Egypt scales up climate adaptation actions of its agriculture, water and agrifood sectors
Located in one of the world’s most water-scarce regions, Egypt is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Home to the Nile river, Egypt is considered one of the three most extremely vulnerable mega-deltas to be directly affected by climate change by 2050, according to the IPCC. About three-fifths of Egypt’s food is produced in the agricultural lands in the Delta.
Agriculture is a fundamental component of the Egyptian economy, contributing to 11.4 percent of the country’s GDP and providing up to 23.3 percent of employment. The main agricultural commodities include rice, wheat, maize, cotton, sugarcane, and horticultural crops such as vegetables, fruit and dates.
While Egypt’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions is only 0.61 percent, climate change will continue to negatively impact agricultural production and productivity, aggravate water scarcity, and result in fragile agrifood chains.
The Government of Egypt has partnered with FAO and UNDP to accelerate climate solutions in the most vulnerable sectors through the Scaling up Climate Ambition on Land Use and Agriculture through Nationally Determined Contributions and National Adaptation Plans (SCALA) programme, funded by Germany’s International Climate Initiative (IKI). The programme was officially launched at the end of May 2022 with an inception workshop where key stakeholders discussed SCALA’s activities and objectives to be implemented.
The SCALA programme sat down with her Excellency Dr. Yasmine Fouad, Minister of Environment of Egypt, to learn more about the national priorities and opportunities to enhance the country’s climate ambition and to highlight the programme’s plans over the course of its implementation.
SCALA: What are some of Egypt's main barriers to achieving adaptation and mitigation goals?
Dr. Yasmine Fouad: There are still some challenges in Egypt, despite consistent efforts to enhance the institutional arrangements to address climate change in the agriculture sector. The main barriers are limited and insufficient financial resources from developed countries and private entities. There is a need to create an enabling environment for allocating a part of the national budget to climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Furthermore, there is limited availability and accuracy of data and limited institutional capacity to undertake enhanced climate planning through effective cross-sectoral coordination. The lack of technology transfer is another important challenge to overcome.
SCALA: What are some of the key priorities in agriculture and land use that have been outlined in your country’s NDC?
Dr. Yasmine Fouad: As communicated in its nationally determined contribution (NDC), Egypt plans to focus on agricultural inputs and production that use modern surface irrigation techniques that will help increase the efficiency of current agricultural water use. Cropping patterns will also need to change towards more tolerant crop species and better soil maintenance. We need to expand the biodiversity of strategic crops and livestock varieties by introducing new traits tolerant to extreme weather events. Another key priority will be to establish an early warning system to disseminate data at the national level and exchange information at the regional level. The NDC also outlines the need for capacity building and enhancing national partnerships for the effective management and response to climate-related risks and disasters.
SCALA: Based on the key priorities identified for the agriculture and land-use sector, where do you see the private sector contributing?
Dr. Yasmine Fouad: The private sector is considered a key player in most agricultural value chain commodities in Egypt. Private sector actors can play a stronger role as financiers, innovators, and strengthen market linkages and be providers of climate-friendly goods and services. The private sector can also improve small farmers’ access to innovative solutions, agricultural inputs, thereby promoting sustainable livelihoods and incomes. Facing climate change impacts and enabling the transition toward a low carbon climate-resilient agriculture sector will require an increased effort in catalyzing the private sector to engage more in climate plans and actions.
SCALA: Where do you see the SCALA programme adding value to overcome these obstacles?
Dr. Yasmine Fouad: The SCALA programme in Egypt is designed to translate agriculture and land use priorities laid out in country’s climate plans. These will be integrated into the implementation of National Adaptation Plan (NAP) and NDC process into sectoral planning and budgeting. To help scale up climate resilience of agrifood value chains in multiple agriculture sub-sectors (livestock, horticulture, crops, and plant production), SCALA will improve institutional and technical capacity for climate change planning and enhance Egypt’s climate action by 2030, by supporting climate risk and vulnerability assessments. In addition, the SCALA programme provides the opportunity to enhance multistakeholder engagement (from private sector, research entities, civil society, etc.) and strengthen strategic partnerships with other international organizations working in these areas.
With Egypt’s recently updated NDC submission to the UNFCCC in June 2022, the country’s commitment to the global climate agenda is strong and Egypt will embark on preparing a NAP framework. The NAP will aim to enhance climate resilience in all sectors of the economy, including the agriculture sector. The SCALA programme will contribute to the UNDP-supported and Green Climate Fund-financed NAP readiness project, Egypt's National Adaptation Plans Process. As the country is on the road to hosting the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh in November 2022, SCALA paves the way for Egypt to keep climate at the top of the global agenda and contribute to the country’s long-term goals of decreasing climate vulnerability and building climate resilience in the agriculture and land use sectors.