Peasant Solidarity Committee - Egypt
2010 / 2 / 11
"Confronting the processes and measures of expulsion of land and housing"
Ladies and gentlemen: on behalf of the Committee of Solidarity with the land Reform Farmers in Egypt I greet and thank you for inviting us to participate in the seminar. I also thank the Turkish people for hosting the seminar and its participants and I m honored to present the Committee s view which we hope would be useful contribution in this work.
The title of the current seminar held in Istanbul in February 2010 is "How people face Eviction" or how people confronting or resisting the expulsion procedures and processes of land and housing, while the actual title of the Environment Conference two months ago in November 2009 in Copenhagen was "Resisting the expulsion of life". The relationship between the two events is clear for one simple reason which is that the two sides of the equation are the same.
• The first side of the equation is the multinational global corporations and institutions who work in the field of industry, agribusiness, commerce and finance in addition to the Sates apparatuses supporting and cooperating with them on the global level.
• And the second is the general population and the poor in particular on the global level too.
It is important to clarify that the globalization in this equation (in both cases, Istanbul and Copenhagen) is realized, effective and organized for the interest of the first actor while it is absent for the second resistant party. Therefore, from the beginning and before going into details we would like to remind ourselves that the battle in the North and the South is one battle ... Because in both cases the enemy is the same, which are the global multinational corporations and the Sates apparatuses supporting and cooperating with them.
It is not enough to talk just about this issue; it became clear that what brings us together is the need to initiate programs, mechanisms and practical measures for resistance.
Egypt for example:
- Occupies an area of one million square kilometers while the population lives on just 4% of this area because the remainder is desert.
- Has a per capital agricultural land of no more than 350 square Meters because agricultural land is 6,4 million acres (about 3 million hectares), while the population is 78 million people. Therefore, Egypt has become one of the biggest importers of wheat and food in the world.
- As a result, the farming land is expected to disappear from Egypt in over 50-60 years because the part taken for housing construction is estimated at 60-70,000 acres per year as the population rise by one million each year, while the rate of reclaimed land increase is negligible.
- As the farmers in Egypt build their homes on their arable lands, they gradually lose their land and hence their residence.
- Where there is no insurance against unemployment, those who lose their jobs or work in the city lose their residence.
To clarify the situation further we say that:
- The agricultural land in Egypt remained the property of the ruler and his family since ancient Egyptians times until near the end of the nineteenth century. It was just since 1880 when the private ownership of land started to be practiced gradually by those surrounding the Royal family.
- In 1952 a military revolution occurred when its leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, issued a land reform law by which he confiscated less than a million acres from the big landowners (no more than 20% of agricultural land at that time).
- He also issued two important laws in 1957 and 1962 conveying the land that was appropriated earlier by some big owners to spending on charity purposes (e.g., building mosques supporting orphans, the poor and treating the sick) and called Awqaf land to the ownership of the Agrarian Reform Agency for distribution to landless peasants in two ways: tenure and rent.
Thus, the agricultural land in Egypt at that time belonged to the following categories:
1. The big landowners, who escaped from the application of the agrarian reform act.
2. The intermediate and small landowners.
3. The poor peasants who did not benefit from the agrarian reform act. 4. The Poor peasants who benefited from the agrarian reform law either through tenure or leasing of land.
5. The poor peasants who rent the Awqaf land designated for charity.
After 50 years of the military revolution (year 2000) the scene became as follows:
- Those who own more than 20 acres represented 1.2% of the farmers and cultivate 25% of the agricultural land in Egypt
- Those who own 5-20 acres represented 8.8% of the farmers and cultivate 28% of the agricultural land in Egypt.
- Those who less than 5 acres represented 90% of the farmers and cultivate 47% of the agricultural land in Egypt.
From the above, it is clear that the prevailing pattern of production in 75% of agricultural land is the small peasant production style used by about 99% of the farmers, while in 25% of the land the big production pattern is prevalent as represented by 1.2% of the of the farmers.
After the death of Nasser in 1970 and with the coming of president Sadat a regression against all the policies, laws and procedures that have been taken to benefit the poor has taken place. The Parliament (which comes through totally fake election since 50 years ago) issued several laws that hurt the small owners and the poor as well as the agricultural production. This includes:
1. Removing the State control on at least 30% of the territory of agrarian reform and restoring the previous big landowners tenure control over the land.
2. Eliminating the subsidies for agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, animal feed, vaccines and machines).
3. Raising the rent of the farmland 6-8 times its previous value with a new law that limits the land renting period.
4. Increasing the agricultural loans interest rate from 4% to 18%.
5. Abolishing a number of major agrarian laws or emptying them from their contents.
6. Destroying the most important Egyptian cash crop of long staple cotton.
7. Imposing a private and a State monopoly over trade in the crops produced by the farmers and lowering the purchasing prices in comparison to both the prices of the agricultural inputs and the world prices.
8. Establishing "The courts of values" where the State assigns half of its members from outside the judicial ranks and decides on issues aimed at expelling peasants out of their land which they acquired from the Agricultural Reform Agency or from "Waqf" either through ownership or renting.
These policies, laws and procedures were the introduction, which played the main role in evicting the peasants out of their land and their homes. On the other hand, a new Act was passed for the housing rents in cities to specify the duration of the lease, which contributed to a sky rocketing of the housing rents in order to narrow the screws on the urban poor.
How the process of expelling peasants from their lands occurs?
1. Farmers are prevented from obtaining the contracts, which proves their ownership of the land that they purchased from the Agrarian Land Reform Agency and the hiding of the documents, which proves that they paid the land price (this occurs at all agricultural governorates where the Land Reform Act was applied)
2. The State and the Agrarian Reform Agency support to the feudal big landowners and their heirs in getting fabricated judicial rulings from the "Courts of Values" and the Administrative Courts to recover the land confiscated or put under State control (in all governorates).
3. The collusion of the State, the Agrarian Reform Agency and the police to forge judicial rules when implementing provisions (Dakahlyia governorate).
4. The contravention of law and forcing farmers to leave the territory by force (Bahaira governorate). This is in addition to hundreds of thousands of farmers who were expelled from their rented holdings in 1997 when the new rent law was implemented (in all governorates).
5. The Ministry of Awqaf has played the main role in expelling many tenant farmers of land that it used to run, in complicity with the Agrarian Reform Agency- and sold it to the associations of police officers, judges, big businessmen, big farmers and many of the former statesmen, local rulers and influential people (Gharbia, Alexandria and Dakahliyia governorates).
As the land was in possession of peasants, who refused to leave despite the continuing pressures and threats, all known means of violence have been used against them by the police, the outlaws and others (as in the region of Ma emoura East of Alexandria on the 23rd
of September 2009 where one of the peasants leaders was assassinated for refusing to leave the land to Alexandria police officers association and his noncompliance to the threat).
6. Peasants owned the old reclaimed land and some new reclaimed land (Ameriya-South Alexandria, Al-Hammam area at Matrouh governorate).
7. Bedouins who owned the land by purchase or by seizure since at least 100 years and who confront the State apparatus directly (Borg El-Arab region South of Alexandria).
Why not peasants could, in many cases, resist their eviction?
1. Peasants low level of political and union awareness.
2. Their severe level of poverty and weak capacity cripple them to cope with their enemies in courts and police stations.
3. The prohibition by law to form trade unions and federations for the peasants that would unite them, raise their consciousness, defend their rights and generate power for them in society.
4. State and security agencies harassment of activists who show solidarity with the peasants through faked up court cases, following them, defamation and administrative job transfers.
5. The weakness or absence of political support from the international peasants associations or from the human rights organizations.
6. Imposing economic strains on farmers by raising the cost of agriculture and reducing crop prices in order to force them to leave the agricultural work or sell the land to the big farmers.
As many ruling regimes in the poor countries govern by the emergency laws and implement the directions of the big States, which dominate the world and its institutions such as the World Bank and IMF, this has created a favorable atmosphere for the large multinational corporations in the fields of production and marketing of agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, feed, vaccines, agricultural machines ... etc) to impose their conditions on the poor communities especially in the agricultural field. In brief, these corporations see the small peasants style of production, which is prevalent in rural Egypt as an obstacle to impose their complete control over the market and therefore aim at destroying it through the following means:
1. Issuing state orders and new legislations that would help expel the great majority of the small and poor peasants out of agricultural land (In June 2007 the Ministry of agriculture issued orders that violate the law by considering those who own less than three acres as "non-peasants but agricultural workers" because they represent 75% of the peasants and they incorporate the main resisters against the formal agricultural policies and fight against their eviction of land.
2. Depriving the land tenants (poor and small peasants) from obtaining the agriculture inputs from the Agricultural Cooperatives in violation of the agriculture law according to which the land tenure is recorded under the owners names and not under the cultivators .
3. Raising the cost of agricultural production and inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, animal s feed, vaccines, agricultural machines ... etc), as mentioned before. All these measures and procedures deprive around 75% of the Egyptian farmers from the their lands and open the road wide to the big landowners and the global multinational agribusiness corporations to change the small farmer form of cultivation into the large intensive pattern and fills the streets with homeless, criminals and violent armed groups; and put the society under the mercy of the corporations as well as it disturbs the biological and ecological balance of the environment.
Therefore we should admit that our battle is with the global multinational corporations and the forces behind them are a one battle in the North and the South of the Globe. Thus, we should work together and not to be satisfied by just talking about it. In fact, from now on we should start to unite our struggle against these corporations and work to particularly support the peasants of the South in order to persist in their battle, which if lost will reflect directly on the battle of the peasants in the North with these corporations. In addition we should put together one agenda where practical actions be its main part in order not to meet again and repeat what we have said today.
With all my gratitude and appreciation.
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