The Toshka project south of Aswan, reportedly the largest of its kind in the Middle East, seeks to largely achieve self-sufficiency in wheat, a basic commodity that Egyptians rely on in their daily diet.
The project was originally launched in 1997 during the tenure of late President Hosni Mubarak to reclaim and cultivate 540,000 feddans. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2017.
The project aims to increase habitable land from 5 to 25 percent, expanding agricultural production and creating new job opportunities away from the dense arable lands of Delta and the Nile valley.
Work at the Toshka project, widely dubbed as futile by experts who questioned its feasibility, stopped in 2008 before it was revived by El-Sisi in July 2020.
During the inauguration ceremony on Sunday, the president explained that the inability to continue the Toshka project in the past was due to a funding shortage rather than the futility of the project, affirming that 60 percent of the Toshka lands are arable.
The project seeks to decrease Egyptian wheat imports to only a quarter of total consumption, according to a documentary broadcast during the inauguration ceremony on Sunday by the Armed Forces’ Department of Morale Affairs.
The project aims to increase agricultural lands in Egypt by 500,000 feddans, possibly increasing to one million in the future, the documentary explained.
During the inauguration, El-Sisi urged expediting efforts to reclaim planned lands under the Toshka project, saying the lands may produce about 500,000 tons of wheat.
The state has reclaimed 85,000 feddans out of 100,000 feddans as part of the first phase of the Toshka project in 2021. The second phase will start in January 2022 to complete the project by reclaiming around 500,000 feddans.
The state has also cultivated 1.35 million palm trees over 21,000 feddans as part of the project, according to the documentary.
El-Sisi said the engineering efforts in the Toshka project resembles the construction of the Aswan High Dam, which cost $500 million, blaming the state for the lack of media attention to these achievements.
“We are doing the impossible,” El-Sisi said in reference to the completion of the reclamation and cultivation projects in Sinai and Toshka in such a short period of time.
El-Sisi thanked the late Kamal El-Ganzouri, Egypt’s prime minister who started the Toshka project.
El-Sisi said work on the Toshka project was interrupted over the past years by a nine kilometre granite wall that was then destroyed by three million tons of explosives.
Land reclamation in Sinai
The state is also working on reclaiming 500,000 feddans in Central and North Sinai at a cost of EGP 100 billion, Head of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority Ehab El-Far said during the ceremony.
The project also includes the establishment of 18 water lifting stations.
A total of 186,000 feddans have been already cultivated in Central Sinai, El-Far noted.
El-Sisi said that the new cultivated lands could benefit up to 100,000 families.
The president added that all water used to cultivate the Sinai lands is treated agricultural wastewater produced by the Bahr Al-Baqar water treatment plant in the northern governorate of Port Said.
The Toshka and Sinai projects are part of a major national project to cultivate two million feddans nationwide.
During the inauguration, El-Sisi ordered the government to prevent the cultivation of decorative plants, affirming the need to cultivate arable lands with fruitful plants instead.
El-Sisi also inaugurated via video conference the Toshka-Sharq El-Owainat road in southern Egypt with a total distance of 360 kilometres.
On Saturday, the president inaugurated a series of national projects in various sectors in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena, including two industrial complexes and road projects.
On Wednesday, El-Sisi also inaugurated a gasoline production complex in Assiut as well as a number of development projects in Upper Egypt.
The inaugurations came within the framework of the "Week of Upper Egypt" activities announced last week as part of the “state’s efforts to achieve integrated development and service progress for the people of Upper Egypt,” Presidential Spokesman Bassam Rady said earlier.