Experts call for new agricultural strategies as Jordan braces for even drier summer

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AMMAN — Experts and officials in Jordan, one of the world’s most water-scarce countries in the world, are pushing for new strategies to utilize water and agricultural resources as the country braces for an even hotter and drier summer.اضافة اعلان

Per capita water use in Jordan is expected to drop to half its current rate by the end of this century, according to a peer-reviewed study by an international team published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Acting Secretary General of the Water Authority of Jordan Ahmad Olimat told Jordan News that "there should be one ministry that is specialised in both agriculture and water."

"Agriculture and water are highly relevant,” explained the acting secretary general. There is “no agriculture without water, so if we really want to protect agriculture, we must protect our water sources."

"We in Jordan have a wide range of agricultural produce and that is the result of the geographical diversity in our country," Olimat said. "We need to leverage this by focusing on the importance of cultivating the land in the right way. This will help us get a larger quantity of agricultural crops too."

Olimat pointed to the link between water resources and Jordan’s food security. "If the government really wants to benefit from agriculture in Jordan, it must work efficiently on food security strategies and have real future plans,” he argued. “This will not happen if we do not have professional ministers that really want to work and make a difference."

Olimat criticized some of the government’s policies towards agriculture. "We unfortunately lost some important and huge agricultural lands due to land regularization laws," he said. "The government should reconsider such laws and be aware that we need these lands for cultivation,” especially large swathes of land that allow for mass cultivation.

However, the secretary general also identified some strong agricultural strategies developed in Jordan, including a seed bank, which stores different seeds to preserve genetic diversity in the case of extinction or endangerment of species.

"We in the Hashemite University, where I work, have developed a seed bank that is worth millions. I believe that such project is a pride that helps in improving agriculture,” Olimat said.

"One must be creative and start thinking about his own initiative to help develop his society. Do not wait for the opportunities, create them," Olimat added.

"I believe that we in Jordan have great quantities of water, and different water sources. We just need to know how to benefit from these sources correctly,” he said.

Likewise, energy expert Zuhair Sadeq told Jordan News that "I truly believe that we have different water sources in Jordan that we are not benefiting from. Unfortunately we are losing rain water due to some certain conditions. "

He also pointed out water waste at the level of the individual consumer. "Some people use water the wrong way. How many times do we see a person who is using a large amount of water just to wash his car for example?" Sadeq asked. "If we really want to save water, we must know how to use it the right way."

“Our biggest problem is that we are using water in large amounts, and at the same time, we are not looking for new and alternative solutions to get water,” said Elias Salameh, a water expert, in an interview with Jordan News.

"We consume more than 650 million cubic meters of water each year, which means that if we keep on consuming this great amount each year, (the supply of) underground water will be depleted,” he said. "We must look for alternative ways to get water — and this will not happen without clear strategies and plans."

"Vegetables like tomatoes for example, consume huge amounts of water and in return give low financial return,” Salameh added. “We must know what kind of vegetables or fruits we should plant to help in saving water and (achieving) food security as well."

A source from the Ministry of Agriculture told Jordan News that "the ministry has different strategies and plans for food security. The ministry is working hard along with other different ministries, such as the Ministry of Water, to develop projects that take into account the optimal investment of water sources and to agree on cultivating vegetables and fruits that do not need large amounts of water yet give a high financial return."

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