Egypt and the Netherlands: Partners for Implementation! On the road to Sharm el Sheikh

This year the eyes of the world are on Egypt. International delegations of negotiators, companies, experts and activists will make their way to Sharm el Sheikh for the climate summit COP27. Governments will agree on steps to take to limit global warming and activists will urge the world to do more. This is also an opportunity for experts and entrepreneurs to share technological, nature-based and practical solutions for climate change adaptation AND mitigation: the Agri-Food sector can contribute to both. NL-Masr Agrifood Network is interested to show-case such solutions and opportunities in the run-up to COP27. This will be the first longread blog: on the road to Sharm el Sheikh. We hope we will meet you somewhere along this journey!

Egypt faces the challenge to feed a growing population with increasing claims on scarce water. Once the breadbasket of the ancient world, it is now the largest importer of wheat. Intensive monocultures (of field crops, vegetables, and fruit trees) have seen it increase its export potential. Intensive livestock production responding to rising local demand for animal proteins domestically. While Egypt benefitted from the green revolution, its farming may not be future-proof. Farmers struggle with increasing soil borne diseases, depletion of aquifers, and pollution of surface water with pesticides and fertilizer. Meanwhile increased water efficiency, fresh-water extraction and chemical input use leads to salinity in soils, ground water and salt intrusion from the sea. For small holders, land fragmentation hinders their economies of scale to invest in climate smart technologies and practices. 

Video Egypt Road to Sharm 

Egypt is not alone in this. On a global level, climate change poses long-term challenges to a global food system that is currently disrupted by short term shocks emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The food system of the Netherlands has been successful in increasing productivity to ensure food security and market competitiveness in horticulture, dairy and intensive livestock keeping. Now we face societal and political pressure to adjust to the climate crisis and decline on biodiversity caused by nitrogen emissions and agricultural land use. At the same time farmers must adapt to droughts, floods, and saltwater intrusion made worse by climate change. The Netherlands is learning lessons on food system transition from a monoculture-based farming system based on intensive and specialized production to one based on diversity, benefitting people, planet and profit.

Road to Sharm - Nile Delta pic
Fieldwork in the Nile Delta. Photo credit Nectaerra

Climate and Water Smart Agriculture

Finding agricultural solutions to the climate challenge asks us to learn from each other and exchange knowledge. We have the responsibility to share those lessons and generate more knowledge and experience to increase the relevance of our food system knowledge and innovation expertise. By learning from Egyptian experts and the Dutch diamond partners engaging with theme, the agricultural team of the Netherlands embassy in Cairo has formulated three priority themes where opportunities and needs can connect:    

  • Seeds (and) breeds for resilience
  • Water for adaptation 
  • Healthy Soils for sequestration
  • With Salinity as a cross cutting factor 

In later blogs, we will deal with these issues, exploring opportunities for cooperation, trade and investment.

Egypt road to Sharm - Sunflower pic
Companion cropping of sunflower and chilies for soil health and biodiversity. Photo credit Nectaerra

First steps on the road to Sharm

From November 7-18, 2022 the UN Climate Change conference: COP 27 will take place in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt. This creates a dynamic to show what Dutch and Egyptian partners have done on climate and water-smart agriculture. We can also use it to create opportunities for more climate action. 

For several years already, Egyptian and Dutch companies and organizations have been in contact to work on opportunities for climate-smart agriculture. For example, last year an inspiration & knowledge sharing tour took place bringing 11 Dutch companies to the field and the Sahara Expo. This provided inspiration for pilot projects under development on climate and water smart agriculture to benefit both smallholders and commercial family farms.  

This knowledge sharing tour was followed up by a meeting with the Egyptian Minister of Agriculture in which the embassy presented Dutch companies and - partners shared their contributions, ambitions and challenges to work on climate-smart food chains. This fed into participation at the Aquaculture Africa conference in Alexandria in which Dutch experts discussed opportunities for circular and sustainable aquaculture.

Egypt Road to Sharm - Minister meeting
Meeting Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamations. Photo credit MoALR

Gaining inspiration in NL

Then in late June of this year, a delegation of agripreneurs and staff of the Horticultural Export Improvement Association (HEIA) came to the Netherlands for the Africa Works conference, the Netherlands African Business Council’s flagship event. With the Egyptian agricultural fintech company Mozare3 providing the key-note speech, the delegation was treated to discussions about carbon farming and agroforestry (Rabobank), climate resilient seeds (ENZA, Solynta) and crop protection (Koppert) as well as cold chain logistics. Subsequently the delegation went to the field to learn about (organic) sweet potato production, innovations for soft fruit production (Delphy) and post-harvest handling for fruits. Finally, the delegation went to the Farm of the Future, a research farm operated by Wageningen University and Research that can inspire future-proof farming elsewhere.

Egypt Road to Sharm - NABC Egyptian Ambassador
Hosted by the Egyptian Ambassador experts exchange on Climate and Water Smart Agriculture. Photo credit: Egyptian Embassy the Hague

The road goes on

An important stop in the run-up to COP27 will be the Sahara Expo 2022 held from 11 to 14 September. As the oldest and best attended trade show in Egypt, this is the place for Dutch companies to show what they contribute to making the agri-food sector more future-proof. To mark the importance of climate and water-smart agriculture and Egypt’s role as host of COP27, the Dutch Topsector Agri & Food (with endorsement from the Topsector Horticulture and Propagation Materials) has declared Sahara Expo the strategic fair of 2022. The Netherlands will be represented with a one-off Netherlands Pavilion, in which 13 companies will present what they have to offer. This will provide opportunities for matchmaking and knowledge exchange with seminars on seeds and water and soils.

Scoping and taking stock

At the same time, Dutch diamond partners are busy linking and learning with their Egyptian peers to validate and develop real solutions for climate action at scale. Wageningen University and Research is an important knowledge partner on this journey. Wageningen Environmental Research is engaged in joint cooperation with other research centres to develop living labs to test water-efficient technologies and agricultural practices. They are also conducting a stock taking of innovative climate and water-smart solutions tested or identified in Egypt and Jordan in recent years that could be brought to scale.

Egypt Road to Sharm - Mango Biodiversity
Cover crops for mangoes to counter salinity and improve agro-biodiversity.

Wageningen Centre for Development and Innovation at the same time is conducting a scoping study to explore the Egyptian seed sector to see what opportunities there are for increasing opportunities to breed varieties for climate resilience. This will contribute to a seed sector roadmap identifying opportunities for cooperation, trade and investment under SeedNL.

Wageningen Plant Research, inspired by the Farm of the Future and lighthouse farms around the world like social enterprise SEKEM in Egypt, is trailing and testing nature-based agricultural solutions that could provide safe and health food with a lower carbon footprint. For a teaser of what this can lead to check out this brochure on nature inclusive agriculture.

Egypt Road to Sharm - Lelystad pic
Farm of the Future in Lelystad, inspiring future-proof farming in Egypt

Will we meet you on the road to Sharm?     

How the events surrounding COP27 will look, is still unclear. Stakeholders from many countries and sectors are busy finding a place to share their messages on how to save the planet and showcase their climate smart credentials. From the Netherlands a group of professionals young in years or young at heart are busy building an international network of policy makers, researchers and practitioners to not just think, but also do something about climate change. CIim-Eat, a think and do tank hosted by the Netherlands Food Partnership is working with the Egyptian COP27 presidency to mobilize stake holders for climate action on food and agriculture.

The agricultural team of the Netherlands embassy is working with them and with the Netherlands delegation to COP27 to create impact on the road to Sharm and beyond? Will you join us?

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