A man is sitting at an irrigation canal near Qena on the Nile, Egypt.

Priority area Use and management of water resources / waste management Protecting resources, avoiding conflicts

Egypt is one of the most water-poor countries in the world. Ninety-five per cent of the country is desert and less than four per cent of the land can be used for agriculture.

Agriculture, industry and the population are heavily dependent on the Nile. In order to be able to meet the needs of the various user groups, the available water must be used even more efficiently than hitherto.

The country is also facing major challenges when it comes to the collection and disposal of waste. Current waste management practices are causing major problems for human health, the environment, and the global climate.

German activities

Germany is supporting Egypt in its efforts to reform the water sector with the following goals in mind:

  • fostering efficient use of water
  • providing poor people with access to drinking water
  • improving health through proper sanitation
  • improving efficiency levels in the agricultural use of water
  • modernising the infrastructure for water supply and sanitation
  • promoting the financial viability of the sector and strengthening public and private institutions
  • decentralising the sector and building up local water user communities
  • training experts and educating the population with regard to water issues

Integrated water resources management

The approach adopted under German development cooperation in pursuit of these goals is a holistic one: Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as it is known seeks to reconcile measures to protect the environment and the climate with the imperatives of economic development and the needs of local people.

Funding is being provided, for example, to support the modernisation of Egypt's agricultural irrigation infrastructure. Together with smallholder farmers, experts are developing strategies for using less water. Germany is helping the owners of small family farms to get together to form water user groups and harmonise their irrigation cycles.

The BMZ is also supporting the efforts of Egypt's ministries of water and agriculture to involve water user organisations and agricultural cooperatives more closely in processes for planning and extension services.

Waste management sector

In the waste sector, the reform process is only just beginning. Air pollution in the mega city Cairo with its population of more than 20 million inhabitants is not only caused by industry and traffic; the uncontrolled burning of solid waste is also a contributing factor.

Although there are tens of thousands of informal waste collectors working in the city, their efforts are limited to the more prosperous areas, where they can turn a profit on the waste they collect. Across the country only about 60 per cent of all waste is collected, with less than 20 per cent being disposed of properly or recycled; fly tipping is widespread. In areas used to grow crops, waste pollutes water resources and impairs the proper functioning of drainage channels.

Through a national domestic waste management programme, Germany is supporting its Egyptian partners in creating the urgently needed infrastructure for waste disposal and developing the requisite administrative bodies. Working with the European Union, Germany is supporting Egypt in setting up a waste management system that meets needs and ensures cost recovery. And "green" jobs are to be created through new, decentralised forms of waste collection and recycling.