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Embarking on a journey to upscale Nexus-Based Farming in Egypt
Developing and testing integrated systems to adapt farming techniques in the face of climate change
Think regional, think big!
Situated in Dendara Esna in Upper Egypt GEBAL Egypt puts ideas into action. The organization is formed by a team of regional and international experts who are developing and testing integrated systems to adapt farming techniques in the face of climate change. With innovative solutions, they thrive to make the most out of every drop in the water scarce region.
In June 2022, GEBAL Egypt together with the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme (NRD) MENA embarked on a journey called “Water-Energy-Food-Nexus Farming: Upscaling Solutions for Small and Medium-Scale Farms” to make their techniques accessible and more applicable for a broader range of users. With the aim to generate an enabling environment for business, policies, and financial viability for a large scale-uptake of Nexus farming models. They thrive to answer two crucial questions to ensure WEF security in the region:
1) How can Egyptian farmers raise their agricultural outputs to enhance food security under climate change conditions and while using less water and energy?
2) How can a Nexus approach help design new and innovative solutions?
Solar Powered Nexus Greenhouse
Let’s look into one of their successfully operated solar-powered Nexus greenhouses where they are integrating fish farming with crop and vegetable farming. The greenhouses were built using exclusively locally available materials to enable local farmers to replicate the systems.
A schematic overview of the solar powered greenhouse with fishpond, growing area for seedlings, a solar panel tree and a charging station for phones and testing equipment.
How does it work?
The installed farm has a system in which conventional aquaculture (raising fish) is combined with solar-powered greenhouse in a symbiotic environment. The fish provides waste that acts as a source of organic nutrients for plants. The combined system is a form of sustainable crop production as well as water conservation.
The solar-powered integrated nexus greenhouses installed by GEBAL enable an integration of sustainable energy, water management, and food production. The greenhouses have the following technical specifications:
- They are entirely powered by solar PV
- They integrate fish and crop production through a circular water management system, thus ensuring “more crop per drop” of water, as well as the diversification of farming outputs (fish and vegetables) and an enhancement of local access to healthy and nutritious food.
- They employ drip irrigation systems.
While in the Western Desert the model is equipped with a shade net, the systems in Upper Egypt have additional climate control mechanisms using evaporative cooling, due to the extremely hot summers.
Water Scarcity and Food Demand in the MENA Region
The MENA region is water-scarce, food-deficient, and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It holds over 50% of the world’s oil reserves and an immense potential for renewable energy. However, the region accounts for just 1.4% of the global freshwater resources. Fulfilling MENA’s high resource demands requires an understanding of the synergies and conflicts that connect water, energy and food with ecosystems, as well as the introduction of holistic approaches to secure them, protect the environment, ensure social stability and reduce social inequality.
Water scarcity in Egypt
Egypt is classified as water scarce and is expected to cross the extreme water scarcity threshold by 2025. The country experiences fast population growth of a million every six months, causing an increased pressure on dwindling natural resources. Egypt has no other option than to fundamentally rethink the way the country uses its water and energy resources.
— Ghada Abdelkarim, Agriculture Engineer, South Valley University
“I decided to join the Nexus Farm series of events so I can learn more about the interlinkage between Water-Energy and Food and how the WEF Nexus approach can be implemented in practice”
The Water-Energy-Food Nexus
Together with national and regional partners, the Nexus Regional Dialogue in the MENA region, co-funded by the European Union (EU) and the German Ministry for Development and Cooperation (BMZ), promotes the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus approach in the region to address these interdependencies and ensure the sustainable management of water, energy and food resources.
The WEF Nexus approach focuses on negotiating trade-offs, inspiring compromises and uncovering synergies to ensure water, energy and food security in the long run. It further promotes policy coherence and cooperation between all three sectors at the regional, local and global level. Since 2016, the Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme in the Middle East and North Africa Region has been working across the region to institutionalise the Water Energy Foof Nexus in public policy and planning in addition to demonstration projects that show the value-added of the WEF Nexus, capacity building activities and the identification of financing opportunities.
The Nexus Regional Dialogue in the MENA Region
From Nexus greenhouse to Nexus farming
To achieve the necessary transformation, a large number of farmers need to switch to innovative agricultural systems such as aquaponic farming operated in the Nexus greenhouses. GEBAL Egypt aims to lay the groundwork for creating an enabling environment for Egyptian farmers to uptake resource-efficient, sustainable food production at a large scale – to make a real difference to Egypt’s agricultural landscape. Have a look into their strong agenda:
- Raising awareness about solar-powered, protected, integrated farming systems among small and medium farmers.
- Generating informed and comprehensive business models based on local data and evidence.
- Strengthening cooperation with local partners to enhance trainings, capacity enhancement, and awareness-raising among local farmers.
- Creating networks among strategic partners such as local NGOs and government entities, relevant ministries and extension agencies.
- Working with strategic partners to find solutions and tailored packages that can help local farmers implement sustainable farming systems.
- Providing recommendations to policy makers on how to enhance the uptake of sustainable farming solutions among Egyptian farmers.
And all these goals are tied to the global Agenda 2030 addressing eight of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (1,2,3,6,7,11,12,13,15).
WEF Nexus Ambassadors on the path to sustain WEF Nexus security
GEBAL Egypt, with support of NRD MENA, meanwhile actively engages in shaping a new generation of WEF Nexus Ambassadors.
Here is what the 16 graduates from the Faculty of Agriculture from South Valley University had on their curriculum during their Training of Trainers workshop: i) An introduction to Climate Change and its impacts on Water-Energy and Food. ii) A session on water scarcity awareness. iii) Learning about the Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach and its importance. iv) A session on tackling solar energy and its applications in agriculture.
To round up what was taken in theoretically, the field visit to the WEF Nexus farming model in Dandara constructed by GEBAL and Schneider electric, left a memorable impression on the students. This successful Nexus Farm model is operated by the Dandara Development Center since, and is a solar-powered, integrated nexus greenhouse which enables an integration of sustainable energy, water management, and food production via the following technical specifications:
i) They are entirely powered by solar PV.
ii) They integrate fish and crop production through a circular water management system, thus ensuring “more crop per drop” of water.
iii) They serve to diversify farming outputs (fish and vegetables) and enhance local access to healthy and nutritious food.
iv) They employ drip irrigation systems.
— Mohamed Desouky, Entrepreneur, Dandara Nexus Farm
"Integrated greenhouse has efficiently helped me to protect my crops from the extreme weather we started to experience here in upper Egypt. Other farmers who still use conventional agriculture methods have lost up to 80 % of their crops in the past seasons this year due to the extreme heat and- surprisingly- the frost wave we encountered last winter."
Successfully becoming a WEF Nexus Ambassador
With all guidance, knowledge, and skills gained – with the help of the WEF Nexus Training Material – at hand the Nexus trainees had the chance put knowledge into practice. Straight away they were challenged to apply what they have learned and were up to facilitate a workshop themselves of training 30 farmers from the surrounding community on the importance of the WEF nexus and its framework.
The next step for the participants will be to themselves, train around 10 farmers. And upon successful completion, they will be granted a certificate as a trainer of the WEF Nexus approach.
The Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme
Find more information about the Nexus Regional Dialogues Programme and its activities in other regions here.
The Nexus Regional Dialogue in the MENA Region
Find more information about recent news articles, resources and activities of the Nexus Regional Dialogue in the MENA Region here.
The Nexus Training Material
The WEF Nexus training material shall contribute to an increased application of the WEF Nexus approach in planning, policymaking and implementation. Find more information here.
Implementing sustainable solutions across Egypt and the Middle East. Find out more information here.