Resources on rural development
in Egypt


I. Current situation of local administration in Egypt

II. Rural Egypt

III. Access to resources on rural development in Egypt


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, are populated.

I. 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 their origin.

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 housing communities.

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 community life.

The social structure of rural community in new lands is characterized by the following main features:

The 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.

The age structure of population in these communities is very narrow. It would take two to three generations to become a normal structure.

The 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.

Power 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 rural communities.

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.


III. Access to resources on rural development in Egypt