FEATURE STORY August 24, 2018

China and Arab Countries Share Experiences in Agriculture and Water Management

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The delegation at the Yucheng National Agroecosystem Experimental Station.

World Bank


STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • A delegation from Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon and the Arab Water Council visited China to study water management in early February 2018
  • China and these countries in the Middle East and North Africa face similar water scarcity challenges
  • The exchange highlights the critical role South-South learning plays in development

Over a week in early February 2018, a delegation of eight high-level officials and experts from Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Lebanon and the Arab Water Council (AWC) visited China to learn how the country manages scarce water resources and adapts to climate change by using integrated water-saving technologies in agriculture.

As one of the most food insecure regions in the world, countries in the Middle East and North Africa suffer chronic water shortages and rely on irrigation and food imports to overcome difficult agroecological conditions. Water scarcity is a main constraint to constant but ever-expanding food production, as irrigation accounts for 85 percent of the region’s total water consumption. Groundwater depletion and climate change exacerbate the problem, widening the gap between fresh water availability and growing demands, and acting as a threat multiplier in an already fragile region. 

The tour was organized under the Middle East and North Africa Regional Coordination on Improved Agriculture Water Management Project, and financed by the China-World Bank Group Partnership Facility (CWPF). 

In Beijing, the delegation had a series of high-level meetings, presentations and technical discussions for knowledge sharing with officials and experts from various Chinese ministries and institutes responsible for agriculture, water management, poverty alleviation and international cooperation, as well as from the World Bank. 

With China’s northwestern region and the Middle East and North Africa region sharing similar conditions for agricultural production such as soil, temperatures and precipitation, these countries are poised to benefit greatly from sharing knowledge, noted Vice Minister Qu Dongyu in the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

In the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources, Vice Minister Zhou Xuewen said China is ready to share its water management experiences with other countries through mutual visits, policy dialogues, technical exchange and cooperation among river basin management departments and research, designing and planning institutes, and work with the World Bank to find innovative approaches to improving water management in developing countries.

 


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The delegation is looking at a lysimeter, an instrument to measure crop evapotranspiration.

World Bank



The event also included three days of field visits to sites showcasing China’s use of science and technology and institutional reforms for agricultural development, water management, and poverty reduction. 

In Cheng’an, a water-scarce county in Hebei Province, the delegation was briefed on the water resources management reforms implemented at the local level. These reforms not only included developing new irrigation facilities, integrated water saving technologies, and a water management information platform based on real time remote sensing and digital information, but also piloting tradable water rights and volumetric water charges that would give incentives for water users to reduce water consumption. In a water users’ association, the delegation learned how farmers organized themselves to manage irrigation water to raise efficiency and reduce wastage. Among other technologies, the delegation saw how a pre-paid card is used to enable farmers to control the volume of water used to irrigate their land.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the scientific and technological level that has been achieved by China in the sectors of agriculture, water resources management and poverty reduction. Remote sensing is used operationally in the field for monitoring crop status. A lot of progress in such a short time. An example to follow in the MENA region,” said Eng. Sinan BACHA, Director, Regional Centre for Remote Sensing of North African States (CRTEAN), Tunisia.

In Shandong Province, the delegation visited the Yucheng National Agroecosystem Experimental Station and a demonstration farm operated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.  They were impressed by the close link between scientific research and agricultural production, as Chinese research institutes and scientists provide strong technical support to resolve key water and agriculture development issues in the field, directly contributing to sustainable agriculture production and increasing farmers’ income.

“We were really amazed by the unlimited support and technical assistance that were generously offered by the Chinese experts in all sectors and how they were really capable of utilizing science to improve the lives of millions of people,” said Heba Al-Hariry, Business Development Manager of the Arab Water Council.

The delegation also visited the Xiaotangshan National Precision Agriculture Research and Demonstration Base in Beijing’s northeastern suburb. They saw research laboratories and interesting innovations using digital technologies, such as precision fertilization, automatic greenhouses, and unmanned tractors and other automatic farm machineries for precision farming.

The six-day study tour was eye-opening. “I was really surprised to realize the similarities between the Middle East and North Africa region’s challenges and what China went through in the last 30 years,” said Dr. Khaled Madean, Egypt’s Deputy Minister for Irrigation Affairs and head of the delegation.

Inspired by what they saw during the tour, the delegation has already come up with suggestions for knowledge transfer from China to help Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia better manage water resources and increase food security amidst challenging environment under even further strain from climate change. 



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