NBI Core Agricultural Functions Study -Proposed Framework, Options and Functions for a NBI/ Nile River Basin Commission Agricultural Agenda

All the basin riparian states face serious water resource management challenges in the years to come as a consequence of rising populations, improving standards of living, and possible negative effects of climate change. Important questions to ask include how much water is currently being used for food production in the basin, consumed by the basin population, and potentially available for future enhanced food production? The answers to such questions will provide a framework for the proposed agricultural functions and their focus.

With a basin population of approximately 160 million, the required amount of water to sustain those people is about 190,000 m cm (based on 1200 m3 per person/y, primarily being water used in food production). This amounts to about 10% of the total basin precipitation. A small percentage of this is linked to irrigated agriculture, with the remaining consumed in rain fed agriculture. Of the remaining 90% most water is consumed by grasslands, a bit less by woodlands, and very little (about half a percent) enters the Mediterranean Sea. Almost all the water consumed in irrigated agriculture is used in Sudan and Egypt, whereas almost all rain fed agriculture takes place in the upstream states of the White Nile plus Ethiopia. Rain fed agriculture produces about 60-70% of the total basin food production, with irrigated agriculture supplying the balance.

In addition to these water flows, virtual water enters the Nile basin in the form of imported food. This amounts to roughly 41,000mcm/y, while the export amounts to roughly 14,000mcm/y, including both crops and livestock (ibid). The net imported is thus about 27,000mcm/y. These ‘flows’ are considered to contribute substantially to the water security of Sudan and Egypt in particular; Egypt imports more than half its food. As an average, the basin depends on imported food to supply around 20-25 per cent of its total needs (FAO, 2000); and this figure has increased in recent years.