Egypt’s fertile Nile Delta threatened by climate change

Lush green fields blanket northern Egypt’s Nile Delta, but the country’s agricultural heartland and its vital freshwater resources are under threat from a warming climate.

The fertile arc-shaped basin is home to nearly half the country’s population, and the river that feeds it provides Egypt with 90 percent of its water needs.

But climbing temperatures and drought are drying up the mighty Nile — a problem compounded by rising seas and soil salinization, experts and farmers say.

Combined, they could jeopardise crops in the Arab world’s most populous country, where the food needs of its 98 million residents are only expected to increase.

“The Nile is shrinking. The water doesn’t reach us anymore,” says Talaat al-Sisi, a farmer who has grown wheat, corn and other crops for 30 years in the southern Delta governorate of Menoufia.

“We’ve been forced to tap into the groundwater and we’ve stopped growing rice,” a cereal known for its greedy water consumption, he adds.

By 2050, the region could lose up to 15 percent of its key agricultural land due to salinization, according to a 2016 study published by Egyptian economists.

The yield of tomato crops could drop by 50 percent, the study said, with staple cereals like wheat and rice falling 18 and 11 percent respectively.

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