The Italian south is in the grip of a dry cycle so severe that Italy has become the first country in Europe to go in for rainmaking.

An agricultural group, Tecnagro, has launched "Project Rain," using a technique to artificially stimulate rainfall that took Israel 25 years to perfect.In Israel the technique of sowing clouds with chemicals has increased rainfall by a steady 15 percent to 20 percent. Initial trials last year in Apulia, the heel of Italy, showed excellent results.

"Project Rain" will be extended this year to the southern regions of Sicily, Sardinia and Basilicata.