By Hagar ElDidi, Jose Luis Figueroa and Mariam Raouf
MAP Egypt: A tool for improving policy and investment decisions
Monitoring the progress of agricultural projects is key for effective policy design and decision making. What types of agricultural projects are currently underway in Egypt? Where are they? Who is funding them? How many people are benefiting? Are the projects targeted at poorer areas or areas closer to markets? Is there potential for collaboration among national and international project implementers?
To provide answers to these and other questions, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), together with the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MoALR) and Development Seed (software developers), is building the open-source online tool Mapping Agricultural Progress in Egypt (MAP Egypt). Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), this tool aims to improve the planning, coordination, and effectiveness of agriculture projects as well as the evaluation of future proposals. In addition to fulfilling government needs, development partners, researchers, and other stakeholders can explore the state of agriculture in Egypt at the aggregate and project levels with MAP Egypt, thereby building synergies among a broader community.
Roundtable meeting at MoALR to showcase MAP Egypt
A participatory approach
At a roundtable meeting on 21 April 2016, stakeholders agreed on the key features that would make MAP Egypt most effective. MoALR hosted the second roundtable meeting on January 23 to showcase the pilot version of the mapping tool. Representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Agriculture Donor Partners Group (DPG) attended the meeting and shared their final feedback on the tool, discussed options for accelerating data collection and entry, as well as the institutional setup for maintaining the tool.
Prof. Dr. Dina El-Khishin, then-supervisor of the Foreign Agriculture Relations of MoALR and assistant to the minister, welcomed participants and acknowledged the FAO and DPG for creating the Agricultural Project Matrix, which MAP Egypt draws from and builds on. Dr. Dina noted that “if a new donor comes to Egypt, or if a minister, prime minster, or even the president needs information on where to invest or the status of projects,” they need a tool like MAP Egypt.
She added that all donors working in agriculture and rural development should contribute data to the tool to keep it current.
MAP Egypt features
IFPRI research associate Hagar ElDidi demonstrated MAP Egypt, showcasing the tool’s functionality and how it visually displays the data. MAP Egypt makes previously scattered data on agriculture projects—including location, donors, budget, timeline, and subsector(s)—easily and publically accessible. The tool can also aggregate the same type of project information to generate summary statistics and compare project components and objectives.
Users can also map and chart a wide range of indicators on food and nutrition security, poverty, agriculture and development across Egypt. This helps contextualize projects and identify which governorates /districts require further assistance. MAP Egypt focuses on indicators that monitor progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Egypt’s Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS).
Information generated by MAP Egypt can be printed as a PDF, is available in both English and Arabic, and is accessible online and via mobile phones.
Participants expressed their eagerness to use and contribute to MAP Egypt. Several suggested ways to enhance the tool’s features—for instance, categorizing projects based on their different forms of development assistance and highlighting donor synergies and co-financed projects.
To prepare the launch of the final version, MAP Egypt must still be populated with the remaining past, ongoing, and planned agricultural projects. Dr. El-Khishin called on the DPG and IFPRI to continue working together to collect and effectively pool project data.
Focusing on the sustainability of the online tool is essential. Thus, as a next step, IFPRI will conduct a series of trainings for MoALR staff on managing and updating MAP Egypt. The first training session is expected to take place at the end of February. This will pave the way for the transfer of the tool to project managers within MoALR, who will continue to maintain the database in the future.