The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is witnessing a decline in food security due to the repercussions of the wars in Ukraine, the war in Sudan, the protracted crises in Yemen, and the state of global inflation of food prices, where Egypt is one of the countries most affected. The World Bank estimates food insecurity for 2023 at 6.4%, representing 6.9 million malnourished people in Egypt. Food security is also a greater challenge for mothers and children, as lack of proper nutrition in pregnancy or early childhood leads to an increased risk of stunting, wasting and loss of education outcomes.
In an extension of the successful collaborations between the Egyptian Food Bank's (EFB) Growth Lab, The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the Sawiris Foundation for Social Development (SFSD), the three collaborating parties launched “Bridging Evidence and Policy” seminar series. As the title hints, the seminar series aims to highlight evidence from ongoing and contextual development programs in Egypt and regionally, establishing various links to inform policy.
The launch event took place on May 7th, 2023, and was titled “Impact Evaluation of Social Protection Programs." It showcased evidence and insights newly generated, including key studies designed to evaluate key social protection programs through rigorous research and randomized control impact evaluations that are relevant to contemporary social protection challenges in Egypt.
Introducing the series, Mr. Abdelrahman Nagy, Director of Learning and Strategy at SFSD, gave an overview of the shift in development practices in Egypt, especially during project design phases from depending on existing knowledge and experience to designing an informative evidence-based approach, in light of limited resources. Dr. Mohamed El-Karamany, Director of Growth Lab at EFB, highlighted that the philosophy of evidence-based programming pioneered in Egypt by SFSD, EFB, and IFPRI is important to mainstream throughout the NGO community in the country, to effectively support the government in adopting policies that are tested and deemed effective based on scientific evidence. On his part, Dr. Kibrom Abay, Egypt Country Program Leader at IFPRI, followed by affirming the importance of informing our public policy against any crisis using evidence-based approaches.
Mr. Mohsen Sarhan, CEO of the EFB, communicated his pleasure to see social interventions in the Egyptian community move towards evidence-based programming as well as establishing impact evaluation studies in a way that will transform the sector of civil society. This will help target social protection services to the most deserving people in the community. He emphasized that partnerships between Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), project partners, and the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MoSS) are paramount to achieving this change.
Eng. Noura Selim, Executive Director of SFSD, highlighted that SFSD prioritizes continuous collaborative learning and moving towards funding its programs around scientific evidence. Eng. Selim highlighted that the importance of the event stems from its linkage between SFSD’s main objective of serving the most deserving and doing so with the most efficient use of resources, directed by evidence and not just good intentions.
Dr. Khaled El-Attar, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT), highlighted the ministry’s strategy to build interlinked databases that help the social protection system to function efficiently among other benefits. Dr. El-Attar emphasized that such databases would play a pivotal role in supporting evidence-based policies relevant to many stakeholders, through analysis of big data.
H.E Dr. Nevine El-Kabbaj, Minister of Social Solidarity in Egypt (MOSS), confirmed the importance of digitization, mentioning the growing momentum in the Egyptian government towards evidence-based policies and the indispensable link between policy and digitization. Speaking on nutrition, El-Kabbaj emphasized the complexity of this developmental issue, which has direct ramifications on childhood development, maternal and child health, environmental factors, agriculture, food security, and poverty reduction.
Evidence for Social Protection in Egypt
During the main presentations, Dr. Kibrom Abay presented the preliminary findings from the General Feeding Program (GFP) impact evaluation’s baseline and midline surveys that target female-headed households. Abay highlighted the role of the GFP in protecting households’ nutrition needs from dramatically falling due to inflation and economic instability between the collection of the baseline (August 2022) and the midline (March 2023), as well as showing the difference in magnitude of nutritional support comparing the two different type of food boxes distributed by the GFP.
Dr. Sikandra Kurdi presented the results of the Takaful & Karama impact evaluation as well as the Forsa baseline. Results in the short-term show the need to continue and expand the program in the current economic circumstances, given that Takaful transfers increased total consumption and food spending. Kurdi also demonstrated a set of characteristics of Forsa participants, the self-selection graduation project from takaful that is currently being piloted by the government in order to understand the different possibilities of supporting people in need.
In that sense, Ragui Assad, Professor of Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and Research Fellow at the Economic Research Forum (ERF) presented the lessons learned from the impact evaluation of the ultra-poor graduation project “Bab Amal” targeting ultra-poor (TUP) program. The study measures the effect of multidimensional interventions, including productive assets and cash transfers on poor households, while comparing the magnitude of the effect for different transfer quantities. Results show the outcomes improvement for the participants in different interventions compared to the control group, including revenue from livestock, household income, and female employment with its different magnitudes.
Food security has deep health and economic ramifications, which brings together partners and organizers of the Bridging Evidence & Policy series as a collaborative scientific beacon into harder times. The paramount importance of creating complementary social protection programs across government entities is becoming clearer, and if designed correctly, will have a positive impact on the lives of the poor and ultra-poor in Egypt. SFSD, EFB, and IFPRI commit to scientific investments and partnerships on the way forward to enable public policy to make the best wide-scale interventions, away from poverty traps, and eventually towards the socio-economic empowerment of the poorest and most vulnerable households in our community.
 Gatti, Roberta, et al. "Altered Destinies: The Long-Term Effects of Rising Prices and Food Insecurity in the Middle East and North Africa." (2023). World Bank: Middle East and North Africa Economic Update
Senior Learning & Innovations Officer, Sawiris Foundation.
Adham currently manages advocacy, communications, and dissemination of knowledge products and events, with a supporting evaluation and evidence generation. Previously, Adham consulted on administrative reform for the EBRD & SCZone, and worked the Egyptian National Competitiveness Council (ENCC). Adham holds an MA is Social & Political Thought from University of Sussex in and holds a BA in Political Sciences from the American University in Cairo. Advocates for ecological & circular economic policy and socioeconomic solidarity, inclusion and equality.
Senior Research Assistant, Development Strategies and Governance Unit IFPRI Egypt.
Dalia holds a Master of Science in Sustainable Development Economics from Paris 1 University Panthéon-Sorbonne, and double bachelor's degrees in economics from the joint programme of the Faculty of Economics and Political Science (FEPS) Cairo University and Paris 1 University Panthéon-Sorbonne. Before working in IFPRI, Dalia was an Economic Researcher at the Ministry of Planning in Egypt, a Research Assistant at Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) and a Researcher at Multiples Group. Her research interests include development economics, food security, macroeconomics, and public policy evaluation.
Program Innovation Manager, Egyptian Food Bank.
Sara currently manages the design of innovative and evidence-based projects and the implementation of impact evaluations in the field of food security. She has over seven years of experience in designing, managing, monitoring and evaluating development projects in food security and disability inclusion. Shenouda holds an MA in International Public Health from the University of Sydney.