Water harvesting and supplemental irrigation for improved water productivity of dry farming systems in West Asia and North Africa

  • Theib Oweis A
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In the dry areas, water, not land, is the most limiting resource for improved agricultural
production. Maximizing water productivity, and not yield per unit of land, is therefore a better
strategy for dry farming systems. Under such conditions, more efficient water management
techniques must be adopted. Supplemental irrigation (SI) is a highly efficient practice with great
potential for increasing agricultural production and improving livelihoods in the dry rainfed areas. In
the drier environments, most of the rainwater is lost by evaporation; therefore the rainwater
productivity is extremely low. Water harvesting can improve agriculture by directing and concentrating
rainwater through runoff to the plants and other beneficial uses. It was found that over 50% of
lost water can be recovered at a very little cost. However, socioeconomic and environmental benefits
of this practice are far more important than increasing agricultural water productivity. This paper
highlights the major research findings regarding improving water productivity in the dry rainfed
region of West Asia and North Africa. It shows that substantial and sustainable improvements in
water productivity can only be achieved through integrated farm resources management. On-farm
water-productive techniques if coupled with improved irrigation management options, better crop
selection and appropriate cultural practices, improved genetic make-up, and timely socioeconomic
interventions will help to achieve this objective. Conventional water management guidelines should
be revised to ensure maximum water productivity instead of land productivity.

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  • Ahmed Hachum Theib Oweis

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