Ramadan Affifi, 60, and his grandson Shady Mohammed Rafffi, 5, plant onions at South Tahrir Station, a research farm founded by the Desert Development Center (DDC) of the American University in Cairo.
Tahrir Province is an example of Egypt's ambitious plan to cultivate the deserts that consume most of its landscape. According to government officials, in the last decade Egypt has ''reclaimed'' roughly a million acres (400,000 hectares) from its arid landscape. Another 2.4 million acres (million hectares) will be added by 2017.
Egyptian policy makers believe such development is the best—and perhaps only—way to ease the burdens brought on by the country's exploding population.
Roughly 95 percent of Egypt's 80 million people are packed into Nile Valley and Delta, which offers the country's most habitable land but makes up less than 5 percent of its landmass.
"This plan is our requirement with the future, for our children and for our grandchildren—it is a vital project," said Hussein I. El-Atfy, head of the Irrigation Department at Egypt's Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation.
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Photograph by Steven Stanek