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A new partnership addresses water scarcity in the Arab region


From left: Aly Abousabaa, Director General of ICARDA; Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the Arab League; Mahmoud A. Abu-Zeid, President of Arab Water Council (AWC). Photo: AWC

Cairo, March 19 - ICARDA and the Arab Water Council (AWC) have announced a commitment to combine resource mobilization and fundraising efforts in a bid to more effectively address the Arab region’s critical water challenges. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed during the 5th General Assembly of the Arab Water Council in Cairo (16-17 March 2019), will include joint proposals and project development, and cover an initial term of five years.

The MOU reflects a growing awareness of the region’s increasing vulnerability to water scarcity – given its rapidly-growing population and exposure to the negative impacts of climate change. Arab countries already import more than 50 percent of their food, and failure to secure adequate sources of quality water will further constrain their self-sufficiency in food production – weakening national food and nutritional security and exposing their populations to the vagaries of global commodity markets.

The General Assembly of the Arab Water Council, which brought together 400 members from 25 countries, is a sign that national governments are actively exploring regional partnerships and solutions to address water scarcity challenges. 

The ICARDA-AWC collaboration will draw on the strengths of both organizations: ICARDA offers innovative, science-based solutions to improve the livelihoods and resilience of smallholder farmers, and AWC will help to build regional and international cooperation and consensus on the water management strategies that regional governments need to adopt.  

The partnership will focus on a range of pressing issues, including: the reduction of evaporation losses from open reservoirs and ponds; sea water level rises; changes in cropping systems; eco-physiological strategies to reduce water consumption in agriculture; soil salinity mapping, monitoring, and control; and water treatment in groundwater-based agriculture.  

Aly Abousabaa, ICARDA’s Director General, commented on the collaboration with AWC: “By signing the MoU we are taking our collaboration with AWC to a higher level. It is a sign of how much we value this partnership which has been crucial for both of our organizations – helping us to collectively improve the development of water resources and achieve water-related sustainable development goals at the regional level.”

He added: “There is no way to sustain reasonable levels of food security without substantially increasing water productivity and water use efficiency. This is becoming more critical with climate change, especially in dry environments. Solid partnerships will be critical to managing these challenges in the years ahead.”

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary General of the Arab League, said “We are all aware that the issue of water is now very much on the international agenda. Growing populations and demands from multiple sectors are putting great pressure on the planet’s water resources. In the years ahead it is critical that we monitor the growing dangers of drought and water scarcity, and with the support of ICARDA develop proven strategies to deal with these threats – the dimensions of which may not be fully predictable at the moment.”

The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)

Established in 1977, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is a non-profit, CGIAR Research Center that focuses on delivering innovative solutions for sustainable agricultural development in the non-tropical dry areas of the developing world. We provide innovative, science-based solutions to improve the livelihoods and resilience of resource-poor smallholder farmers. We do this through strategic partnerships, linking research to development, and capacity development, and by taking into account gender equality and the role of youth in transforming the non-tropical dry areas. 

Arab Water Council (AWC)

The Arab Water Council (AWC) was launched on 14 April 2004 as a regional non-profit organization with activities extended on both regional and international scales. The Headquarters of the Arab Water Council is the Arab Republic of Egypt according to the Host Agreement signed between the Government of Egypt and the Council in February 2009. The Council’s mission is to promote deeper understanding and better management of the water resources in the Arab states in a multi-disciplinary, non-political, professional and scientific approach to disseminate knowledge and enhance sharing of experiences to achieve integrated water resources management for sustainable development and good water governance for the benefit of the Arab people.

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