by Tom Bosschaert

Feb. 17, 2019

Tom Bosschaert

The Integrated Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (ISAI) responds to Egypt's pressing need for ecosystem restoration and enhancing sustainable food production. This joint venture between Foresight for Development and Innovation (Egypt), Except Integrated Sustainability (Netherlands), and in close cooperation with the Egyptian government, is to realize the restoration and regeneration of over 42,000 ha of agricultural land and ensure sustainability and food security for Egypt.

Agriculture Initiative Egypt ISAI
The site of the first ISAI project in Egypt.

ISAI helps enable Egypt to realize systemic integration and nationwide sustainable food industry is possible.

Built from the ground up, ISAI has climate change resilience, adaptation, and mitigating strategies at its core - focusing on drought and climate change challenges. The key to this innovative project is to integrate productive tree plantations, agroforestry, open fields, aquaculture, and greenhouse production and become a pillar in the Egyptian government’s plan to intensify reforestation.

The entire project will be powered by 100% renewable energy sources, zero-waste management, efficient water management, and an overarching goal to enhance biodiversity.

The long-term plan is to scale up and spread the approach to other regions in Egypt and ultimately expand to other nations with similar landscapes and sustainability challenges.

ISAI contributes over 22 million trees and a variety of species to help contribute - you can endorse the project as part of the One Trillion Trees Challenge here.

ISAI offers a chance for Egypt's more arid regions to begin producing high quality and affordable food.

Regional context

Arid and semi-arid regions struggle on multiple fronts, particularly with accessing all types of resources needed for food production. All the while, populations continue to grow, and infrastructure development also expands to keep up, ensuring even more demands on the compromised soils and freshwater. Outdated practices can waste up to 80% of potable water, and the overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides causes irreparable damage to the land.

These approaches need to change on a large scale.

Using ecosystem-sensitive ways of planting suitable trees, along with sustainable water management and agroforestry practices, is a recognized way to counteract these harmful practices, restore the land, and provide long-term and healthy food production.

This need to do things better hasn't gone unnoticed. In 2016, Egypt’s president introduce targets and began to develop a new and more sustainable agriculture industry. The government initiated large-scale reclamation of desert lands totaling 630,000 ha (1.5 million feddan), with an overarching goal to expand across 1.6 million ha (4 million feddan),

The main objective of this initiative is to establish new communities in areas often viewed as unliveable and provide good job opportunities, with an emphasis on sustainable agriculture and enhancing food security.

Egypt ISAI
ISAI Egypt overview

Partnerships and stakeholders

Except will be partnering with professor Dr. Hany el-Kateb and Foresight for Development and Innovation, and working beside the Ministry of Environment, the Arab Republic of Egypt, and the Sovereign Fund of Egypt.

Our shared knowledge and experience of in-depth scientific research, innovative design, and innovative agriculture, in addition to an extensive partner network in Europe and Egypt, will ensure the development and viability of truly sustainable food systems for arid regions across the globe.

The project ties together the entire supply chain necessary for realizing long-term sustainable agriculture and connects a range of stakeholders along the way, including farmers, planners, designers, scientists, policymakers, manufacturers, and investors.

In the years to follow, the team will continue to expand on the range of partners, aiming to cover the entire realization chain.

An image of a pilot farm in the ISAI project.

Agroforestry and water sources

The ISAI project will include a diverse range of crops and trees. Whether fruit trees, palms, or a species used as a windbreak, each is selected based on appropriate risk, crop rotation, market appeal, and suitability for the environment.

This sustainable integrated farm model enhances biodiversity, reinforces resiliency, fosters the ability for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and protects from the harsh desert wind and sand.

Additionally, these projects will help fulfill the Egyptian government’s mission to secure 42,000 hectares of sustainable farming and over 22.7 million new and permanent trees.

It goes without saying that access to water and its management is vitally important to any agricultural project, let alone one that also supports extensive agroforestry and plantations, integrated production areas, aquaculture, and greenhouses systems.

The ISAI project has two similar pilot farms, based on their differences in water source:

  • A freshwater model of 51 ha - approx. 542 trees/ha
  • A saltwater model of 28 ha - approx. 130 trees/ha

The saltwater project integrates special components to use its water source as a feedstock and generate its own clean, renewable energy.

Phase II of the project sees the establishment of larger farms (exceeding several thousand acres in size) begin to appear in other regions in Egypt. During this phase, the development of the farms, production systems, and education and knowledge networks are expanded.

Phase III rolls out the program on a much wider national scale and prepares for expansion to other arid and semi-arid international regions.

desert greening 2.jpg
Different practices are needed in arid areas due to a lack of water and poor soils.

Measures of success

  • Successful realization of phase I: two pilot farms (51ha and 28ha), and planting of over 30.000 trees.
  • Proof of financially and environmentally sustainable operations and full community involvement
  • Initiation of scaling up to phase II and phase III to over 22 million trees.
  • The realization of a truly sustainable forest agriculture ecosystem within Egypt and other regions.

Key milestones

  • Achieve funding for Phase I
  • Start detailed design and development on sites 1 and 2
  • Commence farm construction
  • Begin initial farm operations
  • Adjust and optimize operations
  • Report on financial feasibility and ecological sustainability
  • Initiate Phase II and beyond

Feb. 17, 2019

Project team

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