President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated the 1.5m acres reclamation project Wednesday, which aims to increase Egypt’s actual agricultural land by 20% outside the Delta.
Al-Sisi said the acres will be presented to the public for sale, a provision that is an investment in national food security as much as an investment in their individual futures. The Egyptian government will subsidise the appraised value of the land to enable large scale purchase.
Al-Sisi promised that the agricultural lands will not only provide economic stability to farmers, but will provide places of residence and services to them and their families.
The inauguration was attended by several state officials, military ranks, and ministers.
Al-Sisi gave a speech after the inauguration, in which he stated that the 1.5m acres project is only the first of other national projects to follow. The president pointed to the Rakhawy City project in Sinai and the furniture city in Damietta, asserting that these projects will begin within six months to one year.
Al-Sisi inaugurated the project by the symbolic planting of a tree, while accompanied by university students.
According to a statement by the Ministry of Defence, the project is a continuation of the “state’s effort to strategically plan developmental projects in Egypt”.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the project will aim to decrease the food gap and limit food imports into the country. The project will build civilian communities to strengthen industry, as well as provide jobs for the youth demographic.
The import of vital food products is one of the economic issues facing the Egyptian government. As the largest importer of wheat worldwide, Egypt imports approximately 240,000 tonnes (worth $75m) of wheat and 58,500 tonnes ($52m) of cooking oil.
Minister of Irrigation Hossam El-Moghazy said the project will be divided into three stages, wherein each stage will see 0.5 acres planted. He added that the location of the project was chosen carefully to secure the existence of groundwater for irrigation.
Egypt ranked first among countries with the largest rate of desertification of green fields, according to a 2015 UN report. However, the government cites lack of security and law enforcement as reasons for constructing on agricultural lands, which is the main source of desertification in the country.
Minister of Agriculture Essam Fayed added that the first two stages will include 1m acres in the district of Al-Farafra, and is aimed to reach Aswan, Marsa Matrouh, Qena, and Minya. The third stage will include the South Sinai.
The choice to build outside of the Delta is an attempt to ease overpopulation through regulating population distribution, according to Fayed.
The project, as well other national projects, are engineered and financed by the Egyptian army with the assistance of other private companies.
Since the start of Al-Sisi’s rule in 2014, national projects have been presented as the gateway to providing Egyptians with job opportunities and reviving the economy, especially during the time of political unrest and low security between the 25 January Revolution and June 2013.
These projects include the New Suez Canal Project, the new Road Network Project of 4,400 km, 1m acres from the Land Reclamation Project, and the Development of the northwest coast.