s government politics continues to remain in a state of turbulent and violent uncertainty and instability — clashes abound, parliamentary election dates are announced and soon canceled, farmer loan forgiveness is promised with no follow-through — the lives of Egypt’s farmers are going from bad to worse.
When, in 2009, the World Bank estimated that about 40 percent of Egyptians live below the poverty line of US$2 a day, the majority were small farmers and rural families.
It is difficult to imagine how much worse things could actually get.
Mahmoud al-Mansy, spokesperson for the Sons of the Soil NGO and a longtime farmer says, “We basically are ‘food’ farmers who are unable to find food to eat.” Sons of the Soil was established in the mid-1990s to fight for farmers’ rights soon after former Agriculture Minister Youssef Waly dissolved the farmers’ cooperatives.
The plight of Egypt’s farmers has always been serious, particularly for small- to mid-sized farmers who simply farm land to sell produce. The bigger players, on the other hand, have registered corporations with thousands of feddans, and allegedly have a monopoly on the market, yet make up a small percentage of the farming population.
But now, rural negligence over the past two years, along with mixed messages from ministers and government officials, have given rise to new issues.
Steven Viney / Egypt independent