Farmers trained to realise the full potential of Egypt’s agriculture
Egypt’s Nile Delta is one of the cradles of civilisation; its fertile lands have been a major source of agriculture and people’s livelihoods for millennia.
Yet, the country is the driest on earth and with its growing population it is now more vital than ever to make the best use of available food resources.
Developing the agribusiness sector is one of the EBRD’s priorities in the country. As part of these activities, it provided a €53.65 million (EGP 500 million) loan to Juhayna, the largest dairy producer in Egypt, to boost milk production, introduce new products and support the company in meeting high environmental standards.
The EBRD and Juhayna designed an innovative training programme to support local farmers in the Nile Delta and the rest of Egypt. Juhayna selected several of their small and medium-sized milk suppliers to undergo an audit and receive advice on how to improve their performance.
The training activities are funded by the European Union’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility and Juhayna is sharing part of the costs.
Anwar Hafez manages one of the farms that benefitted from the programme. The Sahara covers most of the country’s territory but here the landscape looks very different from that of a desert.
Lush pink bougainvillea and colour-coordinated purple oleander bushes mark the farm entrance, with orange tree orchards looming in the further distance.
A Dutch dairy farm management expert, John Bonnier, visited Mr Hafez’s dairy farm three times over the last two years, together with Juhayna’s farms development team. Mr Hafez took on his recommendations, with visible results.
“We tackled the problem of the cows being too hot by putting up shading and installing a ventilation system,” Mr Hafez explained.
“For nutrition, we are well aware of the difference between animal feed in Europe and in Egypt. Now we compensate this by adding nutrient concentrate to the mix. We also started using specific software to better manage the farm.”
A package of tailored measures is proposed to each farm. They include advice on cow fertility and reproduction, hygiene, vaccinations and various other factors that have an impact on the raw milk’s quality.
Mr Hafez’s farm grew from 40 dairy cows four years ago to over 400. Also, milk production has significantly increased – from an average of 25 litres to 32 litres per cow.
“The advice helps the local farmers to improve their knowledge in the long run,” said Sarra Talib, Principal, EBRD Advice for Small Businesses. “It is a great example of how the EBRD works with its partners to maximise the impact of our activities on the local population and economy.”
“More milk and better quality help the farmers achieve a better income,” said Juhayna’s Quality Director Dr. Maha Misbah. “It also helps our company to provide the best quality products to our consumers across Egypt.
“Our farms supply us with almost 100 per cent of their production with A-graded milk – it means a low bacteria count, which translates into a longer shelf life.”
More than half of the farmers have increased their volume by over 20 per cent. Some have more than tripled their milk production.
In total, dozens of farmers have participated in the training. Together with the EBRD, Juhayna also organised two seminars for the dairy farm managers so that they could share their experience and learn more about the latest farming techniques.
“Study groups are an effective way of learning,” said John Bonnier, who led the seminar. “Sharing knowledge among farmers is a new concept in Egypt, but has shown to be of high value in other countries.”
“Reducing heat stress, for example, pays off. When cows feel comfortable in summer, they eat more, produce more milk and have fewer problems in getting pregnant. Investments in shade, fans, misters and sprayers are paid back in a very short time.”
It is a circle in which everyone depends on each other. The EBRD works together with its partners to involve the whole value chain – from the farmer to the end consumer – to help boost agricultural production in Egypt and long term sustainable development.