Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1154, (27 June - 3 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Supporting better farming

Mona El-Fiqi visits a project in Fayoum that aims to improve the living standards of small farmers while preserving the rural environment


Al-Ahram Weekly

In an attempt to support small farmers who own less than three feddans of land (one feddan equals 1.038 acres), the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation in cooperation with the European Union delegation to Egypt launched the implementation phase of the Support to Rural Development (SRD) programme in Fayoum last week.
The SRD is part of the government’s comprehensive National Strategy for Rural Development, which aims to improve older agricultural land and turn it into more dynamic rural areas.
The project aims to provide financial and technical support to small farmers to produce the high-quality food needed for local markets and to raise farmers’ incomes while using farm inputs in the most efficient ways.
The SRD budget is 10 million euros, and it is funded by the EU through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which is the EU’s main source of funding for cooperation with Mediterranean and Eastern European countries.
The SRD programme, which will be implemented over a period of 72 months, adopts a new approach to supporting small farmers based on an indirect financial support mechanism designed to sustain farm and rural incomes while preserving the rural environment.
This kind of support targets small farmers and their families, particularly those living in marginal areas.
A little over 50 per cent of Egypt’s population of 80 million lives in rural areas, while 60 per cent of those who live in rural areas are engaged in farming. Agriculture is the mainstay of over 30 per cent of the total labour force, accounting for some 18 per cent of Egypt’s GDP and 20 per cent of its total exports.
Most Egyptian farmers, estimated at some 3.7 million, have very small holdings and are not always able to access markets easily. Small farmers are not always able to improve the quality of their crops and sell them at fair prices, which could help them to raise their standards of living.
The EU-financed programme encourages such farmers to apply good agricultural practices and carefully to manage farm resources in a way that maintains regular supplies of food for local markets.
The SRD includes seven projects introduced by seven non-governmental organisations and applying a conditional incentive support programme to farmers and village groups in selected rural villages across the Fayoum and Menya governorates.
The projects include a wide range of measures, including environmentally-sensitive farming methods, better water-resource management, innovative cropping techniques, farm diversification, farm marketing associations, training activities, and payments to farmers and farmer groups.
Payments will be conditional upon recipients and their intermediaries demonstrating the benefits of the funded measures to their local communities, such as regular supplies of quality local food, new jobs, shared access to resources, a pleasant local environment, and an improving local economy.
Stephane David, sector manager for Agriculture and Rural Development at the EU delegation in Egypt, said that the project was trying to establish a conditional incentive-based development framework as an approach to poverty reduction and growth in deprived rural areas of Egypt.
Through funding this project, the EU was attempting to transfer to Egypt the agricultural policy being applied in the EU countries, which aimed to provide farmers with a reasonable standard of living, consumers with quality food at fair prices, and to preserve rural heritage, he said.
David told Al-Ahram Weekly that the implementation of the project would take place in selected villages in the governorates of Fayoum and Menya at first on a limited scale. If the project succeeded in achieving its objectives, it would be applied in other governorates, he said.
“When the implementation phase is finished after 24 months, the EU will commission an independent association to assess the programme’s performance to know its positive as well as negative results,” David said.
The SRD was initiated in 2006 by the Union of Producers and Exporters of Horticultural Crops, an affiliate of the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture, while the project’s financing agreement was signed in October 2010 by the Ministry of International Cooperation and the EU delegation to Egypt.

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