Unleashing the potential of Egyptian farmers
Cairo, Egypt, March 29 – The potential impact of climate change on the Egyptian economy is not good news. Experts project less water and poorer water quality, loss in tourism revenues, and higher malnutrition, among others, according to a UNDP report. The agriculture sector is especially vulnerable with 17% projected reduction in outputs by 2030 and 6% decrease in agriculture labor hours.
So what to do? ICARDA and IFPRI hosted a seminar together to reflect on the question.
Sharing the results from the Egyptian labor market panel survey from 2012, IFPRI researcher Hagar El-Didi explained that, for example, residents on Upper Egypt have lower dependence on agriculture than residents in Lower Egypt. Data collection is also essential to consider the impact of climate change on different household types and the effectiveness of climate-smart agriculture techniques. She also highlighted the importance of collecting both agriculture and house data.
“Not all farmers are the same and they have different needs, so the policies and investments have to vary as well,” said El-Didi. “Wide data collection is therefore necessary to develop models that suit the different needs of farmers.”
With technologies, small-scale farmers can adapt to rising temperatures and water shortage, said Aly Abousabaa, director general of ICARDA. Citing examples of barley and faba bean varieties, jointly developed by ICARDA and Egypt’s Agricultural Research Center, adapted to dry areas, he emphasized the importance of collaboration and innovation.
“We need to put in the foundation for the next generation to adapt to the change,” he added.
Community-level intervention and mobilization is one such way to build a foundation, according to Othman Elshaikh from Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation. The government has established a number of climate information centers, whose services include an early warning system (5 days) and the use of SMS to disseminate real-time information. Many farmers now have a link to the NGOs and government authorities, as well as new techniques to cultivate crops that are more heat-tolerant with modified irrigation and fertilization schedule. Additionally, they have enhanced veterinarian services and training in animal nutrition.
If knowledge can be put into practice, there are opportunities for small-scale farmers. Sara Berlese, UNIDO’s program officer, gave examples of agro-value chain projects that linked farms to markets. Egypt is one of the top producers for dates and figs, but doesn’t export them. With enhanced value chains – she cited an example of “drying chambers” to help reduce the moisture level – farmers could make more profits while protecting the planet.
From the audience, Habiba Hassan Wassef, prominent nutritionist and medical doctor, pointed out the need for ministries and agencies to work together and coordinate efforts to improve food security in schools and in the country.
“We have challenges in land and water,” said Mahmoud Soliman from the Agricultural Research Center, one of the speakers. “But these are not new challenges in Egypt; just opportunities to do things better.”
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| Aly AbouSabaa,
Director General of ICARDA