READ THE STORIES: Increasing Egyptian Farmers’ Incomes with Climate-smart Practices | Building Integrated Community-level Resilience in Uganda | Equipping U.S. Communities for Climate Resiliency Planning | Identifying Solutions for Emergency Housing in California | Strengthening Evidence for Innovation in Education
Increasing Egyptian Farmers’ Incomes with Climate-smart Practices
“Change is not easy,” admits Mohamed Farag, an Egyptian mango farmer from Kom Ombo, Aswan. “I needed a lot of convincing to take the first step, roll my sleeves, and start implementing.”
Farag knew he had to do something: Climate change was devastating the quality and quantity of his harvest. He decided to attend a farmer field school provided by Riad El Saleheen Community Development Association in partnership with the Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening Project (ERAS), funded by USAID and implemented by Abt Associates.
Now he prunes his mango trees to allow more sunlight to filter through. And he convinced his father that they needed to uproot 12 old trees. The trees represented many years of investment but were no longer very productive. “You can imagine this was no easy task,” Farag says.
The trainings taught Farag and other farmers to implement a balanced fertilization program, use irrigation management techniques to conserve water during very high or low temperatures, and protect plants during sandstorms and heavy rains. The training proved fruitful for Farag, who doubled his orchard’s revenue from EGP 7,000 ($227) to EGP 15,000 ($487) in a year. “Results speak for themselves,” he says, “and I am only getting started.”
Farag is not alone. More than 43,000 farmers for 11 value chain crops have applied improved management practices and technologies to a total of 31,000 hectares. The impact has been significant. For example, average mango yields increased from 7.24 metric tons per hectare in fiscal year 2018 to 13.75 in fiscal year 2022, an increase of nearly 90 percent. And this has translated to sales as well, with the average sales for a mango farmer increasing from $1,192 to $3,701 over the same period.
The primary goal of the project is to help the horticulture industry in Upper Egypt and the Delta establish connections to domestic and international high-end markets, gain access to finance, and adhere to food safety practices. But an additional and critical benefit has been addressing the effects of climate change through a tailored and customized technical support program for the targeted crops in the different regions.
ERAS has introduced a number of low-cost, climate-resilient technologies and practices:
- We introduced a solar drying greenhouse for tomatoes and herbs in Luxor and trained 45 female producer organization members to use it. The technology enhances product quality and minimizes losses by protecting against climate change effects such as unexpected rain and dust. Producers delivered the first shipment of commercially-produced tomatoes to a five-star hotel in Luxor in March 2023.
- We showed farmers a low-cost, climate-smart cold chain technology that can reduce post-harvest losses, maintain produce quality, extend shelf life, create jobs, and increase smallholder farmers’ incomes. The technology, CoolBot, “converts any off-the-shelf, window-type air-conditioning unit into a turbo-charged refrigeration machine, saving installation and repair costs and reducing electricity consumption,” said Atef Elansari, the project’s post-harvest lead. “It is also installed quickly in just one day and represents a sustainable low-cost solution to help us overcome several food safety and hygiene issues.”
- The team also helped reduce post-harvest loss by designing a new hermetic bag to store wheat using a local material. The bags preserve the moisture content of stored grains and prevent them from being damaged by insects, fungi, rodents, or birds.
- To address changing water levels, we expanded adoption of low-density polyethylene (Poly-Pipe) drip irrigation systems to improve water management on land used to grow tomatoes in Beheira. The components, connections, fittings, valves, and all required accessories are produced by local companies in Al-Sadat, Menoufia. “I already witnessed huge savings in the cultivated land” says Samy El Demiry, an Alexandria farmer who switched to the Poly-Pipe irrigation system. “I saved between EGP 5,000 ($162) and EGP 6,000 ($194) at a minimum.”
In addition to introducing technology, we taught environmentally friendly farming techniques. We used the messaging app WhatsApp to show farmers of mango, artichoke, onion, and other crops how to counter heavy rains by spraying aspirin, adding humic acid and balanced fertilizers such as potassium silicate, and controlling irrigation. Farmers received regular weekly weather forecasts and recommended practices for crop protection from pests such as aphids and diseases such as rust.
Conscious of farmers’ limited resources, we promoted production and use of compost as a low-cost and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical fertilizer. The project launched a vermicompost training program to empower women, introduced initially to 307 female and 77 male smallholder farmers in six governorates. Red wiggler worms transform organic household and field waste into an excellent soil amendment and conditioner called vermicompost: over one year, 5 kg of red wiggler worms can produce 75 kg of worms and 1,000 kg of vermicompost. The vermicompost production program will enable women in a household to earn an annual economic return 15 times their initial investment.
Even techniques as seemingly simple as shifting planting dates can have a major impact by avoiding crop damage in increasingly severe winters. For example, instead of planting fennel in mid-November in Assiut, we recommended planting in mid-October to avoid slow growth and damage from low temperatures during the initial stages of plant germination and growth. This resulted in well-developed plant growth and branching before waves of low temperatures in December and January. Farmers who planted as usual in mid-November had weakened plants by comparison. Among the 3,280 fennel farmers surveyed during the 2022 season, average productivity rose from 1.28 tons per feddan to 2.34 tons after applying climate change resilience and good agricultural practices, and average income nearly doubled from EGP 21,375 ($694) to EGP 42,156 ($1,369) per feddan.
Like Farag, many Egyptian farmers—both men and women—are taking concrete steps that increase production, reduce costs, and protect the environment at the same time. ERAS is helping them start a new era in Egyptian farming for Upper Egypt and the Delta.
PROJECT: Feed the Future Egypt Rural Agribusiness Strengthening Project
CLIENT: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Building Integrated Community-level Resilience in Uganda
In Uganda, many households lack access to financial resources, markets, and social capital, as well as the ability to advocate for their needs in local government. Among children under five, 29 percent are stunted as a result of chronic or recurrent malnutrition. Ugandans also face additional challenges specific to where they live, such as droughts, wildfires, or human-wildlife conflict near game parks. Communities and households need to be able to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from such shocks and stresses, but many lack this resilience.
The Abt-led USAID Integrated Community Agriculture and Nutrition (ICAN) Activity focused on community-level resilience in eight districts that have some of the country’s highest levels of poverty, malnutrition, and vulnerability to natural disasters. Since 2018, USAID ICAN reached more than 200,000 people through activities that improve incomes, nutrition and food security, water and sanitation, school enrollment and retention, and natural resource management.
The project took a localized, multi-sectoral approach that put local communities front and center. Our local team worked hand-in-hand with trusted local partners across government institutions, the private sector, and civil society. These community structures included village health teams, business service providers, governance champions, and cultural leaders. The project especially focused on addressing gender and power imbalances that undermine the economic opportunities and community influence of women and youth. As agents of behavior change, USAID ICAN’s partners spearheaded local commitment to inclusive resilience actions across sectors. By embedding this work within existing structures, we ensured the work will continue even after project activities ended.
To improve economic livelihoods, we helped create jobs and market opportunities to boost farmers’ income and make food available in the household and marketplace. Over the course of the project, 142,627 people—74 percent of whom are women—received support to increase their incomes, including skills training and linkages to markets. For example, from 2018 to 2023, we connected over 60,000 farmers with formal agricultural markets to help them grow nutritious, climate-resilient crops. We also helped activity participants access formal financial services: A survey found that participants accessing those services increased from 650 in 2019 to 21,000 in 2022. And we worked with about 6,300 adolescent girls and young women who had dropped out of school. We enabled them to build their confidence and entrepreneurial skills, learn how to advocate for themselves in their families, establish businesses and group enterprises, and, in some cases, return to school.
To improve nutrition for women and children, we worked through business service providers to connect local firms to community groups and offer nutrition-sensitive training. Our nutrition initiatives also worked through village health teams, reaching 14,115 pregnant women, 52,467 lactating women, and 12,378 care takers over the last five years of the project. And they helped assess the nutritional status of 272,907 children under five (163 percent of our 2022 target), referring 7,604 who were moderately or severely malnourished to nearby health facilities for care. Good nutrition is critical for children to reach their educational and economic potential.
Strengthening local and community governance was a pillar of the project, especially in ensuring that governance structures engaged vulnerable populations. Overall, 102,202 participants engaged in community governance forums. We also helped communities develop Resilience Committees, which typically include representatives from local government, local leaders, village health teams, business service providers, and other community members, especially women. Through these committees, we collaborated with district local leaders to preserve hills in Kigezi, conserve soil and water in remote and arid Karamoja, and control wildfires by encouraging live fencing in Karamoja.
USAID ICAN’s multi-sectoral approach has been critical to helping a generation of Ugandans to not only better survive shocks and stresses, but also seize economic opportunities and contribute to the country’s socioeconomic development priorities.
PROJECT: Integrated Community Agriculture and Nutrition (ICAN) Activity
CLIENT: U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)