CAIRO – 31 October 2021: The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been involved in Egypt for more than four decades now, with huge efforts dedicated to developing rural areas and improve nutritional profile.
Last week, a high-level delegation of IFAD’s executive board members began a 5-day visit to IFAD-supported projects in Egypt to stand on the latest progress achieved, and meet officials, rural farmers and community members.
Egypt Today met with Luis Jiménez-McInnis, the Secretary of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Yahya Olaniran, the Spokesperson and Lead of IFAD’s Executive Board delegation, where they highlighted the Egyptian government’s strong commitment to improving livelihoods in the countryside.
Both officials also stressed the importance of empowering smallholder farmers, whom they say played a great role in adapting and taking care of the projects amid the COVID pandemic hit.
Interview with IFAD Secretary Luis Jiménez-McInnis and Yahya Olaniran, the Spokesperson and Lead of IFAD’s Executive Board delegation - Photo by Mohamed Ezz el-Din
Below is the interview
et: What is the total investments by IFAD in Egypt so far, and are you planning new projects?
Luis: IFAD has been involved in Egypt for over four decades, and the portfolio to date is 14 projects worth $1.1 billion, while the total IFAD financing of the projects are $519.28 million and benefited approximately 7 million people. Separately, there is the current active portfolio, which involves about three projects worth $200 million and that is benefiting 616 thousand people.
et: Are you planning any new projects?
Luis: There are ongoing discussion with the government with regards to further projects on environment issues.
et: Per your visit to IFAD’s projects sites in Egypt, what progress have you seen in terms of building people’s resilience to climate conditions?
Luis: One of the really important things we saw during our visit was the wide range of activities across different areas, including: meteorological stations, as farmers need up-to-date information about what is going to be the weather, and also livestock facilities, in addition to irrigation and ways to increase production, which we saw in the new areas and that was very interesting for me.
Yahya: First, the impact of the investments is seen in the joy that comes with it; it cannot be quantified.
Most of the women clearly said that before they got involved with IFAD projects, they really did not have confidence, but with the ability to do what they are planning, this brought them some money to take care of the family, and help their husbands and build the next generation. And that is the beauty of what IFAD is doing.
The second point is that there is a strong government commitment to actually help the vulnerable, and part of what is required is to provide infrastructure, with electricity in place and so much construction going on.
et: How do you see a nation-wide initiative like Haya Karima is contributing to your role in improving livelihoods of people in rural areas?
Luis: One aspect is really the ownership that the government has taken with regard to these issues. We have the deputy minister of Agriculture with us, and we are in constant contact with the population.
So there is a commitment to agriculture that we have seen, and IFAD is definitely a good partner in that. One thing that’s worth mentioning from what we have seen are the figures and the numbers, for example, as we got briefed on crop yields like tomatoes that has been increased by 107 percent, also food waste and post-harvest losses have been reduced, prices increased because the quality had improved, besides the pride people take in their work, and the future they see for themselves and for their children. That’s really the distinction that it is great to be part of. We always used to say Egypt’s success is IFAD’s success as well and we take pride to do it together.
et: Egypt has been incorporating digital transformation into its system over the past period, launched digital literacy campaigns, and recently announced digital withdrawal of IFAD’s fund to projects in Egypt. How do you see the effect of such step helps reach food safety standards as well as protect Egypt's exports?
Luis: Digitalization is extremely important, and that was also one of the aspects that we saw during our field visit; there is a platform that connects farmers to markets that is quite impressive, because farmers need to know where to sell and what the prices are.
A small key is what IFAD is able to do individually with the government in the sense of the loan dispersing being done digitally, which facilitates and accelerates, where you do not have to wait for paper signature to come back and forth.
IFAD Secretary Luis Jiménez-McInnis during the interview - Photo by Mohamed Ezz el-Din
et: Egyptian gov’t issued a report saying that Egypt skipped the trap of commodity dependence, and its negative consequences thanks to its diversified exports. How far do you see Egypt from strong export competitiveness?
Luis: During the field trips, we went to visit Belco, there we definitely saw a company that is working with the export sector, but most importantly with IFAD that it is working with the smallholder farmers, and it is connecting smallholder farmers’ communities to markets.
And I think for us that’s really the key angle, as we see the figures in terms of that one third of the food in the world comes from smallholder farmers, and again the whole value chain is important because at Belco, we saw basically the packaging that is going on, and employment that it generates.
So, increasing income for men and women is very important because during the visits, we saw children are now being able to go to school or stay there, because of the income being generated.
In terms of exports capacity, I can say that living in Italy I can definitely see some Egyptian products sold there. One of the key to grow this is to work with smallholder farmers, and giving them capacity.
About Luis Jiménez-McInnis:
Mr Luis Jiménez-McInnis is the Secretary of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). From 2016-2019, he was Director of the Partnership and Resource Mobilization Office. He joined IFAD in February 2010 as Special Adviser to the President.