Newsletter Volume 11 – October to December 2021

Dear Reader,

This is our eleventh newsletter of the Organic Egypt project. This newsletter reviews the last quarter of 2021. This newsletter will illustrate all our activities and show the status of the implemented pilot projects to foster innovations. In the last 3 months, the first phase of Organic Egypt has ended in November 2021 and the second phase of the project has started in December 2021.We are very thankful for 2021 and for the milestones and activities we accomplished with our partners, even with the challenges the whole world is going through. For 2022, together with our partners IDAM and Demeter Egypt (EBDA recently changed its name to Demeter Egypt), are planning to further mobilize resources and activities to support farmers with interest and optimism. 

Stay safe and healthy!

SECOND PHASE OF ORGANIC EGYPT PROJECT AND PLANNING WORKSHOP

Meeting with IDAM association regarding the Agricultural Learning Center in Minia. 

IDAM is planning to establish an Agricultural Learning Center in Minia (ALC). In November, IDAM team with Organic Egypt team and the consultant Dr. Hassan Aboubakr, discussed its plan for the center. The ALC will be an integrative center to serve farmers in Minia and upper Egypt in all topics related to organic and regenerative agricultural practices. Burning topics regarding environmental issues like climate change, water scarcity, renewable energy, mechanization, modern irrigation methods, soil degradation and soil salinity as well as social aspects like the role of rural women, partnerships with institutions (governmental – civil – the private sector), dissemination of knowledge throughout society e.g. were taken into consideration.

Moreover, the center should be built in a sustainable architecture using renewable energy, natural lighting, water and wastewater saving systems etc. The location which had been chosen for the center is a 25 feddan (12 Hectare) desert farm in Minia west. IDAM had been asked from the coptic-catholic diocese to build up and manage the farm. During the meeting, the design draft for the center was modified and adjusted. In December, IDAM is working on the design of the center with an engineering team. Meanwhile, communication will be done with consultants from different institutions for the development of the solar system on the farm.

Planning Workshop for the second phase of Organic Egypt project

Beginning of December, right after the start of the second phase (01.12.2021) a planning workshop with both partner associations IDAM and Demeter Egypt was conducted to develop and modify the proposed log-frame. The log-frame defines and explains the work methodology for the coming 3 years including the indicators and activities. The 3-days workshop was delivered by a SYCAMORE facilitation team under the leadership of Mohamed El Mongy. All 15 Participants participated actively in the workshop, a roadmap for the coming 3 years was defined with the participation and commitment of all parties involved.

TRAININGS AND WORKSHOPS FOR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS

TOT for organic olive production for DRWACA association

The last training session of the TOT in organic olive cultivation was as usual in one of the olive fields in Sidna Al Khidr village in Fayoum for 10 farm leaders and village facilitators of DRWACA. Most of them have over 10 years of experience in olive production. The last training was covering the topic of weed management, as it was at a critical period for weed management in October, right before the trees were planted. 


The consultant Dr. Hamed Hosney illustrated the two methods of weed management; which are cultivation and soil solarization. Cultivation is a repeating irrigation method, where the young germinated weeds are destroyed after each irrigation cycle, this can reduce the amount of weed seed in the orchard soil.

Soil solarization controls weeds as well as soil-borne diseases by placing clear plastic sheets on moist soil during periods of long day length; Dr. Hamed also explained methods of controlling weeds after planting while the trees are still small.

The theoretical session was followed by a practical session in the fields, where they were trained to identify the different types of weeds, the nature of their growth and the time of their spread during the season, and how to identify the appropriate time to control them before they form seeds and spread the seeds in the ground.

At the end of the ToT sessions, DRWACA has trained 10 farm leaders in organic olive cultivation, with simple and cheap and healthy organic pest and disease control measures. The 10 farm leaders will start to train DRWACA members starting this upcoming cultivation season.

Training session on using predators as Biocontrol agents in winter season 21/22

Prof. Ashraf El Arnotee and Dr. Mona Krtan conducted a 2-day training with around 20 engineers of Demeter Egypt association discussing the expected pests and diseases which can infest the winter season crops. After the cultivated crops are identified, a plan can be made on how to protect them from soil diseases and main pests. The trainers illustrated the parasitoids and predators that have the ability to control pests, also they explained how to calculate the amount of each predator and what the cost per feddan will be. The appropriate time of releasing the different types of predators was discussed.

An active discussion was made during the session on the order in which pests and diseases occur to take action based on this technical information. Participants asked many questions regarding the crops their members will be cultivating. 

Training session on new varieties of medicinal and aromatic Plants (MAP)

With the support of Organic Egypt Project, two consecutive training sessions on new MAP varieties as well as new seeds were conducted in October and November by Dr. Saber Hendawy to our partner associations. Dr. Saber presented the most important new plants that have a high market value and are newly cultivated in Egypt. Also the most common diseases and pests that may infect those new plants were discussed and explained.

The lecturer took the agricultural engineers on a practical training tour, where they went to the greenhouse to see the conditions in which the plants of ginger, turmeric and green tea are cultivated and adapted. Another visit took place to Adliya farm (Demeter Egypt member Farm), to see the vanilla, ginseng and butterfly pea plants. Dr. Saber explained the most important criteria and conditions that suit these plants, the diseases and pests that threaten them, and how these diseases and pests can be eliminated dynamically without using chemicals.

Field Training on Livestock Management

In 5 different governorates namely, Monefya, Ismailia, Bani Seuif, Fayoum, Minya, a veterinarian training had been conducted with the aim to strengthen Organic Egypt’s partner association especially Demeter Egypt which asked for this training for its engineers in organic livestock consultations. The engineers were equipped with knowledge to better serve and consult their members and improve the quality of organic animal husbandry. This will increase the competitiveness of their members through needs-based services. The training consisted of theoretical sessions including topics of vaccination, nutrition, breeding and artificial insemination as well as practical sessions including the illustration of how to examine and diagnose the most common diseases, prescription and administration of medicine.

Training session on a new software for member management (ERPnext)

ERPnext is a software for member management that Demeter Egypt wants to adapt as their association software. Using this software will ensure an effective and continuous communication between the agricultural engineer, the farmer and the administration and office staff of Demeter Egypt. The consultant engineer Emad explained the program to Demeter Egypt engineers and integrated their feedback to the software to adapt it to the needs of their members. The engineers were trained on how to use the software and create a database on the farms they supervise. After that, the engineers were divided into groups, and each group tried to introduce their own farms to the program by themselves. At the end of the training, all the engineers were able to deal with the program with great efficiency and effectiveness. Continues training on the software will be needed though, to further develop and ease their internal processes and integrate it in the whole system of Demeter Egypt.

Egyptian National Certification Body 

All certification bodies operating in Egypt today are European, which results in expensive certification costs for farmers in certifying their farms. However, there are three national certification centers which are in the process of gaining their accreditation from an internationally recognized accreditation body, the Center of Organic Agriculture in Egypt (COAE), Icert for Development of Agriculture systems and the Heliopolis University Center of Organic Agriculture HU-COA. Organic Egypt supports these institutions in gaining their accreditation by delivering training in the relevant fields.


In October 2021, an internal audit training according to ISO 19011 & ISO 17065 for a group of delegates from different certification bodies was conducted by Dr. Ahmed Hammed.

The 3 days training is aiming to prepare the participants and their institutions for the upcoming accreditation as well as prepare them for the audits they will perform for their clients.

The training included introduction to ISO 19011:2018, principles of auditing, skills that the auditor should have to perform the auditing process and manage the audit program, also how an audit should be conducted, all these topics were covered in the training.

A role play for a whole audit process starting from preparing and planning; going through the audit process up to writing the final report was conducted. The role play was performed using the quality manual of HU-COA as an example. The trainees asked a lot of questions to deeply understand the main principle of audit, audit types and how to identify the non-conformity. A deep discussion has taken place about how to deal with difficult situations e.g., nervous and angry auditors.

NEW IINNOVATIVE SERVICES OF OUR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS  


Beehives for increasing pollination

Organic Egypt supports the development of a new innovative service for Demeter Egypt, which provides their farmers with beehives during pollination time to increase the yield naturally. In July, some cells were sent to one of Demeter Egypt’s member farms in Wahat area to test the place and use it to improve the characteristics of the cells in the future. It was observed that the bees were fine, and no significant change could be detected in their behavior. They were very active, also a coordination was made in august to cooperate with the Assiouty Valley Natural Reserve to work on the selection of their own cells and to benefit from the breeding of virgins from the reserve cells and their exchange for genetic diversity during the upcoming seasons.

Pilot project Fayoumi chicken for IDAM association

After the success of the Fayoumi chicken pilot project, where IDAM introduced the very robust fayoumi breed chicken to its members; IDAM in cooperation with their members and the consultant Dr. Adel Abdelsalam proposed a second phase to expand and improve the pilot project.

Second phase would be the establishment of a reproduction unit using incubators for hatching the eggs and an organic feed production unit using local inputs from the villages. With the support of Organic Egypt, 4 incubators were delivered to IDAM and distributed in the 4 communities that IDAM work in. Female farmers collect the eggs and bring them to the reproduction unit to hatch them.

In the meantime, Dr. Adel Abdelsalam had conducted a training for IDAM’s staff who will be responsible for the incubators and the reproduction process. In addition, a feed production unit consisting of a mixer and mill was delivered to IDAM in Mansafis village. In the coming month, a training will be done for IDAM’s staff who will be responsible for the feed production unit, and who will supply all the inputs from the villages to run the unit. Also, the manual for the small-scale organic poultry production will be finalized in the coming months and distributed to all members.

Economy of Love Education Program EoL EDU

The basis of the EDU work was the Economy of Love curriculum for EDU programs which was developed and is now published as a summary. Regular EoL EDU training for farmers was achieved through a cooperation with the first EoL certified companies and farmers. The communication team was able to capture some of the experimental lessons and shot individual interviews with farmers. EoL EDU training for farmers was mainly conducted in Fayoum, Bene Suef, Baharya, Bahira and farmers of Minia. The EoL certified companies of ISIS for organic food, Lotus organic herbs and spices and NatureTex received EDU training for primarily the management level in order to introduce the EoL system and main principles. A brief description of the program as well as online learning material for the basic EoL EDU content can be found on the Webpage. Further videos are on the EoL YouTube Channel.

Biofertilizer laboratory for IDAM association

The first run for the laboratory was on the 27th of October 2021, Dr. Abduallha Koryam and the 2 female engineers who were hired to run the laboratory, started the production of the first biofertilizer to be tested in the winter season on an area of 30 feddan with 40 farmers. Two different kinds of biofertilizers were produced; biofert which is a general fertilizer that can be used for fertilizing the plants during the vegetation until flowering stage. And potassium plus, which is a fertilizer used for fruiting after the flowering stage. The first two batches were around 1200 liters of biofert that were packed in 30-liter containers. The containers were attached with a sticker sheet containing the required information e.g., the production date, expiration date, usage rates and the product name. IDAM was responsible for the product distribution to the farmers, and to collect the farmers’ feedback regarding the effectiveness of the biofertilizer. Next step will be the production of the second product namely potassium plus for the flowering stage.

EDUCATIONAL AND AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGNS

Cotton harvest festival

Demeter Egypt continued celebrating the cotton harvest festival with its members. After celebrating in Kafr El Sheikh, they organized a second event in Damietta governorate in the beginning of October. The day started with traditional music and the team from Demeter Egypt together with the farmers picked the cotton in the fields. About 64 participants attended the event, 20 old members of Demeter Egypt and 44 conventional farmers who are interested to convert and start cultivating biodynamic cotton in the next seasons. Participants described the celebration as a day full of joy and cotton! It was a great chance for conventional farmers to learn more about organic and biodynamic farming practices and to meet Demeter Egypt staff. Farmers and Processors Market’ Organic Egypt in cooperation with the Rdna food community continuously implementing monthly Farmers and Processors Markets in an open space at KMT house, Maadi in Cairo.

Farmers and Processors Markets

Organic Egypt in cooperation with the Rdna food community continuously implementing monthly Farmers and Processors Markets in an open space at KMT house, Maadi in Cairo.

Reflecting on the markets organized and held in 2021, it can be summarized that attracting traffic was challenging, but through using multiple different channels as well as integrating interactive activities, good traffic was achieved. Also the feedback of the participants was collected to further plan and organize the coming markets. Although participants gave very strong positive feedback about the markets, they also explained that they would rather prefer a light and relaxed day in the garden to a loaded market day full of activities and things to do, and that the program might be too much for a weekend.

In order to attract a wider audience as well as make this a useful and meaningful day for producers and consumers, there are some suggestions on how to develop the formats of the markets:

  1. Testing day / Event: Focus is on tastings and engaging with specific products and vendors in this way rather than promoting it as a day to buy things. 
  2. Create markets in other locations: Go to the consumer instead of expecting consumers to come to us! Markets in different locations can be organized that are high traffic for rdna consumers.
  3. Participate in existing markets.

Consumer – Farmers Excursions

The excursion was conducted on the 25th of November 2021 to one of Demeter Egypt’s members, Adlia Farm in Sharqia. 10 persons attended this one-day trip, where the visit included the stables with the livestock, the compost, the open field with different crops. As well as Lotus factory for organic dried herbs and spices, as the first step on the food value chain, and ISIS company for organic food production as the second stage on the food value chain. There were many discussions around the different stages of the food value chain around farming, animal husbandry, and the complexity of food production.

Reflecting on the excursions organized in 2021, we can evaluate that they are very well received and appreciated from the consumer's side. Consumers seem to LOVE and enjoy visiting farms, but they are not that interested in visiting production facilities. For that, the upcoming excursions will focus on farms.

Rdna Salons 

The Rdna salons are sharing circles about conscious living, where all consumers, suppliers and farmers are invited each Tuesday to attend.

The topics in October were very diverse and ranged from “Blind tasting and guessing of vegetables” to “Principles of biodynamic farming” to “Indonesian Coffee: Tasting the Quality” as well as “Fermentation: An age-old tradition”. The sessions were not only informative and educational, but also lots of fun! The topics shared and discussed in November were also very diverse and ranged from “Bostan Setelhosn: Olive Oil & Olives”, “Introduction to Microgreens!” to “Drying & Dehydrating fruits & Vegetables” as well as “Introduction to Vegan Diet”. The sessions were full of tastings and questions and discussions.

Reflecting and evaluating the salons and how to further continue in 2022 we can conclude that, although the salons were very successful before covid, traffic went down in 2021. This might be because people are afraid of gatherings, or because the salons are for free, which decreases commitment to attend, also the topics might not have been appealing to consumers. We can summarize that we want to continue with the salons, however not on a weekly but rather biweekly or monthly basis. Also, to market the topics with proper key messaging to the specific audience groups that we want to attract.

ASWAN COOPERATION PROJECT BETWEEN EBDA AND PDF

In the collaboration framework between Demeter Egypt and the Professional Development Foundation (PDF), 48 farmers in 4 villages in Wadi El Nokra (Aswan) participated in this winter season plan of 2021-2022 on a total area of 51 feddans (ca. 21 ha). With different medicinal and herbal plants such as anise, mint, fennel, black seed, and moringa. The total number of farmers in the cooperation project was increased consequently the number of hectares was increased significantly due to the success of the previous field trials we conducted in the last two seasons in Wadi El Nokra. 

In October 2021, Jesuit et frères association approached Organic Egypt as they are interested in organic farming for their members. The association is based in Minia but has been working since a decade in Aswan and has a database for 3000 farmers. They are working on a project of irrigation unions among villages of Nasr El-Nuba with a supportable role for farmers and training programs for youth and women in the villages. In November, a meeting was held to discuss the cooperation activities between Jesuit et frères association and Demeter Egypt as well as the Professional Development Foundation (PDF) where an agreement with Jesuit et frères association was performed. A first meeting with 38 farmer leaders and representatives of agriculture associations was held in November with the consultant Dr. Saber Hendawy in Nasr El-Nuba.

The 38 farmer leaders were representing the 38 villages of Nasr El-Nuba. The meeting was an introductory session about organic agriculture and marketing possibilities of organic products. The farmers were very interested and eager to participate in the upcoming season.

In the coming months, more meetings and introductory sessions will be held to elaborate how to convert the interested farmers to organic and what the role of each association (PDF, DE, JEF) will be.

NETWORKING ACTIVITIES OF ORGANIC EGYPT PROJECT

Situation analysis of the agricultural sector in Siwa Oasis

The Organic Egypt office got contacted by two local Siwa farmers cultivating Dates, Pomegranate and Lemongrass interested in converting their land to organic agriculture. In October 2021, the Organic Egypt team, together with representatives from Demeter Egypt visited the farmers and conducted a situation analysis of the agricultural sector in Siwa Oasis.

The Siwa Oasis is famous for the siwan dates, herbal and medicinal plants and is located between the Qattara depression and the Great Sand Sea in the Western Desert, 50 km east of the Libyan border, about 560 km from Cairo and around 380 km south of Marsa Matrouh. It contains approximately 30.000 feddans and has a great potential to provide very clean and organic products since its far away from any pollution.

The main aim of this trip was to get in touch with local farm operators and representatives of local associations in order to get a clear understanding of the agricultural needs and demands in Siwa and the region. In addition, to promote the idea of organic and regenerative farming in the Oasis, which already exists but needs more support. During the trip, Organic Egypt visited 2 farms (dates, and lemongrass) and a farm with a processing facility of pomegranates and dates.

Moreover, a meeting with the director of the Desert Research Center branch Siwa and Director of the Siwan Association for Tourist and Environmental protection was conducted to understand more about the services provided by both the research center and the association.

Also, organic Egypt met a representative from Siwa Community Development and Environmental Protection Association (SCDEC). It was founded in 2001 and has a council of 13 members, representing the 13 tribes of Berbers in Siwa. Besides developing agricultural activity in the oasis, SCDEC sponsors education and training programs, and also was involved in many organic production activities for exporting. All people involved in this visit are originally farmers and own farms with minimum 5 feddan up to 200 feddans, they know the situation in Siwa and are connected with each other which will facilitate the spread of organic agriculture between Siwan farmers. In the coming months, more meetings are planned to further elaborate the cooperation between the associations of the Oasis and what support they need.

Social Initiatives Forum

On the 3rd and 4th of November, Heliopolis University hosted and organized the Social Initiatives Forum Egypt, which aimed to launch community initiatives based on four core dimensions: Environment, Social, Culture, and Economy.

The Forum included inputs from representatives of the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Agriculture, the German Agency for International Cooperation, the Organization for Community and International Initiatives, in addition to some Elite participants from the local, International development, and Non-profit Organizations. Also, investors, businessmen, farmers, farming companies and individuals participated in the forum.

The forum also aimed to launch a network of community initiatives that will serve as a basis for effective communication and coordination between the various stakeholders in Egypt in order to achieve Egypt's vision for sustainable development. We witnessed many activities over the two days which discussed the topics of organic agriculture, community development, art and its role in liberating the potential of individuals as well as sustainable economy. Organic Egypt participated in the marketplace as a service and knowledge provider using flyers, and booklets next to its partners Demeter Egypt and IDAM. The marketplace was open to all stakeholders to meet, network and exchange experience.