Investigation into land-use change in two contrasting areas in the Nile Delta, Egypt
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Understanding land-use change in developing countries, particularly those situated in environmentally vulnerable and and semi-arid zones, is crucial given the considerable pressures arising due to rapid population growth, climate change and desertification. The purpose of this research was to investigate the main drivers affecting land-use change in the eastern part of the Nile Delta, Egypt in the last two decades. Two contrasting cities in the region were selected for detailed analysis. Almansourah is an ancient settlement relatively close to the Damietta branch of the Nile whereas Alzaqazig is a recent development and the surrounding area was reclaimed from the desert. The DPSIR (driving forces, pressures, state, impacts and responses) model was adopted as the conceptual framework for organising and categorising the factors affecting landuse change in these two areas. It is a linear, `formulaic' approach, based on the concept of causality chains which connect human activities with environmental information. The case study approach was used as the main methodology, although both qualitative and quantitative techniques were employed throughout. A range of sources were consulted throughout the investigation to ensure that the evidence was internally consistent: remote sensing data, questionnaire data, interviews, participant observation and census data. More than 180 farmers were interviewed in the two study areas and the majority of these (71%) farmed less than 2ha. Using remote sensing data it was found that crop patterns had changed considerably in the two areas both with regard to their geographical distribution and extent. In the Almansourah study area, the key changes during the past two decades were the increase of cotton area and the decrease in rice, maize and other crops. In contrast, the Alzagazig study area experienced an increase in cotton and rice area with minor increase in maize fields. There was also an expansion of urban and rural-urban settlements into agricultural land in both the study areas.One of the critical physical factors for land-use change was found to be the need for irrigation water. Regarding the two study areas, Almansourah currently enjoys greater availability of irrigation water because of its proximity to the Nile compared to Alzagazig which facilitated land-use change in Almansourah. On a more general level the aridity of the Nile Delta region makes water a limiting factor in agricultural production. Analysis of the driving forces showed that land-use change was highly dependent on economic factors such as transportation availability and cost as well as the contribution of women. Land-use change was significantly influenced by transportation availability in Almansourah but not in Alzaqazig possibly because of the greater need to transport agricultural produce to market. Social drivers were also found to be significant. One significant pressure was caused by population growth; in Almansourah the lack of alternative sources of land led to the expansion of urban and rural urban settlements onto fertile agricultural fields. The study confirmed that a farmer's educational level plays an important role in agricultural production. Almost 25% of farmers in Almansourah and 30% in Alzaqaziq had no formal education and this difference led to variations in land-use change between the areas. Education level was found to have a considerable influence on crop rotation and manure use in the Almansourah study area. Conversely, subsidies from private financial sources and rural women's contribution to agricultural production were among the key drivers for land-use change in the Alzaqazig study area. One of the innovative aspects of this study was the application of the DPSIR framework. Although it has been used to advantage in the developed world, it has not been applied to study land-use change in an arid, developing country. The study confirmed that the framework worked well in such a context. Notable strengths included its comprehensive nature, ability to deal with uncertainty and handle different types of data. A further advantage was that it could incorporate sub-models to investigate individual driving forces, for example, the need for irrigation water. Overall the use of DPSIR was flexible enough to highlight the major causative drivers affecting land-use and also to take account of the action of more subtle and complex factors.
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