The New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) has destroyed and removed arable lands in Beni Suef and Fayoum so that they can use the land for their New Fayoum City construction project, according to the Association of Legal Cooperative to Support Workers’ Awareness.
According to the association, which represents the farmers of the claimed land, the farmers of these lands were not present because it was not harvest time, and therefore were not warned.
The association said the NUCA, which falls under the umbrella of the Ministry of Housing, destroyed and removed arable land, and the irrigation network in the Tama Fayoum hamlet in Ahnasiya village, which falls under the Beni Suef governorate.
The association said the authority removed the crops and displaced the farmers out of their homes in the process.
The NUCA claims that the land falls under the New Fayoum City project, in the governorate of Fayoum. “In reality, the hamlet falls under the jurisdiction of the Beni Suef governorate and not in Fayoum governorate,” the association claims.
“Further, there are also large areas of land bordering the cordoned land that are non-arable land, [but] are owned by major-generals and judges, according to the signs marking these lands,” the association added, suggesting that this influenced the decision to destroy the farmers’ land.
The association said the land owned by generals and judges was obtained through purchases, but remain desert and have not been cultivated into farmland.
“The government’s decisions are arbitrary and serve only the investors and this is not the first violation committed in Tama Fayoum village,” the association claimed.
The farmers have claimed that the government is contradicting its own statements, questioning its calls for national reclamation projects of 1m acres while removing what farmers have cultivated into agricultural lands.
“These lands were cultivated through our efforts without the interference of the government, and it provided no help and didn’t provide us with job opportunities,” the farmers claimed. “These lands were our jobs and our livelihoods.”
The law gives those who reclaim desert areas and turn them into arable land the right to own the land, provided that the authorities collect annual fees from farmers and they continue to take care of the land, according to the association.
According to Article 3 of Law 59 /1979 concerning the establishment of the new urban communities, it is prohibited to establish new urban communities on agricultural land. In addition, Article 1 prohibits the establishment of new communities outside the boundaries of existing cities and villages.
As further evidence of the farmers’ ties to the land, two water companies claim they connected the farmers’ land to potable water networks and collected monthly bills from them.
The association further claimed that NUCA did not give the farmers time to harvest their crops and did not listen to their please to pay their debts. The farmers moreover stated that they will not leave their lands and will use all legal channels to get their rights.
This incident is not the first of its kind. Nine years ago, in the Menufiya governorate, the NUCA approximately 70,000 acres of arable land in the Sadat area.
A similar situation occurred in Kawala village, in the Sohag governorate. In 2000, a presidential decree was issued to establish New Akhmim City in the desert of Sohag. The NUCA’s plan included lands that were reclaimed by farmers 20 years prior. Removal of arable lands led to the displacement of 84 families and about 500 acres were destroyed.