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Saudi- Arabia : Nile Water to Feed its Cows
by Tafline Laylin
Land grabs are old news, but National Geographic has taken a closer look at Saudi’s African interests in particular and the resulting story is startling. The world’s favorite nature magazine visited two massive dairy farms, including the world’s largest, that were built in one of the driest and hottest parts of earth – roughly 100 miles southeast of Riyadh. Here, Friesian cows survive amid temperatures of up to 110 degrees fahrenheit.
The cows raised at the Al Safi and Almarai farms live better than some humans in air-conditioned sheds and water misters that keep them cool. But feeding them with grain grown nearby has depleted 4/5th of the Kingdom’s ancient aquifer in the last 30 years. For milk. The farms are facing closure as a result of water shortages, but instead of giving up altogether, the Saudis are buying up land and water elsewhere – including the already vulnerable Nile.
The Nile was apportioned in 1929 by colonial powers, an issue that has created great tension among Nile River Basin countries in the last few years. Egypt relies almost entirely on this river for its population’s survival, but upstream countries feel that they have been shortchanged by that country’s monopoly.
Ethiopia has been particularly vociferous, though the main instigator of a slew of new damns and hydroelectricity projects, former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, died in August, 2012. But not before allowing Saudi Star, owned by Sheikh Mohammed Ali Al Amoudi, to purchase large tracts of land near the headwaters of the Nile in Gambela.