The issue of Agriculture in Egypt: the roots, ramifications and the future of the democratic alterna

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Zouhdi El CHAMI

 


 

The agricultural issue in Egypt is indubitably one of the most critically central matters of the socio-economic development of the country.  This is attributed to a number of considerations.  On top of these is the necessity of providing enough food for the increasingly growing population and what follows from that in terms of the importance of attenuating the food gap to reduce the huge pressures on the trade balance and the balance of payments.  Also of no less importance is that agriculture is still considered a major sphere for employing a big part of labor force despite its contribution to the GNP.  Further, more than half of the population lives in rural Egypt.

 

            In this context the scientific investigation of the problem which in turn is connected with the developmental process continues to necessary in confrontation of two key patterns of concepts and theories that superficially address the issue.  The first which could be detected in a lot of the component of the governmental discourse can be ascribed to the idea of natural determinism derived from the statement about the population growth and the scarcity of the arable land and water.   All these clichés express existent facts that its treatment outside the soci0-ecoonomic context led to its transformation into a fallacious dogma following the Malthusian model.  The other pattern of concepts is connected with the delusions of the market and the glorification of its eternal rules.  According to this perspective, the view of the world is totally trivialized and the national specificities are systematically ignored, this is clearly manifested in the Egyptian model.

 

            All of these ideas ultimately aim at directing the economic process in the developing countries towards serving the class forces in the advanced capitalistic countries.   This paper aims at presenting a preliminary solution to an umber of problems and important question pertaining to this core issue.

 

            The first axis of these question is related to the determination of the problem, its size, dimension and development whether qua an economic agricultural problem or qua social peasantry one.  The other axis deals with the analysis of the differentiation process and the impoverishment of the peasants under the socio-political policies adopted in this sector and which witnessed a transformation towards liberalism and structural adjustment.  Further it addresses the resistance opposing factors to the peasantry resistance and the peasants' way of adapting to the deteriorated economic conditions as well as the emergence of the peasantry movements anew and reasons behind its temporary failure and the possibilities of reviving it.

 

            Finally, the paper presents an idea for the alternative peasantry program whether in respect of the proposed changes in the macro-policies or in the self-regulation of peasants within the framework of a cooperative democratic movement or its aspects related to the necessity of regional integration in the age of globalization.  All these points spell out the existent ideas within the framework of the political and democratic forces supportive of the peasants and require more crystallization that could be effected through a broad dialogue among the peasants and their movement      

 

Only a few would disagree with the statement that Egypt currently sustains a gravely serious agricultural crisis.  Likewise, there exists no considerable disagreement on the manifestations of this crisis.   Only when it comes to the diagnosis of the causes of the crisis and the generation of alternative solutions do disagreements pertinent to social and class stances spring.  These differences are useful in exposing the various strands of the problem and its implications by focusing on this or that dimension.

 

            Were the problem according to some of the widespread standpoints one of resources (i.e. a population increase conspiring with a scarcity of land and water),  other stances tend to have other theories.   In this respect two approaches to the problem seem to be rather pre-eminent.  The first is that of government intervention and the partial agricultural reform that in its own right was vastest among all other partial social reforms.   The second centers on the market transformation and the trend of backpedaling upon on social reform that used to be partial before becoming more comprehensive and then totally retarding under the policies of structural adjustment.

 

            The manifestations of the agricultural sector can be addressed in terms of the following indicators:

 

First: chronic recession or low growth rates

 

            The growth rate of the agricultural sector has invariably been low for a long time.   It could be said that during the sixties it only witnessed a relative recession of this sector with an average annual growth rate of around 3%.  However, during the liberal economic transformation in the seventies a lot of changes came in total antithesis to the what was expected at least based on the accents and ideals promoted by the Sadat regime and especially those related to the village community and principles and given the paramount role played by the rural financial elite in supporting the right-wing transformation led by Sadat.   In this period, a drastic drop befell the growth rates of the agricultural sector; it dropped to 1.7 % in the late seventies which is far lower hat the growth rate of the population.   Despite the relative improvement it witnessed later on, the agricultural sector remained worst in Egypt in terms of the economic performance.

 

            In the course of the three five-year development plans spanning over the 15 years from 1982 to 1997, the average growth rate in this sector was only 2.9% which is around half the general growth rate of the entire economy (Table 1). Noteworthy that the sluggishness the growth rate of this sector underwent occurred in the context of a general deficiency in the overall pattern of development in Egypt as a result of the precedence of the development of the non-commodity sectors (i.e. service sectors).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table No. (1)

Average annual growth rate

Of the GDP in the economic sectors

 

 

Sector

Real annual growth rate during 15 years (1982-1997)

Agriculture

2.9

Industry

7.0

Aggregate commodity sectors

4.6

Aggregate productive service sectors

4.8

Aggregate social services

5.2

Overall rate

4.8

Source: the statistics presented by the minister of planning and international cooperation in the general assembly and the people assembly about the socio-economic development plan of 1999/2000.

 

 

Table No.2

The contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP and labor force

 

Relevant

Years

The relative importance in GDP

Total local(%)

The relative importance in the total

Labor force(%)

60-59

32.5

48.9

1977

27.5

41.5

83-84

16.8

35.2

90-91

13.6

33.2

95/96

15.9

31.5

1999/2000

16.5

28.6

Source: National Bank of Egypt, the economic bulletin, 3rd edition, Volume 4.

 

 

            In comparison with the advanced capitalistic countries where contribution of the service sector way outstrips that of the commodity sector, the problem at stake consist in that the retardation of the agricultural sector comes in the context of a population outburst the thing that led to the widening of the food gap. The subsiding of the relative importance of the agricultural sector in Egypt can be identified in light of its contribution to the GNP or its capacity to create job opportunities.  It was thus quite natural that the slowness of the growth rates would detract from the relative importance of the sector according to these two indicators.

 

            The contribution of the agricultural sector to the GDP has rapidly decreased from 31.5% in the early sixties to 27.5% after the declaration of the open door policy (1977) and continued to drop until it reached only 16.5% (1999/2000) (Table 2). This holds for the contribution of agriculture to the generation of job opportunities.  The ratio of the labor employed in this sector to the total labor force declined from half in the early to 41.5% in the aftermath of the open door policy institution and reached 28.6 by the advent of the year 2000 (Table 2).

 

 

Second: The increasing food gap

 

            Owing to chronic recession and the decline of the growth rates in the agricultural sector especially relative to the soaring population growth rates as well as the exponentially increasing consumption, the food gap arose and continued to increase at different rates in different time periods.   Also the percentage of self-sufficiency in grain crops has dropped; while it was 91% in 1956, it dropped to 80% in 1968 and then went down to 50% in the mid seventies.   Table 4 depicts a  vivid image of the deterioration of the food gap across the main food commodities in the last few years.   It makes it pretty clear that big gap in the major food commodities and particularly grains (wheat and corn) as well as legume (beans and lentil), botanical oils, artificial ghee, sugar and red meat.

 

Table (3)

The percentage of self sufficiency of some food-products

 

 Product

93/94

94/95

95/96

96/97

97/98

1999

Wheat

45.9

51.4

41.0

40.8

47.9

65.8

Corn

76.0

72.1

103.3

101.6

105.1

56.6

Beans

83.5

69.7

80.5

91.7

96.6

84.1

Lentil

9.6

9.4

11.0

7.3

7.0

6.8

Red meat

83.2

85.7

79.4

79.2

85.8

60.6

Botanical oils and artificial ghee

79.6

61.1

72.7

35.5

36.0

57.6

Sugar

71.9

83.6

72.0

50.9

51.0

71.2

Fish

72.2

73.2

71.3

74.3

73.1

75.7

Source: The yearly statistics book-June 2002.

 

Third: Increasing trade and agricultural balance deficit

 

            All the preceding has indubitably had adverse implications for the exports and imports of the agricultural products.   The values of the former have dramatically dropped whereas the bills of the latter seem to be incessantly soaring further aggravating the trade deficit.  Consequently, agriculture ceased to play its historical role as the a chief source of foreign currency inflows and the primary funding source for development and became, on the contrary, a depletion factor that eats up all reserves of foreign currency.

 

            The specialization patterns of the Egyptian economy have undergone diametrical transformations within the framework of the global capitalistic system.   This by and large is the outcome of the shift of specialization from agriculture and particularly cotton to oil production (both liquid and gaseous) whether in a direct or an indirect way (meaning the exportation of the labor force to work in the Arab producing companies).   Thus while the share of cotton of the aggregate Egyptian exports 44.7% in 1970 it dwindled down to 13.7%  in 1983.   Correspondingly, The share of oil rose from 4.8% to 62.2%. Despite the drop in oil exports due to exhaustive consumption in the seventies and eighties fuel continues to ranks supreme amongst all Egyptian exports (39.3% in 2000). Further future exportation plans are mostly based on expanding the exportation of liquid natural gas while cotton continued to subside (it only contributed 41% of the aggregate exports in 2000).  

 

            This momentous transformation signals the impact of the ongoing changes occurring at the heart of global capitalism especially in respect of the developing the less developed countries.    This was clearly manifest in the stance of the capitalistically more advanced countries towards agriculture and its development in the less developed countries.   At the times when the need for the agriculture in the former increased, the concern for its development in the former grew bigger.  However, when the advanced countries started to give more attention to domestic agriculture as result of the scientific revolution or the institution of protective policies, the interest in agricultural in the peripheral countries systematically declined.  Further the recent interest in oil and fuel production coincides with the global energy crisis and western countries relentless attempt to look for new energy sources.   What substantiate this theory even more are the remarks made by a lot of scholars in respect of western aid programs that pinpointed the restrictive nature of such programs and their negative effects on the agricultural sector.

 

            As a matter of fact decline has befallen all the Egyptian agricultural exports with exception of cotton (including onion, sour fruits, potatoes, that used to be a major source of foreign currency until the seventies).  This was corresponded with a dramatic increase food products imports especially wheat, corn, oils, meat and fish (Table 4).   In light of the data shown in the aforementioned table, the agricultural exports in 2000 was around 1350 million Egyptian pounds while the imports exceeded 9 billions.   Also it clear that the coverage percentage of the agricultural exports to the imports is less than 15% (agricultural imports constitute more than 20% of the aggregate imports; this means that the agricultural sector has become a source for depleting foreign currency and a capital element in the chronic deficit of the Egyptian balance of trade and which poses a thorny developmental problem).

 

Table (4)

Agricultural exports and imports in 2000 (in million pounds)

 

Agricultural Exports

Agricultural Imports

Raw cotton

672.9

Wheat

2,122.6

Fresh onions

43.1

Corn

1,933.6

Potatoes

92.9

Soya beans

162.1

Oranges

50.8

Grease and oils

771.7

Polished cattle leather

58.2

Raw sugar

94.2

Dairy products

19.2

Seeds

434.6

Dehydrated Onions

50.9

Cows and buffaloes

406.2

White rice

361.7

Meat

983.2

Aggregate agricultural exports

1350

Fish

476.3

Aggregate exports

16,228.5

Milk

635.6

 

 

Lentil

169.8

 

 

Tea

925.8

 

 

Aggregate agricultural imports

9100

 

 

Aggregate imports

48645.4

Source: National Bank of Egypt, the economic bulletin, 3rd edition, volume 54, 2001.

 

The Agricultural Problem: roots and causes-the natural economic causes:

 

            The initial examination of the agricultural problem might attribute it to natural factors: population, water, land.   However, while no one can deny the importance of these factors, we have to realize that its impacts can not be addressed in separation from the economic and social policies.   Human history as a whole can otherwise be read as the history of the struggle with nature to exploit it in service of human activity.  Thus, were such facts to necessitate a special consideration in the locally, it would not be viable unless within a fully-fledged developmental framework capable of comprehending such specificities.  

 

            The specificity of the current phase of demographic transition in Egypt compared to its counterpart in Europe during the industrial revolution manifests itself in terms of its acuteness.  Underlying that is that the former availed itself of the scientific revolution in the medical field, the thing that reduced the death rates.   Thus while European population increased by four folds in the 150 following the industrial revolution, the Egyptian population has increased by 22 folds since the beginning of the 19th century.   The other feature specific to the demographic transition in Egypt (and the third world) is that precedes economic growth and does not come as its result (as was the case in Europe).

 

            Since this transition takes place under the conditions of the colonialist economy and then the structurally mutilated dependent economy, this quite impacts the term of this transformation.  Despite the decline in the population growth rates due to the economic, cultural and social transformations, they are expected to continue to hover around an annual rate of 2%.  This means that reliance on birth control programs will not be effective enough to meet the food needs of the excess population and employ the surplus labor.  This implies that decreasing the population growth rate would be futile unless approached within the context of enlightened developmental policies.

 

            On the other hand, the harvest land in Egypt is around 13 million acres while the renewable sources of fresh water are approximately 56.9 billion square meters. Thus, a typical Egyptian lives on the product of 535 square meters of the agricultural land, 895 square meters of the harvest land and 900 square meters of fresh water for all purposes.

 

            We would thereby like to emphasize that in light of what has earlier been mentioned regarding dealing with the natural factors will perpetually persist as socio-economic problem.  Egyptian ancient and modern histories alike prove that.  The mutations that took place in modern history were connected with the human efforts to dominate the elements of nature (Mohamed Ali barricades, Aswan Dam and the High Dam).  Consequently, there is a solid ground for the contention that aggravation of the agricultural program is directly related to the governmental policies.  The obvious fact is that the sluggishness of the agricultural growth rates is not only attributable to natural factors but also to the small share of the agricultural sector in investments (whether in irrigation, reclamation, development, etc).   Table 5 shows that the agricultural sector receives the smallest share of the government fixed investments (its share is lesser than industry; also the commodity sectors are generally lesser than the service ones).

 

Table (5)

Sectors in fixed investment

 

Sector

83/84

1990/91

1995/96

1999/2000

Agriculture

9.5

11.73

8.6

13.5

Industry

25

-

19.5

20.6

Service

47.5

-

52.5

52.5

 

The agricultural problem qua a social one

The differentiation among peasants and their impoverishments

 

            This dimension of the agricultural problem is no secret to anyone.   Even the international right wing that promotes the problem as one that arises from to natural causes, does not conceal it social orientation in terms of its censuring of the interventionist policies of government (which in turn are Egyptian traditional policies pertinent to the agricultural specificity of Egypt that requires centrality) or its demand for market policies that are not concerned with the freedom of agriculture and population but rather with the liberation of land itself as a commodity in the interest of the big landlords and agricultural capitalism.   This is the general course that the state policy has taken on varying levels in the realm of agriculture (partially in the seventies and radically in the nineties).   As a result of these policies, the pace of the process of social differentiation has increased; this process had not ceased subsequent to the agricultural reforms in the sixties.  Most of these reforms, as is evident from Table (6), led to the reduction of the land owned by agricultural capitalism and the expansion of the base of the small and impoverished peasants.  Yet it is also obvious that it has had no impact on the broad bulk of the deprived.  A lot tend to see that a segment of the affluent peasants ahs availed itself of it and has later become a basis for right wing transformation in the rural areas and the country in general.

 

            Further, the above mentioned table shows that the process of social differentiation and the impoverishment of peasants have become severer under the open door policies and later the social adjustment ones.  The land possessed by the rich peasants and the agricultural capitalism increased from 18.2% in 1974/1975 to 34% in 200. Also the land owned by the quasi proletariat strata has increased in the same period from 12.4% to 16.38%, while their percentage of the total number of owners rose from 26.4% to 58.5 (around twice as much, the thing that indicates the transformation of huge numbers of the poor and small peasants to quasi proletariat elements).  As a matter of fact the percentage of land possessed by those peasants has drastically declined from 53.6% to 39.3%. On the other hand the percentage of those peasants of the total land owners has dropped from 49.3% to 31.3%.  There is no comment on the acute dichotomy between the wealth concentrated in the top and the increase of the lower strata with almost the total absence of the middle class.

 

Table (6)

 

Percentage to possession numbers

Percentage to area

Percentage to possession numbers

Percentage to area

Percentage to possession numbers

Percentage to area

Percentage to possession numbers

Percentage to area

Percentage to possession numbers

Percentage to area

Social status

Possession size

20

1977/1978

1974/1975

1965

1960

 

58.5

16.38

48.8

15

42.6

12.4

28.4

5.5

26.4

3.4

Quasi proletariat strata

Less than an acre

31.3

39.2

35.6

52.1

49.3

53.6

60

46.2

57.7

34.4

Small peasants

Acre to less than five acres

4.3

10.4

4.3

12.9

5.6

15.8

7.1

16.4

10.4

17.7

Middle level peasants

5 acres to less than 10 acres

5.8

34

2.3

20

2.5

18.2

4.2

31.9

5.5

44.5

Rich peasants and agricultural capitalism

More than 10 acres

 

 

 

 

The steps of rightwing transformation and the causes of rural impoverishment

 

            Egyptian right wing transformations have started since the beginning of the seventies.   They initially started as partial transformations wherein the rich peasants and the rural bourgeoisie played a paramount role in drifting away from the Nasserite course and then increased with the adoption of structural adjustment policies in the seventies.

 

            In 1971, President Sadat issued an edict to the effect of compensating the former feudalists for the land confiscated in the 1952 reforms.  These reparations amounted to around 70 folds the agricultural land tax in addition to the market value of the establishments, gardens, etc.  In 1972, political deportation was abrogated for around 12 thousands of the citizens thus treated by the previous revolutionary procedures.  In the same year the state council annulled the confiscations of the property of 1200 of the rich Egyptian families. Sadat then annulled all remaining custodies in August 1981.

 

            In 1975 the articles of the agricultural reform laws were all reviewed.  In this respect the parliament approved in the 23rd of June 1975 the "Mouzara'a" system of cultivations as well as the raising of taxes and agricultural rents.  It also granted the landlord the right to dismiss the tenant if he did not pay the rent for more than two months and cancelled all local dispute resolving committees and moved its specialties to the judicial authority. 

 

            Based on the official estimates, the volume of agricultural rents has doubled with the advent of the year 1980 right after the change of the tax segments in 1978. 

 

            Some peasants were for the first time evicted according to these procedures.   Among 123 thousand acres that were under custody 66% were returned to their original owners in addition to 200 thousand acres that were appropriated by the committee of feudalism dissolving.   The number of peasants evicted in this period is estimated to be not less than 40,000.

 

            The cooperative structure that was built in the Nasserite era underwent radical changes in the early period of economic openness with the aim of dismantling it.  For this purpose the presidential edict number 824 for the year 1976 was issued decreeing the dissolving of the agricultural cooperative union and the distribution of its property.   On the same date, another presidential edict was decreed to cancel the public authority for agricultural cooperation and the public institution for cooperative and agricultural credit.   Further, other amendments were introduced to the cooperative law no 51 for the year 1969 to the effect of dismantling.  Finally, law 117 for the year 1976 was enacted to establish the primary bank for the agricultural development and credit as well as the village banks that were assigned the task of financing agriculture in lieu of the cooperatives.  The law of the desert land in 1981 allowed the raising of the maximal level of private ownership to 2000 acres for the individual and 3000 acres for the family and 10,000 acres for the sole proprietor companies.

 

            Law 96 for the year 1992 was also decisive regarding the right wing transformation in agriculture as it abolished the most important article of the agricultural reform laws which is the determination of the rental relationships.  This law included the raising of the rental value from 7 times the value of the tax levied on agricultural land to 22 times.   This comprised a transitional phase that ended in October in 1997 to fully liberate the rental relationships; this date could be considered the infliction point in the history of the social relations in rural Egypt. 

 

            The structural adjustment policies in the nineties have led to the exasperation of peasant impoverishment due to a number causes in addition to what we have indicated regarding the increase of agricultural rents before fully liberating them. Among the most important of these reason is the increase of the prices of the factors of production and the expansion of the role of the private sector in importing and circulating its, let alone abolishing its subsidization and the interests on the loans extended for purchasing it.  Under these policies dramatic increases in the prices of fertilizers took place; also the interests increased by around 20%.

 

Counter factors to social tension in rural Egypt

 

            Notwithstanding the right wing transformations and the process of impoverishment and differentiation, rural Egypt has never witnesses a protesting movement as sweeping as that which followed the enforcement of law no.96.  This could be attributed to a number of factors:

 

1.      The bureaucratic nature of the Nasserite regime.  This is manifested in the cooperative structure that has been established as a state cooperation rather than a democratic one, the thing that definitely facilitated the process of its demolition and the transformation to the market mechanism.  Also the immense power the rich peasants had within the framework of the Nasserite experience and the persistence of a large proportion of the rural sector outside the sphere of agricultural reforms was another factor.  Of no less importance is the continuation of the exploitation of the agricultural sector by different means, the most important whereof is the compulsive prices that was deployed as a tool to re-distribute the national income in favor of the urban centers and the industrial process.  All of this created gaps in the Nasserite model that facilitated its obliteration. 

2. The persistence of the Nasserite reformist patter for a while even under the reign of the right wing policies of Sadat:   the right wing transformations had maintained a partial nature for quite a long time before the institution of the seventies structural adjustment policies.  It did not set out to completely abolish the agricultural reform. Further it adopted a reconciliatory policy that had a lot important attributes, among which are:

 

a.       Making concessions to peasants by raising the prices of the agricultural crops like cotton, wheat and rice, especially towards the end of the seventies

b.      Exempting the small peasants who owned less than 3 acres from paying land taxes

c.       The government retention of the policy of subsidizing the basic food products whose bills rose to reach 14% of the national income in 1980/81

d.      One of the major social tension mitigation in the early phase of economic openness and before the structural adjustment was the broad emigration of the rural labor force whether abroad or to working in other sectors that witnesses high growth rates (services and construction in cities).  A study conducted in the 1980's has demonstrated that rural emigrants abroad constituted 66.9% of the total number of Egyptian emigrants. This shows the increase of rural emigration.

This outflow has in turn positively impacted the wages of the peasant labor due to the shortage of labor in the agricultural sector.  Despite the fact that the agricultural labor wages stayed less than that of the industrial labor and services in cities it is estimated that the real wage of the agricultural labor doubled during this period.  These factors had helped to suppress a peasant uprising against law 1996 since the major peasant reaction towards the impoverishment process was quite adaptive.

 

 

The peasant's adaptation to the impoverishment processes

        

           The methodologies of the survival strategies that the small and impoverished peasants resort to tend to normally vary.  Of these are large family formation, waged labor inside and outside the agricultural sector and internal and external emigration as well as the reproduction economy represented in the cultivation of food crops and breeding cattle and poultry and the renting of very meager area of the agricultural land at black market rates.  Some have recourse to the cooperative method as a way of surviving.

 

            The relative importance of the social being reproduction vary amongst the strata of peasants. Also it is sometimes all adopted and sometimes partially.

 

The liberations of agricultural rents and the emergence of the first peasant's protest movement

 

            The history of Peasantry protests in modern history dates back to the forties.  This decade witnesses the flaring up of social-cleavages and conflicts that out broke in several area like  Behietam and Koufour Negm. In the sixties and despite the agricultural reforms the peasantry uproar persisted in the context of the implementation of those reforms and the attempts of the collective powers to impede it.  The most salient case is that in Kamsheesh village. Further the major battle in the seventies was that of the dissolution of the cooperative union (the governmental).  

 

            The emergence of the first peasant protest movement is connected with the enforcement of law 96 related to the agricultural rents.  As a matter of fact, the movement out broke quite late as result of the retardation of the awareness of the peasants since it was primarily linked with the year 1997, the year that was to witness the full liberation of the rental relationships although the law was issued back in 1992.  This means that the peasant's reaction towards the law was delayed for more than four years and did not materialize except after the peasants had felt its actual impact.   At this time, preliminary peasantry formations evolved in the form of connections and the peasantry movement interacted with the political movements opposed to the law (the Nasserite, Tagamou' and Labor parties).  In this way peasant's conferences started (in this period the country witnessed more than 200 conferences for peasants; also committees have been impaneled to oppose the law).   Since the very outset the movement has adopted a moderate discourse to appeal to the government to freeze or amend the law.  Nonetheless, it encompassed endeavors to organize strikes and set-ins in different places.   In response the government used various methods to pass the law.  Of these are the establishment of the reconciliatory committees, the pledging of promises to grant new pieces of desert land and using the power and influence of mayors and members of the local councils as well as member of the parliament.  However, the decisive factor was the employment of violence to detain any peasant elements in the cases of collective protesting or the preparation of conferences and the use of torture machines inside the police stations to impel the peasants to sign the renunciation of land. A lot of these cases were registered in different parts of the country.

 

            Thus if the result has been the success of the government to implement the law, the failure of the incipient of peasantry movement in achieving its goal to preclude the execution of the law related to the evicting of the renters from the land could be attributed to a set of factors:

 

            The arbitrariness of the peasantry movement and its succumbing for a long period to the delusions of the benefactor state that led to the retardation of the movement and the absence of a unified goal as well as the coordination and support among all the political power supportive of the peasants (al-tagamo' and Nasserite and other new NGO's).  In addition there is the bias of a considerable proportion of the political and religious opposition (el-wafd part, Muslim brotherhood and the Islamic movements) towards the governmental stance and the employment of religious decree in favor of the landlords.  Finally there is the despotic state with its national security system that has been used to the employment of the methods of torture and coercion. 

 

In spite of the direct failure of the peasantry movement, a lot do believe that the nascent movement has not been totally defeated.  Among the most important gains of this struggle are:

 

1.The relative alleviations of the brutality a lot of the land lords used to adopt to crush the tenants

2.The persistence of the contracts between the state and peasants in the state owned land (agricultural reform. Awkaf, the authority of legal property) without any increase in the rental value.

3. The coordination among the political and democratic powers concerned for the protection of the rights of the peasants and the interests of the Egyptian agriculture including political parties and democratic organizations.

4. The acknowledgement by the state that of the real size of the problem (a million and 600 thousand contracts in a million and 200 thousand acres)

5. Deepening the awareness of the peasants of the social, class and political actuality wherein they live. This is what makes possible another round of peasant struggling in the future against the impoverishment policies within the democratic peasantry framework. 

 

The possibilities of a democratic peasantry alternative

 

            It follows from the preceding and in light of the chronic structural crisis the Egyptian agriculture experiences under the current governmental policies and the vivid differentiation trend amongst peasants as well as the impoverishment of vast strata of the low and middle classes and the initiation of real peasantry movement for the first time that it is necessary to introduce an alternative agricultural peasantry program that these movements can use and that is capable of presenting a way out of the current crisis. 

 

            This program specifically requires the broadest possible dialogue among the peasants and within the political and democratic sphere supportive of the peasantry issue in order for it to fully mature.  Nevertheless, a lot of the elements of this democratic peasantry alternative have been proposed by the political powers sympathetic with peasants.  Following is a brief survey of the programmatic points proposed. 

 

1. Increasing savings and investment and re-orienting the sector

 

The corner stone of any development process is the local savings and investments.  While the saving rates in Egypt ranges from 12% to 17%, in most cases it proves lower than most of the other developing countries like India and South Korea.  The same holds for local investment that is estimated to be around 18% of the GDP. Any developmental alternative has in the first place to increase these rates and re-orient the allocation of resources to the productive sectors especially the agricultural one (that we previously indicated the decline in its share of investments compared to the other sectors).

 

2. Reinstating the state role in determining the crop composition and not leaving this process to the market forces since this is not related to general developmental need but rather that is closely connected with specific nature of Egyptian river-based agriculture.

 

It is quite conceivable within this framework, that there is an interest in limiting the crop dispersion and the lowering of the percentage of the high water-consumption crops and increasing the percentage of those crops that requires the availability of a high level of sufficiency. This means that the primary targets of the agricultural policies is to attenuate the food gap especially under the GAAT and the difficulties it imposes by various means to the Egyptian agricultural exports as well as the rise in the receipts of the imports especially wheat.

 

3. The demand for a new agricultural reform that includes the prevention of the foreigners from owning agricultural desert land, placing a ceiling to the ownership of Egyptians and the state intervention to regulate the rental relationships in a balanced way.

  

4. Protecting the middle class and small agricultural producers from the impoverishment policies under the randomness of the market.  In this respect it is important to liberate the cooperative movement from the governmental bureaucracy as well as building cooperative organizations in a democratic way and within the scheme of general governmental policies to support this sector not only as a protection of the interests of millions of citizens but as a legitimate way to confront the challenges of the age of globalization and the WTO.  This cooperation undertakes to deal with two gravely important issues related to the small agricultural sector.  These are financing and marketing.  This proposes that the primary bank of credit and agricultural development as well as the other village bank to an agricultural cooperation bank owned and managed by the cooperationists to serve the peasants and the agricultural sector.  This should be associated with the transformation of the cooperative society to an integrated economic unit qualified to meet the needs of production at reasonable prices as well as extending loans. 

 

5. The improvement of the environmental conditions is indispensable given that the current rates of agricultural development despite its lowness has relied on the intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to the extent that the Egyptian soil has become on the most polluted all over the world.  This requires an all-embracing plan to deploy the naturally vital resistance

 

6. The success of the peasantry struggle is contingent on the general democratic transformation in the society.  The defeat that befell the peasantry movement was preceded by other failures in the labor movement.  Nonetheless, the protest movements in both cases are still present in different degrees.  This is why the democratic transformation continues to be a necessity and within it the syndicate freedom of the agricultural labor deprived of land and who are neediest among the labor classes.

 

7.The Arab and African economic integration continues to be one of the most important components of the democratic alternative in face of the age of globalization and it acquires a special importance under the conditions created by the water crisis (Egypt's share is currently estimated to be 56.9 billion square meters). Further, since the scarcity of water is one of the natural problems that faces the Egyptian agriculture, it is expected that through the rationalization of consumption 10 billion square meters of water could be saved. However, the needs available in the Nile basin countries are far more and exceed 650 billion square meters.  Mot of it is dissipated in the marshes areas in vain.  In case there is serious joint planning to benefit from these resources, the needs of all countries could be met, the thing which will allow Egypt an additional expansion in agricultural land.

 

 

 

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