The EU and AFD have joined forces in support of Egypt’s efforts to expand the role of small and medium sized enterprises in agriculture and to make the sector more productive. A joint funding partnership between the European Union (EU) with a EUR 21.5 Million grant and the French Agency for Development (AFD) with a EUR 30 Million loan, the SASME project is implemented under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation.
Dr. Mohamed Zakaria, Associate to the Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation for Economic Affairs, Dr. Fabio Grazi, AFD Country Director, Ambassador Christian Berger, Head of EU Delegation to Egypt, gave the opening speeches, followed by a presentation by Eng. Wael Rafea, SASME National Project Manager, highlighting results and outcomes. In addition, a group of representatives from international organizations, project partners and stakeholders from the banking and agricultural sector have participated in the closing ceremony.
“After three years of implementation this jointly funded project succeeded in dealing with two issues: strengthening the agricultural value chains and providing better access to finance for small agricultural businesses through an assistance package offered by EU grants and AFD loans,” said Ambassador Christian Berger in the closing ceremony. “There are indeed high hopes that linking up agriculture and the financial sector - a key aspect of the project - will help to increase job opportunities in rural areas, ensure better quality of food products, will lead to an increase of investment and strengthen the entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector,” he added.
The project offered access to credit to farmers and rural entrepreneurs, along with credit guarantees to promote and support wide segments of various agricultural sectors. More than 11,300 beneficiaries from the agricultural sector received loans to improve their agri-business projects.
“In addition to providing a key contribution to domestic economic growth, rural development is functional to promote sustainability in Egypt. Transforming Egypt’s agricultural systems to meet SDGs represented the intent and purpose motivating AFD’s financial support to the SASME project. Through the SASME AFD continues its commitment to assisting Egypt in achieving its Vision 2030 targets and in preparing the roadmap to SDGs achievements by 2030,” said Dr. Fabio Grazi, AFD Country Director.
As part of the event, 6 short videos of SASME’s achievements were screened, and relevant experiences from the project’s beneficiaries was shared. Giving the closing remarks of the event, Dr. Saad Moussa, Supervisor to the Foreign Agricultural Affairs at Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, and SASME National Project Coordinator, highlighted the lessons learnt and provided recommendations for sustainability.
SASME project also delivered technical assistance and capacity building to institutions and stakeholders involved in the loans and guarantee process, such as the participating banks working in agricultural financing. The technical assistance enabled them to better assess the risks of agricultural credit, business plans, cash flow analysis as well as reducing the gap between supply and demand for financing in the agricultural sector.
Through a dedicated credit component targeting dairy and aquaculture value chains, the project was able in three years of implementation to promote the agricultural sector in Egypt and create new employment opportunities. In addition, the project helped building the capacities of Egyptian government’s executives through on-the-job trainings on the use of modern equipment and technologies in the two selected value chains.
The project improved milk collection centers and cheese factories in the governorates of Monofeia, Qalyubia, Beheira and Gaharbeia, with the aim of increasing productivity, while still producing premium dairy products that meet the quality requirements for both domestic and international markets.
As an additional major outcome of the project, the quality of infrastructure and technical expertise in marine aquaculture in Egypt improved thanks to a targeted technical assistance package. New partnerships were further set up, like e.g. with the General Authority for Fish Resources Development (GAFRD). This is in addition to a conceptual design, one for the development of the wholesale fish market in Anfushi, and one for the establishment of a newly developed fish market on the international road of Alexandria. All these facilities aim to establish Egyptian standards for fish farming and apply best practices to manage fish farming, increase productivity and improve quality.
SASME project has promoted an integrated approach to address the main challenges of the agricultural sector to support Egypt's vision 2030 for food security, empowering women and youth in the agricultural sector and improve livelihood, and ultimately contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.