David Beasley, Executive Director of World Food Programme
Africa is the world's future breadbasket, and Egypt is the gateway to Africa. We envision Egypt’s future through the empowerment of local farmers, with all stakeholders coming together to achieve a paradigm shift in the agriculture sector. In Egypt’s economy, agriculture contributes to 14.5% of the country’s GDP, and accounts for 28% of all jobs as well as over 55% of employment in Upper Egypt. According to the Food Agriculture Organization, the agriculture sector witnessed a 20% increase in export revenue in 2019. The good news this year as well is that Egypt’s food exports were not severely affected by the pandemic, with the country being one of the few countries in the region that continued to provide supply despite the challenging circumstances.
Food security goes beyond putting an end to hunger - it’s about empowering farmers and their communities. Our goal is to push for farmer-led sustainable agriculture so that the interests of the small farmers are put at the front to unleash their potential and productivity.
Our strategy starts by putting small scale farmers and communities at the core. We aim to achieve this through many different ways, mainly by building their capacity and improving their access to the right inputs, knowledge, finance, and markets in order to have links with the right customers. Digitalization has also been pushed forward to empower farmers and help them receive constant information on food safety standards to increase exports of fresh products to Europe and the MENA region.
Currently, there are 13 agricultural projects worth a total of $545.42m being implemented across 27 governorates, which reach 1.5 million women and men and provide 15,000 job opportunities.
For more than four decades, the United Nations' International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has financed 14 projects totaling about US$1.11 billion in Egypt, reaching over 7 million rural people. These investments helped promote climate-smart strategies, more sustainable use of natural resources and improve productivity in the old lands in the Nile valley and Upper Egypt. It also provided the private sector with an opportunity to expand its involvement and investments in agriculture.
From public to private, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) signed a $200m financing agreement to strengthen Egypt’s agribusiness sector through helping local farmers adopt environmentally friendly agricultural practice. Egypt is one of only five economies across the Eastern Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, and the Black Sea regions to receive such a loan from the EBRD. The initiative helps transform Egypt’s agriculture value chain into “smart farming” through new methodologies that include climate - related risk management and stress testing. It will also strengthen farmers’ agribusinesses and improve their financial wellbeing by financing purchases of various agricultural commodities such as hazelnuts, dry dairy products, grain, and onions, in selected countries of operation.
Agriculture, just like any other sector, also has job opportunities and career lines. In November 2020, the Ministry announced a $4.4 million agreement with the US for agricultural and rural development to increase incomes and employment opportunities for those working in the agricultural sector in Upper Egypt, Greater Cairo, and the Nile Delta. An additional grant of $780,000 from Agence Française de Développement (AFD) went to “Developing Food Markets in Egypt” to ensure quality production.
Engaging with key market actors paves the way for innovation and sharing technical expertise with farmers. The International Labour Organization (ILO), in partnership with the Ministry of International Cooperation, and the Chamber of Food Industries (CFI) within the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI), is supporting the dairy sector in Egypt. The project comes within the framework of the ILO Egypt Youth Employment (EYE) Jobs, and Private Sector Development in Rural Egypt (RAWABET). Danone Egypt collaborated with “Al Pharaonia Group”, a milk collection center in Gharbia, to supply crude milk collected from the center to the food company. This in return expands market opportunities for farmers and drives inclusion through the integration of SMEs across the value chain.
Egypt and Italy signed an agreement worth 42 million EGP for the Social Welfare Project in Luxor within the framework of the debt swap program in cooperation with the United Nations World Food Program. The project is inclusive and focuses on empowering communities, as it includes supporting families and primary school pupils in community schools through providing meals, vocational training, and life skills trainings.
Not all transformations are visible, but when we take a deeper look, we find that they are seemingly endless...impacting minds, hearts, souls and lives for centuries. The next section tells the story of Upper Egypt, which goes beyond what the human eye can perceive. Our impact will reach one million farmers by 2030, and so far has reached 280,000 small farmers in 64 villages in Luxor Governorate, as well as four other governorates in Upper Egypt.
Together with the USAID, the “Advanced Marketing and Agribusiness Logistics” (AMAL) Horticultural Pack House, provides 78,000 job opportunities and links 9 markets to farmers in Sohag, Qena, Al Qasr, and Aswan. It also helps farmers increase their productivity through applying smart farming technologies. Another project is implemented in partnership with the USAID, called El Mahrousa Village Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness (FAS), which aims to promote food security for at least 14,000 Upper Egyptian smallholder farmers across 7 focal governorates – including Assiut, Aswan, Beni-Suef, Luxor, Minya, Qena, and Sohag.
We recently announced expansions with the World Food Program on projects to support over a million farmers until 2030. The expansion will support the capabilities of 280,000 small farmers in 64 villages in Luxor, as well as four other governorates in Upper Egypt. Modern and smart farming techniques, as well as renewable energy technologies such as solar panels are provided. We also help farmers organize into groups of at least 70 to promote land consolidation and double their incomes. Additionally, we are transforming 139 community schools into centers that provide integrated services in technology to combat child labor, child marriage and poverty, and built entrepreneurial capacities of 102,000 women, of which more than 33,000 received micro-loans to start their own businesses through the ‘She Can’ initiative.
Committed to transforming communities through empowering women, the Sun-Dried Tomato (SDT) Unit project in Luxor’s Baghdadi village invests in greater female participation in agriculture by employing only women and providing 200 seasonal job opportunities. It also contributes to protecting against food security through reducing crop losses, whilst also increasing farmers’ incomes by 30%, and raise Egypt’s market value in exports to ensure that families and households become more sustainable.
“These projects are changing our mindsets and are opening for us doors to the outside world. It implanted inside all of us a new love for the land of Luxor,” Khaled Mohamed, one of the beneficiaries in El Boghdadi village, said. Khaled is just one character in the biggest story in agriculture: the quest to turn Africa into the world’s future breadbasket. Farmers in Luxor noted that modern farming technologies helped increase their crop yield by about 25%, as did their revenues, as costs went down by 15%.
“To have this solar panel Sun with rays is a dream come true,” Ahmed Helmy, one of the beneficiaries of the projects in El Boghdadi village, said, “it saves for us electricity and water, and helps save a lot of time and effort.”
To celebrate the 75th Anniversary during UN General Assembly Week, we launched the thematic film "Beyond Food" on the World Food Program's activities in Upper Egypt that aims to support community development, food security and empower women entrepreneurs.
In the panel “Government Responses and Possible Venues for Coordinated Actions” organized by IFAD, H.E. Dr. Rania A. Al-Mashat stated that “Food security is not just important today at the national level, but for the entire globe." Multilateral efforts are needed to ensure that interventions are scaled up and that world trading systems operate fairly and more effectively. This is an opportune time to push for a multi-level strategy that brings everyone together, where different countries can share their experiences and multilateral institutions can provide technical assistance and vision on how to move forward. Through our multi-stakeholder platforms, we have been closely coordinating with the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation and development partners to monitor the progress of current ODA projects in the sector as well as discuss priority areas and needed support.
For all of our projects in agriculture, to ensure that we are maximizing impact and achieving our targets, specific objectives were cross checked to the corresponding SDG targets and indicators.
Ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food.
Double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, through increasing access to knowledge, financial services, and markets.
Ensure sustainable food production systems and support adaptation to climate change, drought, flooding, and other disasters.
Increase investment in rural infrastructure and technology development.
Promote policies that support productive activities and decent job creation.
Provide women with equal rights to economic resources.