Measures to protect farmland – Egypt – Al-Ahram Weekly
Over the past 40 years, Egypt has lost half a million feddans to encroachment
In a move intended to toughen penalties for those who illegally seize farmland, the government has moved to ban offenders from receiving state subsidies, including on bread and fertilizer from agricultural cooperatives.
Buildings erected illegally on agricultural land will be confiscated and heavy fines imposed on contractors.
Although these sanctions do not require legislative amendments, the government has decided to make legal changes to make these violations a breach of trust, said MP Amr Darwish, who are subject to suspension of the employment in the public sector.
The Prime Minister instructed the Minister of Justice to draft a bill to enforce the new penalties.
During a parliamentary session on January 23, Darwish noted that 400 violations of farmland had been observed in just two months, including 200 cases in which the violators had dug foundations and erected columns of buildings.
Worse still, there was no official record of these encroachments, he added.
This could indicate that local governments are complicit in such crimes, Darwish said, stressing the need for immediate investigations into all land encroachments.
The government has moved to toughen penalties for farmland violations, although they have decreased in recent years, cabinet spokesman Nader Saad said.
Over the past 40 years, Egypt has lost half a million feddans to encroachments and needs LE 150 billion to recover them.
According to the agriculture minister, field inspections will be intensified across the country by the Central Land Protection Administration to monitor land violations.
The ministry has agreed with local governors to form committees that will investigate violations, he added, saying the fact that there was no specific entity tasked with ending violations had encouraged some people to commit such crimes.
A central committee will be made up of members of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Local Development whose main task will be to review the monthly reports issued by the governorates.
The Prime Minister said that, based on directives from President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi, he would follow up on these reports until land violations are completely eliminated to help preserve Egypt’s agricultural land.
Hazem Al-Guindi, a member of the Senate and strategic planning adviser to the Wafd party chairman, said encroachments on agricultural land and construction violations posed a risk to Egypt’s food security.
In January 2018, Parliament approved amendments to Section 156 of the Agriculture Act to punish violators of Section 152 of the Act with a prison term of at least two years and at least two years. more than five years and a sentence of at least LE 100,000 and not more than LE5 million.
The amendment states that violations are to be removed at the infringer’s expense.
Farmers’ Union leader Hussein Abu Saddam said land encroachment was a crime against future generations, adding that the last time penalties were increased to five years in prison had helped ease the problem.
But the new sanctions were not enough to stop the violations, he said, due to the increase in population and the fact that many villages are not surrounded by desert land where the population can live. extend without encroaching on agricultural land.
He said current laws should be enough to stop encroachments, adding that violations take different forms, including converting farmland into arable land and using it to grow unsuitable crops.
Instead of threatening suspension from a public sector job, Abu Saddam suggested tougher penalties and raising awareness of the importance of Egypt’s farmland through media campaigns. People should have alternatives for building and storing building materials, he said.
He added that the cancellation of subsidies for offenders could be misinterpreted as a threat that the government plans to abolish these subsidies altogether.
*A version of this article appeared in the February 17, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.