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How is Egypt implementing sustainable agriculture practices?

In recent years Egypt has faced serious challenges due to natural resource mismanagement, environmental degradation, polluting industrial production methods and exponential increase in unsustainable patterns of consumption. Egypt is facing unprecedented resource crisis; especially in energy, water and to a lesser extent food. We have partnered with the Egyptian Ministry of Environment and the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE) to take action developing a sustainable consumption and production (SCP) national action plan. The sectors that policy-makers decided that need to be addressed urgently includes agriculture, energy, water and municipal solid waste. In this story we will learn more on how Egypt is shifting, slowly but surely, towards sustainable agricultural practices.

The need to increase agricultural production and achieve agricultural development in Egypt is critical due to the high rate of population growth and increasing demands for food on one hand and the limited agricultural land resources on the other. However, this production has to be achieved in an environmentally friendly way that minimizes the external effects of agriculture related to the emission of greenhouse gases, the release of nitrogen and phosphorous to the environment and the use and accumulation of harmful pesticides in nature.

That means that following the business as usual economic scenario is no longer an option and to achieve sustainable agriculture requires changes in the traditional approach to problem solving. So, how is Egypt and its government currently addressing the issue? How is the SCP National Action Plan developing so far from the agriculture perspective?


¨For over 5000 years the farmers of Egypt created a civilization based on the union of the land and the Nile River. It was one of the earliest civilizations and it had a profound influence on the region. Agriculture created most of Egypt’s wealth¨


The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation issued in 2009 a ' Sustainable Agricultural development Strategy towards 2030', which aims to modernize Egyptian agriculture based on achieving food security and improving the livelihood of the rural inhabitants, through the efficient use of development resources and the utilization of its environmental advantages. Although the strategy is not yet implemented, The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation has recently taken steps towards designing and implementation of policy tools to encourage sustainable agriculture. Some of these actions include phasing out subsidies on chemical fertilizers while redirecting the same financial bene-fits to small farmers, increasing the prices of chemical fertilizers in which the financial benefits will be entirely used to finance small farmers’ cooperatives, and the creation of the ‘Sustainable Agricultural Development’ Council within the Ministry, which is fully dedicated to design policies to encourage sustainable agricultural practices. In addition, a mobile water desalination plant powered by thermal energy was opened in April 2014 Marsa Matrouh governorate in an effort to supply non-traditional water resources for local agricultural activities. The plant, which is considered as a pilot project replicable to other rural and remote governorates in the country, will provide drinking water to desert areas suffering from water shortage. The plant will desalinate highly-salted underwater to produce 12 cubic meters of potable water per day.


¨SCP policy measures in the agriculture sector could certainly increase productivity, increase competitiveness of agricultural products, minimize water wastage, improve quality of soil, improve opportunities of agricultural investment, improve livelihood of rural inhabitants and achieve achieving higher rates of food security¨


As of today, the current endorsed laws do not reflect the realities of the sector nor do benefit farmers and contribute to their wellbeing. Although these laws were set a long time ago to assist in achieving sustainable development, deficiencies in law represented in failure to empower farmers, can have a negative impact on future legislations and amendments that deal with sustainable agricultural practices, especially when it comes to enforcement, penalties, compliance and pricing. The document ¨Sustainable Consumption and Production Policies in Egypt¨  highlights that ¨the lack of enforcement and compliance continue to encourage unsustainable agricultural practices, including the overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in addition to water inefficiency and wastage¨. The document also makes a remark on the need of building partnership between private sector initiatives including emerging start-ups and the government to replicate initiatives on a wider scale to ensure their sustainability. As of today, business groups involved in organic farming are more inclined to create strategic relationships with startu-ps, SMEs and NGOs working in the same field to create knowledge, open market opportunities locally and out of social and community services.

More stories on the actions that Egypt is taking on energy, water and municipal solid waste coming soon.





SwitchMed publications: document ¨Sustainable Consumption and Production Policies in Egypt¨ and ¨Roadmap to a National SCP Action Plan for Egypt¨.

Agricultural sustainability in Egypt- Bahgat M. Abdel-Maksoud a, Mohamed F. S. Abdel-Salam , Agricultural sustainability in Egypt