Egypt is a populous country that suffers from
shortage of arable lands and scarcity of water resources. Its Population
was about 11.2 millions by the 1907 while it reached 59.3 millions
excluding the Egyptians abroad by the 1996 consus and about 65
millions by the end of the twenties. Estimate of Egyptian population
by January 2006 reached about 73.7 millions inhabitants including
about 2.3 millions living abroad. This means that the population
growth reached about 660% during the last century. This growth
has taken place in spite of the fact that the growth rate dropped
from 2.75% during theperiod 1976-1986 to about 1.9% between 1986
and 2006 (Ahram newspaper, 2006). Population growth rate reached
about 2.3% in rural areas against only 1.8% in Urban areas between
1986 and 1996 (INP:2001). Egypt has a total area of about 1,002,000
km2, of which only about 36 000 km2; i.e, 3.6% of the total area,
Current situation of local administration in Egypt
Egyptian law identifies three main levels of local
units: governorate, markaz (district) and city, and villages; where
each has its own legal identity but not necessarily autonomous.
Governorate and markaz are considered global units that would include
either only urban or both rural and urban communities. The total
number of governorates is 27, including the high council of Luxor
city which was given later a status equivalent to governorate.
There is 179 markaz at the national level. Smaller units in urban
areas are cities, with a total number of 212 (out of which 179
are capitals of markaz). Only big cities are further divided into
hay (urban districts).
Rural areas are divided into “local village
units” where each is composed of a number of villages with
an average of four. Out of these villages, the one with the headquarters
of the local administration and the popular council of the local
village unit is called the mother village, giving its own name
to the whole unit, while the others are called satellite villages.
Each local village unit has its legal identity and its own elected
council representing the entire group of villages, while each separate
village does not have any political representation. The total number
of villages is 4800. Each village includes a number of smaller
units which are called ezba, kafr or nagea. All levels of different
sizes of rural settlements account for more than 26800 units.
II. Rural Egypt
Rural population in Egypt accounts for about 57.6%
of the whole population according to the last census of 1996 (CAPMAS:
2001). This number of population inhabits 1060 rural local units
that include about 4800 villages and more than 22000 rural satellites
across the country (ORDEV:1995). The agricultural labor force estimated
with about 4.7 millions in the 1996 census cultivate about 5.9
million feddans in the old lands (according to an estimate in 1995)
and about 3.16 million feddans in the lands reclaimed during the
period 1952-2000 (CAPMAS: 2001). We have to consider the annual
lose of several thousands of feddans in the old lands converted
for use in housing rather than farming to satisfy the housing needs
of the intensively growing numbers of population in the valley
and delta. Thus, expansion of reclaimed lands has become of two-fold
functioning. This is to provide growing population with shelter,
food, raw materials and new working opportunities and meanwhile
to alleviate pressure on the scarce arable lands and water resources.
Hence, rural Egypt is characterized at present
by the existence of two types of rural communities. The first is
the traditional, mostly referred to as the old, villages and the
second is known as the new rural settlements. The first type of
rural communities was established several centuries or millenniums
ago and extend across the Valley, the Delta and the boarders. The
second type of rural communities emerged just few decades ago and
extend across the reclaimed areas whether in desert or the areas
of dried lakes all over the country. Yet, the social structure
and whole social life in these new rural communities differ drastically
from the structure and life in the traditional type of rural communities,
though they tend to develop faster towards the traditional type
or different form depending on the population characteristics and
Population characteristics in the rural communities
tend to differ between old and new lands drastically specially
at the beginning of new rural settlements. In the new lands population
tends to be younger, more educated and have no familial ties and
class structures such as these usually exist in the traditional
communities. Social infrastructure is mostly immature and in need
of more efforts to develop in these communities. Physical infrastructure
tends to be more appropriate than that in the traditional societies.
The infrastructure provided in the reclaimed lands for production
and community aspects are numerous. GOE provides the basic infrastructure,
free of charge, for all new reclaimed areas. This includes main
water canals, main and access roads, electricity network, potable
water, basic health services, education, communication, and police
station for security. One multipurpose local cooperative is formed
in each village from all beneficiaries and concerned with the production
aspects as well as the operation and maintenance of the infrastructure
in each village.
Reclaimed lands, where these new rural communities
are located, could be mostly desert, dried lakes or some arid lands
adjacent to some inhabited areas in the valley and Nile banks.
Reclaimed lands are classified now to new and old. Thus there are
old new and new new rural communities. This classification depends
on the period since commence of the reclamation project. Those
started until seventies are considered the old new while those
started later are called the new new reclaimed lands. However,
experience and technologies needed to farm these lands differ mostly
from that needed in the old lands in the traditional rural areas.
So far, the majority of reclaimed lands are located in Lower Egypt
where evaporation of water is and the climate is more convenient
for farming. The present policy of land reclamation emphasizes,
usually, on the more even distribution of land reclamation projects
among all regions in Egypt. This is to create new communities for
equitable geographical redistribution of population and to provide
each governorate with a background of new lands for extension of
housing, agricultural production and employment opportunities.
For this reason two new huge projects of land reclamation were
initiated in parallel the last decade. The first one is called
the National Project for Developing Sinai (1994-2017) which is
still under implementation. As a multi-resource and multi-activity
project, it depends, for its agricultural component, on the Nile
water through Al-Salam Canal to irrigate 620,000 feddans East West
Suez Canal. The second is called Tushki and located in Upper Egypt
with about 477,000 feddans in the first phase, of which 180,000
feddans where double-phase water lifting is required.
More than four hundred new rural communities have
been established for about 94000 beneficiaries’ families,
on about 116 reclamation projects in the entire country. In addition,
112 existed old communities having about 32000 families depending
in their livelihood on agricultural activities are subject to development
in the rain fed areas of Sinai and North West coastal Zones. The
total population of these new rural communities is estimated to
be about 0.7 million inhabitants, farming about 557000 feddans
of reclaimed lands, in addition to the developed rain fed areas.
The balance of the reclaimed lands i.e.850 000 feddans are either
run by private sector or by individual investors forming small
rural communities of scattered nature. Accordingly, the total population
involved in cultivating the reclaimed lands is estimated to exceed
1.5 million inhabitants (Albendary:2002).
Before the mid nineties, almost all land reclamation
projects were planned, implemented by the General Authority for
Reconstruction Projects and Agricultural Development (GARPAD).
It is the agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and land reclamation
in charge of coordinating all activities of reclamation projects.
GARPAD works closely with other ministries and agencies involved
in the welfare of those receiving reclaimed lands, such as Ministry
of Social Affairs, Ministry of Housing and Ministry of Internal
Trade. The Ministry of Water Resources and irrigation is also involved
in the planning of these projects, and designing the primary levels
of the irrigation system.
Establishment of new communities is normally phased
into three stages; construction of infrastructure, the reclamation
and/or plantation of lands and the development and social integration
of population in the new communities.
Public sector companies mostly implement the first
phase. They are usually allocated specific areas of lands and budget
to do needed land surveys and mapping, construction of roads and
electricity networks, irrigation water canals, potable water networks
and houses. No private sector initiated any effort to be involved
in such activities. This phase is high costly and has no rapid
return to the investment. Investors prefer to be involved in the
second phase which is directly related to the development of agricultural
sector in the area. They do not even tend to establish communities
unless for commercial reason such as the establishment of tourist
Usually, each village is planned to be inhabited
by 300 to 400 families where each family is allocated five feddans
farm. Each group of 4 to 6 villages are served by a central village
where main administrative, social services and economic activities
are available for the population of this collective of villages.
In the lands reclaimed late forties each agricultural engineer,
graduated form university, was allocated forty feddans while the
graduates from high agricultural technical schools were allocated
20 to 30 feddans each. The area declined to about 13 to 25 feddans
mid sixties and became five feddans for graduates whether university
or high school graduate or small farmer lately.
Selection of new settlers follow specific criteria.
The common criteria of selection is that the applicant should have
no public or other job, landless, accept pre training in farming
and start living permanently in the rural area upon the receipt
of a house of two rooms and a small yard built on an area of about
200 to 250 m2. They are given the land, the house, some times a
head of big animal, cow or buffalo, and one year financial grant
for life expenses and three years food aid upon arrival to the
village. He or she pays the value of land and house on a 30 to
40 years installments after a grace period of 3 to 5 years.
Irrigation in most new lands is restricted to
the new irrigation techniques, dripping or sprinkler while flood,
surface, irrigation is allowed only in some areas for physical
reasons in heavy clay areas. In the last situation leaching is
the main reclamation process that needs a plenty of water such
as the case in dry and salty lands.
Settlers main job becomes agriculture. Mostly,
economic activities are limited to the production and marketing
of agricultural products specially at the first two decades of
The social structure of rural community in new
lands is characterized by the following main features:
homogeneity of base socio-economic status of settlers in community.
Mostly, settlers were distributed on settlements for a long time
on the base of their educational degrees to have the graduates
in one village and the small farmers in another. There are new
categories been added to the settlers such as the farmers who
lost their rented lands because of the full application of the
new tenancy law in 1997. With exception of the rule of five feddans
to each family this category was allocated 2.5 feddans only.
They are fused in the new villages inhabited by small farmers.
In some new experimental areas mixed settlements of both graduates
and small farmers were established to examine the viability of
such design. Early assessments show better results in the mixed
schemes from the agricultural and technical point of view. Since
agricultural development is considered the backbone of socio-economic
development in these areas the experiment is more appraised.
However, a relatively recent trend to allocate big area of lands
to commercial farms that apply modern and some times highly sophisticated
framing technologies was adopted by the state agencies. Nowadays,
a wide range of such big modern commercial farms is spread across
all newly reclaimed lands in Lower, Upper and desert Egypt.
age structure of population in these communities
is very narrow. It would take two to three
generations to become a normal structure.
socio-economic variations among settlers are very narrow as well.
They all start from almost the same socio-economic position with
very limited variation except for those who are supported by
their original families or some assets they have earned before
coming to the new lands which is a rare case.
structures in new communities are mostly flat and severely influenced
by the intervention of official authorities. There is a power
vacuum specially at the early stages of establishment of new
There is a lack of integrated social infrastructure
in most areas and it would take longer time than expected to
reach the stage of integrated community. There is always a need
for establishment of more effective and efficient organizational
structures in the rural communities in the new lands. This proved
to be the common situation and of top priority almost every where
in the new areas.
to resources on rural development