A scoping mission concerning extension and advisory information in Upper Egypt during May 2011 showed that associations are one of the primary conduits of information delivery to farmers. USAID programming under the Agricultural Exports and Rural Incomes (AERI) and other projects, such as AgLink and AgReport, helped to establish manyof the associations. At the present time less than half are still active. The active and efficient associations that remain represent the building blocks for a renewed effort to deliver information about on-farm management of crop productivity and natural resource management to farmers in Upper Egypt. A new campaign could deliver organizational and business development skills to a carefully selected subset of the existing associations to diagnose and affirm the key elements contributing to sustainability. Findings suggest that associations that provide a broad suite of rural development services are more sustainable than those that are narrowly focused because more complexity allows for diversification of funding.
USAID/Cairo is understandably cautious and pragmatic concerning assistance to the formal extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reform (MALR); however, if ever there was a time to assist in reform of the Egyptian government it is now. Although now already out of office, the former Minister was keen to participate in USAID programming, in part because the new Egypt is a cash-strapped bureaucracy with great need of institutional reform, but also because he feels more associations could have survived if MALR was better implicated in AERI implementation. He described three key USAID projects: (1) the National Agricultural Research Project (NARP) – key to building Egyptian capacity; (2) the Agricultural Technology Utilization and Transfer (ATUT) project – focused on the private sector and impact on export of high value crops but impacting small and poor farmers; and (3) AERI – a project to reach small farmers.