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A new research issue: water resources

CIRAD is one of the scientific partners in the SIRMA (Systèmes irrigués au Maghreb) project to be headed in France until 2009 by the French Foreign Ministry and the Association française pour l'étude des irrigations et du drainage (AFEID).

It is closely linked to the European WADEMED project, a knowledge base on water demand management in the Maghreb that set out to develop integrated tools for managing water savings, and to facilitate dialogue between the various stakeholders, in terms of both production and promotion of resources in the Mediterranean Basin and revenue redistribution.

Under the WADEMED project, a seminar co-organized by CEMAGREF, CIRAD and the Ecole Nationale d'Agriculture in Meknes, in conjunction with the Lot Chamber of Agriculture, was held in Cahors (Lot) in November. It enabled an analysis, from one shore of the Mediterranean to the other, of current changes in irrigated agriculture, how agricultural professionals are coping with those changes, and the degree of State support. Plans were also made for twinning operations and exchanges between irrigation structures and cooperatives in Lot and in Morocco.

As Jean-Yves Jamin, Head of the CIRAD Water Management Research Unit, explains, "in France, Africa and Asia, we are facing the same difficulties managing water distribution between agricultural and urban areas". He adds "We have to cope with drought, water salinity, disputes between users, and State withdrawal. Field research needs to combine hydraulics, agronomy and sociology".

New water use practices are emerging in Mediterranean countries, notably the development of underground water drawing systems. Marcel Kuper and Nicolas Faysse, CIRAD researchers on postings in Morocco, and Serge Marlet in Tunisia, are working both to reduce water table salinity and to foster talks between farmers, professional organizations and the authorities. To optimize the future of family agriculture, new agricultural policies need to be drawn up for irrigation schemes.

Helen Burford | alfa
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