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Egyptian villagers manage their scarce water resources effectively and equitably

Page history last edited by Rosemary 13 years ago

Photo © Desert Development centre, AUC, Feb 08


Villagers in the poor, remote oasis village of Abou Minqar, in the middle of Egypt’s Western Desert, have taken charge of managing their own water resources with the aid of the Regional Water Demand Initiative’s (WaDImena) program, securing their crops and conserving scarce water resources through their hard work.

Like all of Farafra Oasis villagers, Abou Minqar’s farmers faced many challenges: unlined canals, broken and nonexistent water gates, and inefficient and unpredictable amounts of irrigation water, as well as poor access to seeds, fertilizers, and agricultural information. A WaDImena team from the Desert Development Centre (DDC) at the American University in Cairo helped the farmers found their first association and shared new and locally appropriate agricultural practices with the elected group during a three-day workshop.

When the farmers listed tasks needed to solve their community's most pressing agricultural problems, improving their irrigation infrastructure and managing water more efficiently was at the top of the list. Once home, they cleaned six km of secondary canals, and then explored how to line a secondary canal in which weed growth prevented almost half of the water flow from reaching the end of the canal. This project would have a tight time frame if an entire season’s crops were not to be lost.

Estimated costs for lining the canal were 62,000 EGP (equivalent to $1,100 USD). The association’s members collected a total of 11,000 EGP from 22 of the 24 farmers who cultivate land along the 800m-long canal, and the project team provided 51,000 EGP from the project‘s budget.

In January 2008, assisted by DDC irrigation engineer Hassan Husseiny, association members levelled the canal and determined the required slope. But when the sand was delivered, a new issue arose: what equipment was available to build an even, 800-m long sand base for the canal? In this farming community of 4,000 people, basic farming and building tools were hard to find. Some community members and four young hired workers from the oasis used self-made tools of welded iron scraps for levelling. Then a construction company from Farafra poured the concrete foundation, and a local contractor completed the brick work.

After less than six weeks of closure, the gates of the new zarayeb canal were opened – an event that drew dozens of people from Bir Wahid to the field. Adel, a participating farmer, exclaimed: “The water is running so well, everybody here is very happy!” Said Magdy, president of the Farmers Association: “It used to take around four hours for water to make its way from the well to my field, now it only takes 20 minutes!”

The finished canal convinced even farmers who had been skeptical about the association. Said Mohammad: “The canal is only a first step, and the really important thing is not the canal itself, but the association. Now there is an association in Abu Minqar that can actually implement improvement!”

The new canal, which promises to significantly reduce water loss by minimizing seepage and evaporation, has improved water access by allowing farmers at the tail end of the canal to receive water. Today, many farmers from around Abu Minqar are saying they would like to line their canals as well.

The prospects look promising. The project has already raised 70,000 EGP from the German embassy to build a second canal in Abu Minqar. The new farmers' association may well complete its second lined canal in a matter of months.

This story is adapted from a longer case study, entitled Waterways of Hope: How Abou Minqar villagers in Egypt took charge of improving the management of their water resources and enhancing their livelihoods. The five-year regional Water Demand Initiative for the Middle East and North Africa (WaDImena) is generating innovative research on strategies and tools which contribute to better water use efficiency, equity and sustainability in this water-scarce region. WaDImena currently works in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, TunisiaQatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, OmanBahrain, and Yemen. Thanks to Nesrine Khaled of WaDImena for sharing the story and the picture above.


For other stories about water use and management, see:

Mosque water helps traditional gardens bloom again in Yemen

Saving costs and improving water management in India

Water, milk and honey flow in dry Jordanian valley

Rehabilitated wind-powered pumps bring water in Senegal

Orangi Pilot Project proves poor people in slums can meet own sewage and water needs

Facilitating south-south sharing on water governance


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