The Sahara Desert, stretching three thousand miles across North Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Nile River, is an almost useless stretch of waste land.
The Sahara Desert, stretching three thousand miles across North Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Nile River, is an almost useless stretch of waste land. But a successful experiment in desert irrigation farming in Libya has pointed the way to an agricultural revolution in the sands of the Sahara -- as a National Broadcasting Company of America television team found out when it visited the Kufra area of Libya to shoot this film.
SYNOPSIS: The Sahara Desert is a vast stretch of almost totally useless waste land stretching three thousand miles across North Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Nile River. It supports little life, let alone sufficient vegetation to feed the North African population. But now, a successful experiment in irrigating a mere 12 hundred acres (484 hectares) has pointed the way to a complete revolution in desert agriculture.
The experiment is being conducted by a United States Oil company in Kufra, south Libya, in exchange for oil concessions elsewhere in the Libyan Sahara. The astonishing success of this venture could show Libya and other desert nations the way to complete agricultural self support. Its success is so complete that alfafa crops, for example, are grown and harvested every 28 days -- that's for a crop which is normally harvested about twice a year in other climates. The farm also grows wheat and barley, and the success of the venture has encouraged the company to invest another 20 million dollars (about GBP8 million sterling) to expand the present 12-hundred acres to 25-thousand by October this year.
At present sheep are being fed on crops from Kufra, and the fattened animals are truck a 600 miles across the desert to Tripoli and Benghazi on the Libyan Mediterranean coast. But transport is a problem, as there are now suitable roads -- so the Libyan Government is planning to set up future farms nearer the coast. Water is the main requirement, obviously, but it was found in surprisingly large quantities underground at Kufra -- so there's reason to believe the Sahara contains more water under it sands than was previously thought.
Near the experimental project, Libyan farmers irrigate by centuries-old methods -- but so unproductively that they hardly produce enough to feed themselves, let alone others. But now the Libyan Government, using the new methods, could meet all its agricultural requirements and end the importing of food. It would need to spend a thousand million dollars (about GBP300-million sterling) to put four-hundred-thousand desert acres under cultivation - that may sound like a lot of money, but for Libya it's only six months oil revenue.