Farming the Sahara

No one ever said making the desert bloom was easy. In another excellent article in its Food Chain series, the New York Times reports on the dismal future for farming in a Mideast that’s going to have a lot more people and a lot less water. Here’s the statistical rub:

The population of the region has more than quadrupled since 1950, to 364 million, and is expected to reach nearly 600 million by 2050. By that time, the amount of fresh water available for each person, already scarce, will be cut in half, and declining resources could inflame political tensions further.

There just isn’t enough nondesert land: In Egypt, add the farms and the cities together and that’s still only 4 percent of the country. Wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia are already looking “for farmland in fertile but politically unstable countries like Pakistan and Sudan, with the goal of growing crops to be shipped home.” In the meantime, every drop of water is precious: Israel is where drip irrigation was invented, and the country now requires many farmers to water their crops with recycled, treated sewer water.

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