Farming Zones


West Asia  and North Africa

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Farming zones in WANA

Overview of the zone





  ABOVE 500 mm


     500 mm  to 200 mm 

    Medic overview

Deep ploughing overview

Farmers' Guide to cereals and pasture

Farmer training kits

This is a major section of the site

What cultivar?

 How does your medic grow?


  250 mm  to 150 mm

 Tenure and grazing management


Below 200  mm

Rangeland overview

Action plan for flockowners


The Farming zones

The length of the growing season - that is the period when there is adequate moisture in the soil is the best means of defining the farming zones within the WANA region but these figures are not so readily available.

Growing season is better than rainfall because it takes into account temperature and evaporation.

More on the farming zones, maps etc.......

 High Rainfall Zone

     High Rainfall Zone is a relative term.

The rainfall withing this zone is on average above 500 mm annually which is considerably more than the rainfall within the other farming zone.

The rain falls in the autumn, winter, spring period.

The summers are hot and dry although not as hot nor as long as the zones with less rainfall.

A greater range of field and tree crops can be grown.

Some of the zone is used for forest.

The high rainfall is associated with hills and mountains.

Farming systems will have to respond to the greater erosion threat on steep slopes.

The zone also has a high human population and farms are generally smaller.

In North Africa the High Rainfall Zone consists of the narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean coast and Atlantic. It also included the mountain ranges.

The area of High Rainfall Zone in Libya is minute. Only a tiny area in the Jebel al Akhdar receives more than 500 mm.

The same can be said for Jordan. In Syria and Iraq the High Rainfall Zones are in the north and in the mountains.

Cereal Zone

 The Cereal Zone is the area with a rainfall between 500 mm and 250 mm that has been used for cereal production using a fallow-cereal rotation.

In Australia the use of annual medic pastures has transformed the cereal zone which is now referred to as the Wheat - Sheep Zone in recognition of the fact that sheep production is just as important as cereals.

Farms are usually larger in the cereal zone than the high rainfall zone. There are some very large farms that were originally established during the colonial era.

Almost all the development effort for the zone has been directed at the arable land where cereals are grown.

In fact at least half the zone is non-arable parcour. The parcour is land that is too steep, too stony or cannot be cultivated for some other reason. It is used for pasture but almost completely neglected in development programs.

Part of the Cereal Zone of the WANA region has cold winters. The high plateau areas of Algeria (and to a lesser extent Tunisia and Morocco) and similar cold regions in northern Syria and Iraq have cold winters that reduce plant growth considerably.

In North Africa the Cereal Zone is the next belt of land south of the coast after the High rainfall zone. In Jordan, Syria and Iraq it stretches as a cresent or arc.

It is inland from the Mediterranean and then on the south slopes of the mountains of Kurdistan.

Marginal Zone.

    The term Marginal Zone is used to describe the zone between the Cereal Zone and the Rangeland.

As rainfall declines the risk of crop failure increases and pasture becomes a better option for farmers.

The Marginal Zone has a rainfall of 250 to 150 mm.

We have separated it out as a separate zone because in West Asia and North Africa land tenure problems have encouraged cultivation of this zone.

Economics and sustainability would demand a conversion to pasture rather than degrading the land by constant cultivation for cereals.

This change will not occur until the land tenure question has been resolved.

Some innovative ideas on tenure and the resolution of conflict between stakeholders are provided in the chapter for policy makers and project planners.

In the WANA region the marginal zone is the next strip of land inland from the cereal zone.


The rangeland is the area with less than 200 mm of average annual rainfall.

It therefore overlaps the Marginal Zone and is characterized by extensive natural pasture (what there is of it) and common grazing.

The Rangeland zone merges into the true desert.

Development of the zone requires an interaction of pasture improvement, grazing management and tenure changes. Each is dependent on the other.

The Rangeland is further inland again from the Marginal and Cereal Zones.

The central Saharan desert and Saudi Arabian deserts are extremely dry with annual rainfall of 50 mm or less. They have no growing season just isolated storms.