Egypt and farming

Egypt’s population of nearly 100 million is growing rapidly and about 38 million live in unplanned communities.

In the turmoil after the 2011 Arab Spring, the number of unlicensed buildings sky-rocketed. Now authorities are cracking down on residents who build on farmland, but are providing few alternatives for those who need cheap houses.

People who build on agricultural land now face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 5 million Egyptian pounds ($280,000). Before the law was revised in January, the top fine was 50,000 pounds ($2,800) and the prison term wasn’t specified.

Authorities say they want to end unlicensed building on farmland, reduce overcrowding and provide homes for the poor, but analysts say many new government housing projects are too expensive and have poor services.

As a result, large numbers of new homes are unoccupied, while people still build on farmland in areas where housing demand is high.