GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Resource Degradation and Food Security in Oman
Paper Proposal Text :
The agricultural sector plays a major role in the food security objective for the Sultanate of Oman. Although the agricultural sector’s contribution to the GDP is less than 2% it still plays an important role in food production, employment and maintenance of the environment. During the period 2000-2007, the area under cultivation in Oman decreased by more than 8.3%. The decrease in the agricultural area is due to the expansion of the urbanization as well as the degradation of the groundwater quality. The decreasing trend in agriculture land is a matter of great concern for policy makers. The sustainability of the agricultural sector is a major objective in Oman’s 2020 Economic Vision. The sector contributes towards food security, diversification of the national income and constitutes a barrier against rural migration and rural poverty.
This paper considers the coastal area of the Batinah region northern Oman as a case study. The Batinah region represents 53% of the total agricultural area of Oman. The Batinah is heavily affected by the salinity problem as well as farm size decrease and urbanization. The main reason of the increased salinity in the Batinah is the excessive pumping of groundwater compared to natural recharge.
The agricultural area in the coastal Batinah Region (only 8 Willayats) covers 130,896 Feddans (1 Feddan = 4,200 m2). The cropped area is only 74,018 Feddans. Most of the farms are small in size with 80.1% of the farms below 5 feddans and only 1% of the farms above 30 feddans. Agriculture depends totally on groundwater irrigation as rain-fed farming is not possible due to the desertic environment with rainfall below 100 mm/year distributed in 7 to 10 days in a year. Only a part of the rain recharges the groundwater. Due to the high evaporation recharge dams are primarily used for storing water for few days until it is discharged and infiltrated into the ground.
In this paper GIS is used to estimate the extent of farm land affected by the degradation of groundwater quality due to seawater intrusion. Data is collected from the Supreme Committee of Town Planning regarding the agricultural land converted to urban uses. Finally an economic survey to estimate the impact of salinity on farm profitability was undertaken.

Addressing the salinity problem means mainly addressing the management and monitoring of groundwater. Two main policy options could be followed, the first is putting in place a water quota system and a monitoring system, and the other is reducing the agricultural area. Both policy alternatives are politically hard to implement. Hence, the third option of adjusting to salinity by introducing new crop varieties.
During the period 2005-2010 urbanization of the agricultural land alone has eaten around 11,595 feddans. Table 1 shows the distribution per willayat of the converted agricultural area into urban area. In total 11,595 feddans have been converted for urban uses. This represents 8.86% of the total agricultural area of the study area. Some 1,563 farms have been totally converted while another 663 farms have been partially converted to urban uses. Willayat Barka, the closest to the capital Muscat, is the most affected by agricultural land conversion. In fact some 5,633 feddans were converted in Barka, which represents 21.67% of the willayat total agricultural land. For the remaining Willayats the land use change varied between 2% and 14.5% of the total agricultural area.

A comparison of the agricultural censuses shows that the average size of farms has come down in only a period of 12 years. Figure 1 shows the results of this comparison. The average farm size decreased from 6.25 feddans in 1992-93 to only 3.52 feddans in 2004-05. Further reduction of the average size of farms will have drastic effects on the production and productivity of the agricultural sector.
The consequences of increased groundwater salinity, increased water scarcity and farm size reduction are reflected in the trends of crop yields (see figure 2). On average yields decreased by 3.7%, except for tree crops which observed a yield increase of 21.6% during the period 2000-2009. Groundwater over pumping resulted in seawater intrusion in the coastal areas and the consequent salinization of water and land. To estimate the impact of salinity on farm profitability we use primary data collected from farmers. For that a survey was designed to find out the crop mix, crop yields, and costs of production per crop in four classes of salinity and four farm sizes. The farm size takes into account the effect of economies of scale on farm profitability. A total number of 268 farmers were selected. The calculation of the gross margin (return to land, capital and management) was undertaken using 2010 wholesale output prices. Table 2 shows the distribution of the Batinah’s farm according to size and as a percentage of the total cropped area. Farms less than 5 feddans represent 45.9% of the cropped area while the farms more than 20 feddans represent 17.5% of the total cropped are in the Batinah. These percentages will be used to estimate the weighted average gross margin per class of salinity in what follow.