Newsletter Volume 8 – January to March 2021

Dear Reader,

This is our eights newsletter of the Organic Egypt project. This newsletter reviews the first quarter of 2021. In this newsletter we will explain the trainings and workshops that were received by our partner associations. Also we will show  the status of the pilot projects implemented at the partner associations to foster innovations. Furthermore, you will learn more about the raising awareness, educational, and marketing campaigns that we implement with our different partners. Finally, we will report on the new project in Aswan that Organic Egypt is supporting. Enjoy reading our latest activities Stay safe and healthy!



TRAININGS AND WORKSHOPS FOR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS 

Situation analysis to DRWACAs’ Members

A situation analysis for DRWACA team and members was conducted in January 2021. DRWACA works in five villages and has a total of 450 members. During this workshop, a field visit to Al-Khedr village, to the farm of DRWACA’s facilitator Hayam Mohamed. She and 12 other farm leaders from Al-Khedr village attended the workshop. All farmers in Khedr and Mousa villages grow olive trees, pickled varieties like Ageezy, Tofahy, and oil olives varieties. When the trees are small, different medicinal and aromatic plants like Chamomile are cultivated between the raws. Mousa village and Al-Khedr village have around 5500 Feddans, most of them are cultivated olive trees.

The 370 members of DRWACA in these two villages have around 1000 Feddan of olive trees, each one owns 2.5 feddan. The consultant Dr. Hassan Aboubakr, who is an expert in organic olive production and has an organic olive orchard himself explained basic organic cultivation techniques, pest control and fertilization method and pruning process. The farmers were very interested and eager to learn and cultivate organically. During the workshop, the following training needs for DRWACA staff and facilitators in the villages were defined: Organic olive cultivation (Bio-fertilization, Pest control, Pruning, Pickling and marketing);Compost making and Organic Cultivation of medicinal plants.

TOT in composting

The partner association EBDA expressed its need to conduct a ToT in composting for its staff. 3 of the EBDA staff left the association at the end of 2020 and 3 new employees were employed. In February, 4 engineers started with the consultant Dr. Ramy Mohamed the ToT in session for 2 hours per week. The feedback of the engineers so far is very positive and they have gained a lot of knowledge on how to be a trainer, and on the topic itself. The ToT is expected to be finished by the end of May 2021.

NEW INNOVATIVE SERVICES OF OUR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS

Organic Egypt supports the piloting of new innovative services that the partner associations offer to their farmers. One of the major problems the farmers face is finding organic agricultural production inputs in good quality. Most of the available organic pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers are either imported consequently very expensive and even sometimes expired, or locally produced but in very bad quality. Therefore, the associations are working to supply their farmers with good quality organic agricultural inputs like bio pest control and biofertilizers. Organic Egypt is supporting the development of these new innovative products and services. Some of the pilot projects that are tested and implemented are listed below:

Biofertilizers laboratory for IDAM farmers

In December 2020, the construction works of the bio-fertilizers laboratory started, it was supposed to be finished by January 2021. However, extra finishing works were needed as rusty concrete was detected in the ceiling, which had to be changed and that required more time than expected. All devices and benches are delivered and ready to be connected and start working. After a visit in March from the consultant Dr. Abdalallah Koryem to IDAM’s laboratory, the production is supposed to start in April accompanied with a second training to IDAM staff in the established laboratory.

Predators Laboratory for EBDA farmers – from Lab to Field

In February and March 2021, 10 feddans of lemon and orange trees at Adlia farm, one of EBDAs farms located in Sharqia, had been treated with aphid lion predator. 80 packs in total had been distributed in this area. In general, these crops need 8 releases per year. Also for the jojoba trees on 5 feddans, the first release of 30 packs have been done. 3 more releases are planned this year! In the same Farm, another 6 feddan of vegetables like green beans, summer squash had the first and second release of phid lion predator, each release requires 6 packs/ feddan. In general, the vegetables crops get 3 – 4 releases per season according to the observation of the case. On another EBDA farm, located in the Wahat Bahariya Oasis, 10 feddans of medicinal and aromatic plants had 2 releases of aphid lion predator so far. In fact, it is planned to release the predator on 50 feddan in total to catch any infestation of aphids in the early stages.

Crops that will be treated with the aphid lion are amongst others coriander, dill, chamomile, carthamus, fennel, Nigella sativa, caraway, and Cumin, these medicinal and aromatic plants will get in total 3 releases per season, one more release is planned in April. So far, the numbers of aphids are under control on all crops where the aphid lions predators were released. The laboratory got an inquiry from another EBDA farmer in Fayoum for 53 feddans of fennel, the aphid lion production for this area is supposed to be ready by the end of April. The laboratory is working with 50% capacity at the moment. It is planned to continue releases on the mentioned farms for the summer season and increase the marketing of the lab among other farmers of the partner associations.

Beehives for increasing pollination:

EBDA started this new innovative service to provide their farmers with beehives to ensure a successful pollination and increase the yield of their crops naturally. The development of this innovative service is going according to plan; EBDA is working on increasing the number of beehives and ensuring the purity of the variety “Lamarkii”. Furthermore, it is planned to start sending the hives to the members of EBDA this summer to analyze and record what is needed and what can be improved until the second phase (provide the farmers with the hives during pollination time) starts in August 2020.

Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)

The Participatory Guarantee System project that was started in August 2020, it was further developed and implemented. In a meet up with the 12 pilot group members it was renamed to be the “Earth Partners Network” with the purpose to celebrate and nurture life with earth! The Earth Partners include all the supply chain: farmers, producers, transportation and packaging companies, distributors, retailers, and consumers. Moreover, Organic Egypt partner associations namely EBDA, IDAM and DRWACA are part of this pilot group. The Earth Partners Network brings together Earth Partners (stakeholders) of the food value chain who are passionate about food that is healthy for people and the planet. Through establishing a recognizable quality label around agroecology principles and shared values, customers can drive demand for these food products.

It focuses on learning and stories rather than rigid standards that are black and white; “agroecology does not promote technical recipes but rather principles”. It fosters connection and an open dialogue between the land, consumers, farmers and producers around their willingness to learn and improve. The pilot concentrates on creating mutual trust and sharing around challenges and successes, as well as meet ups, focus groups and field visits. Feedback and learning from the pilot group is integrated into the next iteration of the Earth Partners Network and the second cycle will expand both the number of farms/suppliers as well as the information gathered and communicated.

Economy of Love Standard

The economy of Love certification reached a milestone in the beginning of 2021. The value chains of certain products like anise, hibiscus, chamomile and peppermint tea as well as salted peanuts, peanut-butter, moringa powder and dates are fully certified. Those products from the first company certified called SEKEM are now in April entering the local market. These certified products are in addition fully transparent. Customers can trace back all information related to this product by scanning the QR code (www.economyoflove.net). In the upcoming phase the Economy of Love EDU (education program) will be developed and can benefit all people in the supply chain.

EDUCATIONAL AND AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGNS

EBDA awareness raising campaign for Farmers

With the support of Organic Egypt, EBDA started a series of awareness raising campaigns to spread awareness of organic agriculture all over Egypt in order to increase the number of organic farmers and farms. The series started in October last year in three governorates; Kafr El Sheikh, Al Moghra and Fayoum. This year in January, a campaign in Minya was conducted, around 60 farmers and interested people participated in this campaign.

Organic Egypt Ambassadors Program OEAP

The 8 students that successfully participated and finished the program got their certificates on the 24th of March 2021. It was a beautiful celebration where the students got the chance to give their feedback on the program and explain the impact of the program on their daily life and on the communities they live in. Depending on their time and interest in the coming semester, they will receive an internship place in one of the running projects at Heliopolis University.

Farmers and Processors Market

Organic Egypt in cooperation with the Rdna food community is organizing and implementing monthly Farmers and Processors Markets in an open space at KMT house, Maadi in Cairo. In December 2020 and January 2021 the market was closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. In February and March 2021 the Market was held successfully with very positive feedback. In total around 18 vendors participated, amongst them IDAM and EBDA members. Around 300 to 400 people participated and connected to small scale producers and farmers to exchange stories and knowledge.

Consumer – Farmers Excursions

On these excursions, consumers get the chance to increase their understanding and awareness of what it really means to farm or produce food. The following questions are at the heart of excursions; what are the challenges for small scale farmers and producers in Egypt? How can we build solidarity between farmers and producers on the one hand, and consumers on the other? How can consumers, farmers, and producers support one another and strengthen one another?

The first excursion was conducted in March 2021 to one of EBDAs members; Adlia Farm in Sharqia. 20 consumers attended this one day trip, where they visited the greenhouse and saw cherry tomatoes and green beans, the stables with the livestock, the compost and saw different crops on the open field. There were many discussions with the agricultural engineer about food production and animal husbandry. Among the consumers were the economic chief of a bank, a young man

who had studied permaculture, a professor of sustainable development, and also another farm owner and supplier of rdna. Hence the discussions were very diverse, deep and insightful. These excursions are planned to be conducted on a monthly basis. The seats are blocked long in advance as the hunger for reconnection to nature and the source of food is growing.

Rdna Salons

The Rdna salons are sharing circles about conscious living, where topics like regenerative cities, the food system, holistic health and much more are discussed. Rdna is inviting all consumers, suppliers and farmers to these salons. Speakers from different walks of life are invited to share their experience and knowledge. In February, the rdna salon topic was “THE TASTE OF HEALTH: How to activate your immune system through food” with the guest speaker Asmaa Lahlou

Around 15 people participated in this session with tastings and learning about how to stay healthy through healthy food. In March, a trilogy salon series was started together with rdna partners Economy of Love (EoL) team with the title “Imagining an Economy of Love” discussing questions such as Do you know the stories behind the products you buy? Do you know your impact? How can we care for each other, the planet and meet everyone’s needs?     

Awareness raising Articles

The articles published on: https://blog.rdnastore.com/ are aligned with specific monthly themes. Different topics are discussed such as “The true cost of food production: why is organic more expensive” or different diets, ways of producing, cooking and consuming food. The intention is to raise awareness for complex topics and support consumers in building their knowledge and intuition in making the best food choices for themselves and the environment. The publishing started in January 2021 with articles like THE VEGETARIAN DIET: Is living without meat the better choice? and AYURVEDA: an ancient art of healing through food, amongst other. The articles reached 260 views. In February the topic shifted to agricultural questions like WHY IS SOIL SO IMPORTANT AND HOW DOES FARMING CHANGE IT? And HYDROPONIC AGRICULTURE: Can it be a sustainable alternative? And many more, which reached around 250 views. In March the theme was “Egyptian Heritage Food” where articles explored the rich Egyptian heritage of different bread, baked goods, herbs and spices, animal breeds and processing techniques.  

ASWAN COOPERATION PROJECT BETWEEN EBDA AND PDF

In the collaboration framework between the Egyptian Biodynamic Association (EBDA) and the Professional Development Foundation (PDF), 14 farmers in 4 villages in Wadi El Nokra participated in the winter season cultivation of 20/21 on a total area of 17 feddans (ca. 7 ha). The responsible consultant Dr. Saber Hendawy is traveling to Aswan every month to follow up on the cultivation and consult the farmers on organic agricultural practices.

Generally, the cultivated plants are in very good and healthy shape and only some minor infestation and diseases occurred. During the visit in February, the farmers signed their contracts with Lotus company, all terms of the contract were discussed with the farmers and prices were agreed on. Lotus company will buy all the produce from the farmers including marjoram, spearmint, fennel and blackseed with up to 10% higher prices than the local prices. On the last day of the February visit, a training on compost and the composting process was conducted. All farmers from the four villages participated in this training program.

In the end of February, a meeting with the PDF team and the consultant was conducted to discuss the overall result of the trail area and elaborate how to continue in the upcoming season. The cultivation is going very well and the farmers are very happy and thankful for the constant support and consultations. 2 farmers will be excluded though; one farmer used herbicides and the other farmer has very high salinity problems in his soils. The remaining 12 farmers are very good, committed, and interested. During the visit in March, an information session was conducted to ask the farmers who are interested in continuing the upcoming summer season and if there are new farmers who want to join. 

The summer season cultivation will be basil, peppermint, sesame and hibiscus. With 5 new farmers who expressed their interest to join, additionally 12 previous farmers increased their areas. The total area for the summer season cultivation will be 60 feddans (ca. 25 ha). Most of it will be cultivated basil, as it has a high demand on the local and export market. For the trial area in the winter season, the costs of the agricultural inputs were shared by the cooperating partner as an incentive and motivation for the farmers. For the summer season, all the costs, including the costs for the seeds, bio fertilization and bio plant protection will be paid by the farmer. PDF will pre-finalize these costs if necessary to support the farmers.