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A scoping mission concerning extension and advisory information in Upper Egypt during May 2011 showed that associations are one of the primary conduits of information delivery to farmers. USAID programming under the Agricultural Exports and Rural Incomes (AERI) and other projects, such as AgLink and AgReport, helped to establish many of the associations. At the present time less than half are still active. The active and efficient associations that remain represent the building blocks for a renewed effort to deliver information about on-farm management of crop productivity and natural resource management to farmers in Upper Egypt. A new campaign could deliver organizational and business development skills to a carefully selected subset of the existing associations to diagnose and affirm the key elements contributing to sustainability. Findings suggest that associations that provide a broad suite of rural development services are more sustainable than those that are narrowly focused because more complexity allows for diversification of funding.
USAID/Cairo is understandably cautious and pragmatic concerning assistance to the formal extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reform (MALR); however, if ever there was a time to assist in reform of the Egyptian government it is now. Although now already out of office, the former Minister was keen to participate in USAID programming, in part because the new Egypt is a cash-strapped bureaucracy with great need of institutional reform, but also because he feels more associations could have survived if MALR was better implicated in AERI implementation. He described three key USAID projects: (1) the National Agricultural Research Project (NARP) – key to building Egyptian capacity; (2) the Agricultural Technology Utilization and Transfer (ATUT) project – focused on the private sector and impact on export of high value crops but impacting small and poor farmers; and (3) AERI – a project that attempted to reach small farmers with less than desired impacts owing to the less than ideal level of MALR involvement and follow through with building up of associations. Note that the Minister made this statement even though Dr Hussein Soliman of MALR chaired the monthly coordination meetings of all AERI project components.
A more exhaustive abstracting of relevant projects is included as an annex in this report with independent assessments for the convenience of the reader. It is recommended that the Mission commission a comprehensive review and critical synthesis of these projects for the benefit of the Mission and its Egyptian counterparts. The economic impacts of the efforts are significant and should be highlighted and quantified for the US taxpayer and Congress.
The scoping mission team makes a case for: (a) organizational and management support to active and efficient associations; (b) a strong follow-up focus on information and communication technology (ICT) to reach active advisory service providers and even farmers with the latest ICT technologies, and (c) a certified advisor program that gives the above information brokers the credentials they need to reliably differentiate their skill set from that of a normal consultant.
One final recommendation is to carefully coordinate the evaluation of proposals and selection of projects under the Economic Growth Annual Program Statement with the programming to be elaborated in the agriculture sector. The potential for tremendous positive synergy is great as many of the associations visited planned to submit one or more proposals.
The mission was authorized through the good offices of USAID/PSD in Cairo with the help from USAID/ME/TS in Washington, using two existing USAID projects – the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) and the Modernization of Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) – to carry out the work.
The full report has been approved by USAID/EGYPT and has been submitted to the USAID Development Experience Clearing House, https://dec.usaid.gov/dec/home/Default.aspx