Fulbright Alumni activity : EGYPT FOOD SECURITY RESEARCH PROJECT
The Egypt Food Security Research Project was a collaborative research project, generously funded by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and administered by the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt (BFCE) and the University of Utah, that aimed at fostering scholarly exchange on issues related to food security and water resource management. The goal of this research project was to enhance long-term capacity building and improving conditions in the fields of food security and water management in semi-arid climates (similar to Egypt’s climate and the Mountain West climates of the U.S.). The project will conclude with a capstone conference in Cairo in July 2022. This is exceptionally timely as Egypt is preparing to host the U.N. Climate Change Conference 2022 (COP 27). Changes such as more frequent weather extremes, sea level rise, and shifting precipitation patterns are driving consequences to water and food security. Egypt’s reclaimed desert agriculture lands face anticipated cascading impact of sea level rise and sea water intrusion leading to increased salinity of coastal groundwater resources used for crop irrigation. Preparing to meet this challenge requires understanding the impacts of increased salinity on Egypt’s cash crops and developing ways to mitigate these impacts.
Project Goals: The EFSP team consisting of four Fulbright alumni (two Egyptians and two Americans) led by an American Principal Investigator (PI) and an Egyptian Consultant worked together to accomplish the following:
- Identify topics that are relevant to Egypt’s immediate and long-term food production needs,
- Research solutions and make recommendations,
- Engage partners,
- Conduct meetings in Utah and Egypt,
- Present outcomes at a final conference in Cairo,
- Disseminate outcomes through scholarly articles.
- Dr. Steven Burian: Dr. Burian is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Utah and the Director of the University of Utah Water Center. He is the Principal Investigator (PI) on the project and will host the first meeting of the group in Utah.
- Dr. Ali Shams El Din: Dr. Shams El Din is a Professor of Agricultural Chemistry and the Former President of Benha University. He is also Former Cultural Attache at the Egyptian Embassy in the UK. He is serving as the in-country advisor on the project.
The Four alumni team members in alphabetical order are:
- Dr. Lal Almas: Dr. Almas is a Professor of Agribusiness. He studied Veterinary Medicine and Economics and is currently the Associate Dean of Agriculture and Natural Science at the West Texas A&M. He received a Fulbright grant in 2011-2012 in Azerbaijan.
- Dr. Mohamed Elsayed: Dr. El-Sayed is a Chemist by training who serves as Senior Researcher in soil and water at the Environmental Research Institute of the Agricultural Research Center in Egypt. He went on a Fulbright grant to South Dakota State University in 2014-15.
- Dr. Mohamed Hazman: Dr. Hazman studied Plant Biology. He is a Senior Researcher at the Agricultural Genetic Engineering Research Institute of the Agriculture Research Center in Egypt. He went on a Fulbright grant to Penn State in 2017-18.
- Dr. Mike McFarland: Dr. Mcfarland studied Chemical and Agricultural Engineering. He is the Chief Technology Officer at Cache Environmental Laboratories in Logan, Utah. He received a Fulbright grant in 2017-2018 to the Dominican Republic.
Key Project Activities:
- Research Activity Engaging Fulbright Alumni. The central part of the project was to engage a multi-disciplinary team of Fulbright Alumni in a collaborative research project investigating the feasibility of using saline groundwater in combination with soil amendments to improve crop production in Egypt.
- Scholarly Exchange. Supporting the research activity were two scholarly exchange visits, one to the U.S. and a culminating international conference in Egypt.
- Impact and Engagement. The broader impact of the project came from research activity products (e.g., conference presentations, technical journal articles, professional networking), meetings and events with stakeholders, and eventually the planned international conference bringing scientific experts from Egypt and other countries together in Cairo to address the challenges of irrigating crops with saline groundwater in reclaimed agriculture lands.
- Scholarly Exchange Visit to U.S., September 2019. The two Fulbright Alumni Participants from Egypt visited the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA from September 7, 2019 to September 29, 2019. The two U.S.
Participants (Drs. Almas and McFarland) visited from September 16-20. The Fulbright Alumni Participants developed an integrated research activity combining their experiences and skill sets to address a food and water security challenge in Egypt. The two Fulbright Alumni from Egypt also engaged in research exchange meetings with faculty members at the University of Utah, three training workshops (writing policy briefs, using R, and communicating science), and cultural exchanges with hosts.
- Research Activities – Phase I, October 2019-May 2020. The first phase of the research activity involved conducting pilot scale field experiments at SWERI and AGERI in Egypt. The team planned the experiments while on the scholarly exchange in Salt Lake City. The experiments were designed to quantify the effect of irrigation water salinity and soil amendments (e.g., biochar) on soil health, plant physiological response, and the production of tomato and wheat crops. Drs. Hazman and El-Sayed used existing facilities to plant the crops, cultivate them, and harvest the produce. Both research institutes (SWERI and AGERI) provided space and commitment to support the experiments as aligned with their research priorities. Results from the first season of experiments provided preliminary assessment of the crop yield for different levels of irrigation water salinity and use of biochar. The important findings from the experiment were (a) both tomato and wheat crop productivity were reduced from use of saline irrigation water and (b) the addition of biochar mitigated the impact of the saline groundwater, nearly restoring the crop productivity achieved with fresh water irrigation.
- Monthly Meetings: October 2019-February 2020. Dr. Mohamed Hazman and Dr. Mohamed ElSayed met with Dr. Ali Shams El Din and the Fulbright team once a month to discuss the progress of the experiment which was being conducted in Sohag and Giza.
- Biweekly Meetings, March 2020- June 2022. Given Covid-19 restrictions for travel and organizing physical gatherings, the project team worked with Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt to adapt the project. To maintain contact, encourage scholarly exchange, build relationships, and make progress on collaborative research products, the team met by Zoom video conference every other week from March of 2020 to August 2021.
- Scientific Dialog Webinar, November 9, 2020. The project team organized a Science Dialog Meeting. More than 30 experts and stakeholders from Egypt and the U.S. were invited to participate. 22 attended the 2-hour webinar. The Fulbright Alumni Participants each made presentations. Dr. Ali Shams El Din then moderated responses from a distinguished panel of experts:
- Prof. Emad Anis, Director of AGERI, Egypt
- Prof. Alaa Albably, Director of SWERI, Egypt
- Prof. Shireen Assem, Vice President, ARC, Egypt
- Prof. Ismail Abdel Galil, Director, Arab Water Academy, Egypt
- Prof. Saad Nassar, Senior Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, Egypt
- Research Activities – Phase II, June 2020 – August 2021. The second phase of the research activity involved the analysis of the results from the pilot scale field experiments at SWERI and AGERI to compile useful data for scientific publication and to provide the necessary distilled information for Drs. Lal Almas, Mike McFarland, and Steve Burian to use in their integrative research studies. The biweekly virtual scholarly exchanges provided the opportunity to share results, get feedback, and help translate results from Egypt to the U.S. for further analysis of economic and systemic implications of the use of saline groundwater for irrigating tomato and wheat crops.
- Scholarly Exchange Visit to Egypt, July 2022. Dr. Steve Burian and Dr. Lal Almas will visit Cairo in July 2022, to participate in the capstone conference and meet with stakeholders in the fields of water management, agriculture, food security and environmental studies.
- International Capstone Conference, in Cairo on July 6th 2022.
Research Product Dissemination. The project team worked to translate the research experiment results into peer-reviewed scholarly products, including journal articles and research presentations. Regular meetings, analysis of results, and collaborative writing led to several products.
Research Posters Presented:
- Kandagatla, R.A. and Almas, L. (2020). Egypt’s Reliance on Imported Wheat: Concerns, Challenges, and Opportunities. 15th Annual Faculty
Research Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, March 2020.
- Almas, L., Usman, M., Hazman, M., El-sayed, M., Shams El-Din, A., Burian, S., and McFarland, M. (2021) “Biosaline Agriculture: Tomato Production in Egypt and Its Export Potential” Selected Research Poster presented at the 16th Annual Faculty Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, March 4, 2021.
- Almas, L.K. (2020). Framing the Need and Challenges of Use of Saline Groundwater for Agriculture Production in Egypt. Egypt Food Security Project-Science Dialog Meeting, November 9, 2020.
- Hazman, M. (2020). Effects of Saline Irrigation Water on Crop Plant Biology. Egypt Food Security Project-Science Dialog Meeting, November 9, 2020.
- El-sayed, M. (2020). Effects of Saline Irrigation Water on Soil Health. Egypt Food Security Project-Science Dialog Meeting, November 9, 2020.
- McFarland, M. (2020). The Role of Soil Amendments for Mitigating Impacts of Saline Irrigation Water. Egypt Food Security Project-Science Dialog Meeting, November 9, 2020.
Research Posters Presented:
- Almas, L., Usman, M., El-sayed, M., Hazman, M., Shams El-Din, A., Burian, S., and McFarland, M. (2022). “Bio-saline Agriculture: Wheat Production in Egypt and Its Impact on Imports” Research Poster to be presented either at the Annual Meeting/Conference of Southern Agricultural Economics Association, February 2022 OR at the 17th Annual Faculty Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, March 2022.
Journal Articles Published:
- Almas, L. and Usman, M. (2021) “Determinants of Wheat Consumption, Irrigated Agriculture, and Food Security Challenges in Egypt” WSEAS Transactions on Environment and Development, ISSN / E-ISSN: 1790- 5079 / 2224-3496, Volume 17, 2021, Art. #67, p.696-712, DOI: 10.37394/232015.2021.17.67.
- El-sayed, M.E.A., Hazman, M., El-rady, A.G.A., Almas, L., McFarland, M., El Din, A.S., and Burian, S.J. “Biochar reduces the adverse effect of saline water on soil properties and wheat production profitability” (submitted to Hydrology and Earth System Sciences).
- El-sayed, M., Hazman, M., Almas, L., McFarland, M., El-din, A.S., Shin, S., Aziz, D., and Burian, S.J. “A Review of the Effects of Using Saline Groundwater for Irrigation to Reclaim Agriculture Land from
Project Timeline: (February 2019 – July 2022)
|February – June 2019||Announcement, application and selection|
|July – August 2019||Pre-Departure arrangements|
|September 2019||First group meeting in the U.S.
2-week residency at the University of Utah for the two Egyptian project participants
|October 2019 – July 2022||Ongoing virtual collaborative research|
|November 2020||Scientific Dialog Webinar|
|July 2022||Final Conference in Cairo|
|2020-2022||Dissemination of outcomes, publications, videos and project reports|