Regional Water Harvesting Potential Mapping Project

A Panecea for the Largest Agricultural Production System In the NENA Region

Drylands cover nearly half of all terrestrial land surfaces, of which 72% are in developing countries and support over a quarter of the global population’s living space. They are the main contributor to global food production and a variety of fruit trees. However, water scarcity in drylands greatly constrains agricultural productivity, particularly in undeveloped rural areas where sophisticated irrigation systems are a luxury. Therefore, efficient use of rainwater through rainwater harvesting technologies (RHTs) is an effective avenue to alleviate water stress and improve agricultural productivity, which could contribute to several Sustainable Development Goals such as SDG 2, SDG 6, and SDG 15. Improving rainwater use in agriculture is necessary to ensure sustainable food production for the growing global population. The agrosilvopastoral system is the largest agricultural production system in the NENA region (covering 60 % of the agricultural land), encompassing a diversity of rangelands, including grasslands, shrublands, scrublands, woodlands, savannas and sparsely vegetated deserts. These essential dryland production systems dominate the low rainfall areas (average annual rainfall below 250 mm) and provide vital services for pastoral, agropastoral and silvopastoral communities.

Background of the Research Consortium

The Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, already exposed to chronic shortage of water, will face in the coming decades a severe intensification of water scarcity due to several drivers, including demographic growth and its related food demands, urbanization, energy demand and overall socio-economic development. Furthermore, the NENA region is experiencing more frequent, intense extreme events (in particular droughts) as a consequence of climate change.

The recently agreed Agenda 2030 for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) requires evidently a ‘transformational’ change in managing strategic resources as water, land and energy. The Countries of the Near east and North Africa Region need to strategically plan their water resources management and water allocation and adopt good practices to ensure alignment with the imperatives of (i) setting the sustainable limits of water consumption and (ii) making the best use of each single drop of water, including the use of non-conventional water sources.
Under the FAO regional project GCP/RNE/009/SWE “Implementing the 2030 Agenda for water efficiency/productivity and water sustainability in NENA countries” (WEPS-NENA) funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), specific activites under a Letter of Agreement called “Assessment of water-harvesting scaling-up potential for the NENA Region” are being tasked to ICARDA and AOAD.