Kafr al-Sheikh — Abdel Aziz Haikal reaches down to grab a green shoot from a paddy field in Egypt’s northern Nile Delta at a time of year when the plant should be filled with rice grains. Instead the farmer rubs the husk between his fingers and says: "Look how empty it is." Land in his village was traditionally fed by fresh water from the Nile river, which helped make his province, Kafr al-Sheikh, one of the most fertile in the delta. But Nile water stopped reaching Haikal’s village of Abu Saieed five years ago and is becoming ever harder to replace. For centuries, the banks of the Nile have been home to farms producing rice as well as cotton and wheat. But now water shortages, soil degradation and pollution have created a crisis that has undermined agriculture in the delta, which is struggling to support millions of impoverished farmers. Haikal and his neighbours find they have no choice but to irrigate their fields with untreated agricultural drainage water polluted by nearby fish...

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