is unique in its strategic importance, historical background, and environmental setting. This region includes rain fed areas located in the northern part of Sinai Peninsula and the Northern Coastal Plains west of Alexandria towards Libyan borders. The average rainfall in the Sinai Peninsula decreases going from North-East to South-West, contrary to the Northwestern Coastal Plains where the average rainfall decrease follows a reverse trend. Degradation and Desertification threaten these areas, which necessitates the adoption of innovative approaches to the use and management of the fragile resources.

The major constraints threatening the sustainability in these areas are: (i) the disappearance of crop rotations due to a continuous cereal monoculture (barley); (ii) overgrazing in range lands; (iii) inadequacy in the quantity and distribution of rainfall: (iv) poor soil fertility; (v) low crop productivity; and (vi) wind erosion. Agriculture along the Mediterranean Sea starting from Rafah in the east to the Libyan borders in the west is highly dependant on the rainfall amount and distribution, therefore plantations and horticultural crops extent only for about 10km from the sea towards the south where rainfall ranges from 150 to 250mm yr-1. The next 10km south of the first region heading towards the desert constitute of very poor rangelands.

Agricultural Development and Crop Intensification Research Project undertook the effort to combat desertification in these areas through implementing innovative cropping patterns by the introduction of new crops that were tolerant to drought and very pertinent to the Bedouin diet and their livestock feeding needs.  The project included the introduction of Cassava and Quinoa crops in Sinai.  Cassava trials were conducted to study the response of different varieties to planting dates, spacing, fertilizer rates, and intercropping. In addition, thirteen varieties of Quinoa were tested in our desert environment under different types of land preparation, fertilizer requirements, planting dates, intercropping, and irrigation frequencies. Results obtained revealed that Quinoa can be successfully grown in Egypt and as a result is expected to be used widely in the Northwestern Regions of Egypt and in all Deserts in the Arabian Countries. Also, interesting trials were conducted in the Northwestern Coastal Plains to study the effect of tillage systems (ploughing at 0, 20, 40 cm depth) and seeding rates of (48, 60, 72 kg/acre) in Sidi Barrani and El-Washak locations on the water conservation and barley yield. The results indicated that water conservation and barley yields increased especially with increasing ploughing depth.