FAO in Egypt

Digital education for women’s empowerment

Women are a key to the transformation of agrifood systems worldwide and to realizing the aspirations set out in the Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, the contributions made by women to agriculture are frequently overlooked and women often miss out on educational opportunities. This is particularly the case for modern digital technologies, which are a growing feature of agrifood systems globally.

Success stories

This was Laila Muhammad Abdullah, 33 years old, who obtained her degree in Law in 2018 and lives with her small family in Sham al-Bahriya, a village in Minya Governorate.

“I worked for a short time as a researcher with the Decent Life Initiative, which is a Presidential Initiative implemented by the Ministry of Social Solidarity with a symbolic salary to help me with the continuously escalating costs of living, and then I worked as a social facilitator with the Free Sons of Egypt Association.

This was Noura Shukri Abdel Hamid, a 32-year-old Egyptian farmer, from the village of Burtabat, Maghagha District in El-Minya Governorate. Neither she nor her husband had adequate education, but she wants a better future and a better life for her children. She is; therefore, keen that her eldest son Abdullah (15 years old) and his younger brother Abd al-Rahman (11 years old) get a decent education until they obtain their “great certificate”, as she uttered, meaning a university degree.

Jihan Magdy, 49, grew up in a village in Abu Qurqas District in Minya Governorate, where job opportunities are scarce, especially for women. Customs and traditions do not allow women to go outside the village to find work to improve their living conditions. But with the changing circumstances, high cost of living and escalating prices, low income and lack of jobs, life has become very difficult especially with the continuing negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on life in general.

Boosting knowledge for a better harvest

Growing grapes takes a mix of agricultural know-how and constant adaptation in the field. This has been the experience of Mabrook Khamees, who has been farming grapes for 20 years now — and who is still learning new techniques. Mabrook, who prefers to be called by his nickname Rabea, recently learned new approaches to pruning, spraying and other practices through an Italian-funded FAO training programme, developed in close collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation.

Soumaya, a mother of three who lives in Aswan, heard about the Community Nutrition Kitchen for the first time from her best friend Nassra who is very socially active in her community – Edfu. Nassra was the community leader that FAO relied on to mobilize women and youth to participate in the Italian funded project “Improving Household Food and Nutrition Security in Egypt”.

The Egyptian Government has long subsidized baladi bread – a mainstay in the Egyptian diet – made from 82 percent wheat flour extraction, with wheat purchased domestically and abroad. To keep this guarantee and feed its vast and growing population, Egypt has become one of the world’s leading wheat importers. It imports over 12 million tonnes of wheat – a figure likely to increase to more than 15 million tonnes by 2028.

Om Waheed has grown up daughters and toddlers in Koftan, Beni Sueif governorate. She heard about the “revolving fund” of FAO’s project on nutrition and got interested. She participated in training sessions provided by the project on nutrition, animal rearing and micro-project management. The revolving fund targets women who have children mostly under the age of five and aims at improving the nutrition value of meals as well as at increasing the household revenue and eventually the standard of living.

In a suburb area of Heliopolis, about 15 km from Cairo, Latif plants eggplant, spinach, cabbage, oranges, mandarins, parsley, dill, lettuce, tomato and, occasionally, cucumbers. He 'employs' two scarecrows dressed in traditional Egyptian attire to keep away raptors and other birds that come to steal his prized vegetables.

From technical consultations to public-private policydialogue, FAO’s work with the Egyptian Government and partners on Egypt’s wheat sector is leading to greater efficiency, regulatory changes and an environment more conducive to private sector investment. Egypt is one of the world’s largest wheat importers, owing to its limited agricultural land. Almost two-thirds of the total wheat supply is used to produce baladi bread, a staple flatbread.