Newsletter Volume 13 – April till June 2022

Dear Reader, 

This is the thirteenth newsletter of Organic Egypt project. It reviews the second quarter of 2022. This newsletter will illustrate all activities conducted with our partners IDAM and EBDA, and show the status of the implemented pilot projects to foster innovations. 

We hope you are all doing well and hope you enjoy the read!

Stay safe and healthy!

BASELINE ASSESSMENT OF FARMERS OF THE PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS

In light of Organic Egypt’s strategic objectives a needs and satisfaction assessment for the members of our partners Demeter Egypt (EBDA) and the Integral Development Action of Minia (IDAM) has been done. A team from Fayoum University led by Dr. Mohamed Abdelhameed was contracted in February 2022 to carry out the assessment that will be used as a baseline for the project's second phase. The team determined a representative sample out of the total farmers for the assessment. The data collection was done in cooperation with the Heliopolis University, where 15 students from the faculty of organic agriculture were trained on data collection before they traveled to the governorates and filled out the questionnaire with the farmers.


The farmers surveyed reported high satisfaction with the availability and the level of services provided by the 2 associations, EBDA and IDAM. Nevertheless, challenges and recommendations were mentioned by the farmers from both associations to improve their performance and services. Challenges that were mentioned are the land fragmentation that could be affected by no-organic practices by neighbors, the limited marketing channels of organic products, and the lack of production inputs, amongst others. Suggestions that were mentioned are the provision of financial facilities and agricultural tools and in-kind support. Other suggestions mentioned are online marketing and postharvest treatments to ensure the quality of the market needs. All conclusions and recommendations of this assessment will be used by the associations to enhance the sector and serve the project objectives.


TRAININGS AND WORKSHOPS FOR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS

Training on sustainable irrigation and fertilization practices  

A training for our partner associations was held on the topic of irrigation and fertilization principles of organic crops. Eng. Mohamed Mustafa led the first part introducing irrigation and the interactions between soil and water in order to improve irrigation operations and exploit irrigation water in a good manner. He explained the variation of “Crop Water Requirement” based on the crop type and growth stage and how to minimize the water usage. The second part was held by Dr. Abdullah Korayem, presenting the various types of bio-fertilizers. He explained the plant's needs and how they are diverse depending on the growth stage. Afterward, he led a discussion on converting to organic agriculture and how the cost of applying chemical fertilizers can be 4 times higher than using the organic alternatives in addition to the long-term value of enhancing soil health and biodiversity and minimizing the soil needs of fertilizers and irrigation water.

Training on EoL Carbon Credits questionnaire on ERP Next

ERPnext is a software for member management that Demeter Egypt is adapting as their association software. The field engineers are receiving continuous training on how to use and further develop the software and enable easy data entry in the database. A new section was added to the ERP Next system to collect data for the newly introduced EoL Carbon Credits. To ensure a correct and precise data entry for the carbon credits in the ERP Next software, a training was conducted by Eng. Mohamed Fouad from the Carbon Footprint Center (CFC) for the EBDA field engineers. He explained each indicator in ERPnext which should be taken in consideration; starting with “General information” containing data about the land and cultivated crops, then “Crop management”, “Sequestration”, “Livestock”, “Field energy use”, “Transport”, “Renewable Energy'', “Afforestation”, and “Soil”. While explaining these indicators, Eng. Mohamed showcased their importance and relationship to the EoL Carbon Credits. 

Training on early plant diseases detection

Dr. Ahmed Bondok conducted a training for the field engineers of our partner association on the early detection and diagnosis of the main diseases and pests, especially for the summer season crops. Going through the importance of monitoring the crops, and choosing the IPM strategies based on the monitoring data to prevent or minimize the effect of the infection in the early stage. Dr. Ahmed discussed real-life examples of plant disease diagnosis for more clarification and asked the participants to share their own experience in the subject and how they used to manage the infection. At the end of the session, the training moved from the room to the field for the application of what they have learned and discussed deeper about regular check for plant infection.

Training on soil salinity and sustainable soil enhancement practice

A training on soil salinity and green manure as a soil enhancement practice was given to our partner associations staff. Talis Bosam explained the reasons for salinity and how it starts in the soil to become a main problem for the farmer. Then, introduced the symptoms that indicate if the soil suffers from high salinity or not, giving examples of different salinity levels in soil using different crops based on their salinity resistance. Dr. Saber Hendawy held the second session, explaining what green manure is and its importance as a sustainable practice. As for the practical, he led the engineers to the Libra open field at the Sekem farm to show them the green manure and how it looks on the soil, and how farmers cultivate their land with green manure.

Workshop on the internal processes and activities of Demeter Egypt (EBDA) with Ramadan Iftar

Organic Egypt project invested the inspiring vibes of Ramadan to meet with our partner association team Demeter Egypt (EBDA) , in KMT house to make Ramadan Iftar, and discussed the internal Demeter Egypt (EBDA) activities and processes that are aiming to enhance the Internal management system as well as improve the efficiency of the workflow. We also discussed the Survey of organizational performance (BMO Performance) and set priorities for the coming months. Demeter Egypt (EBDA) presented Ideas for this year's pilot project that will be supported by Organic Egypt. The objective of all pilot projects is the improvement of services to the member farms. However this also includes broader research projects aiming to increase soil fertility or methods of fertilization like the Green Manure research project. Projects that were discussed are amongst other the newly implemented PGS system in Minia governorate and which lessons are learned to be developed for the coming governorates


MEETINGS AND ACTIVITIES BETWEEN ASSOCIATIONS

Meeting between Demeter Egypt (EBDA) , IDAM and Jesuit for possible cooperation

A meeting was held in May 2022 with IDAM, Demeter Egypt (EBDA) and Jesuit association representatives in Minia to discuss how the Jesuit members in Aswan will start converting to organic cultivation under the supervision and support of Demeter Egypt (EBDA) , during the meeting it was agreed to write a MOU between Demeter Egypt (EBDA) and Jesuit to start the work with the farmers this summer season in Aswan. Also the cooperation between IDAM and Demeter Egypt (EBDA) in Minia was discussed. IDAM wants to make a demo plot on their farm in district 8 to showcase organic crops to their members under the supervision of Demeter Egypt (EBDA) ’s engineers, as they have a strong field staff consisting of empowered engineers in all governorates with technical knowledge. Demeter Egypt (EBDA) representatives visited IDAM’s farm in district 8 in Minia as well as the farm that belongs to the Jesuit association in the same area in Minia. Demeter Egypt (EBDA) representatives gave some recommendations on how to start an organic farm and use it as a demo farm (i.e., planting a fence of 2 rows, and improving the irrigation system). The farm of IDAM needs lots of work as it has been neglected for some time. As for the Jesuit farm, it has a very good potential to be converted to organic immediately since they already make their own compost and the farm itself is working very well for the production

NEW INNOVATIVE SERVICES OF OUR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS

Agricultural learning center using renewable energy for IDAM members

IDAM owns a farm in district 8 in Minia, which is currently irrigated by two independent motor-pump systems that are run by electricity from the national grid and backed up by two diesel generators. Using clean solar energy can be cheaper and more sustainable in the long-term, which inspires IDAM to use it. This farm is planned to be an Agricultural Learning Center with all possible learning facilities for their farmers, including organic farming inputs facilities, animal production and many other learning and production activities.

Eng. Amr Khairy (renewable energy consultant) visited the farm to get to know IDAM team closely and collect the required data that will help in installing the suitable solar energy unit for the irrigation system. In the coming months, the most suitable company will be contracted to implement the installation of the solar pump

Economy of Love Carbon Credits

The Economy of Love Standard is constantly implementing new innovative ideas, aiming to best benefit the farmer and people in the supply chain. A new project is the implementation of the EoL carbon credits. In cooperation with the Carbon Footprint Center and the use of the Cool Farm Tool, EoL is able to assess the carbon emissions and sequestration as well as active carbon avoidance on their licensee farms. This net carbon can be set in value. Currently one tonne of carbon sequestered or avoided is worth between 20-25 Euro. EoL certified farmers naturally provide a great number of trees, biodiversity, compost production, and renewable energy on their land, which they can finally be incentivized for. On the EoL Website you can find more about the development of the carbon scheme, the transparent background of tracing the carbon project, and the impact on biodiversity and people. ( https://www.economyoflove.net/)


New Marketing service for IDAM members

Organic Egypt supports IDAM in finding and developing new marketing channels for the products of their members. Within this framework, meetings had been organized between IDAM and RDNA to discuss RDNAs needs and how IDAM can support in delivering these products. IDAM is working with many women in the villages that are processing agricultural products and keeping animals. RDNA offers training and consultancy on how to improve the quality of the products to reach RDNA’s standards and to be sold in RDNA market with a higher price than the local market. Trial quantities of different products were delivered to RDNA market and plans are set for future cooperation

EDUCATIONAL AND AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGNS

RDNA Activities for Healthy Eating

In the collaboration framework of RDNA with Organic Egypt, a series of awareness sessions about healthy eating and healthy food took place at Kmt house in Maadi for consumers and RDNA team. The topics were various and ranged from “The benefits of eating organic food and the dangers of conventionally processed food”, to “The ecosystem of food production in Egypt”, which is still highly un-inspected in many ways, putting the word “organic” on a food product package was not regulated until recently, and implementation of this law is still lagging behind.

Consumer Excursions

As a part of RDNA’s activities to connect their consumers with the farmers and processors, excursions are being organized. A one day trip to Hazel Farm, one of RDNAs suppliers was conducted. Hazel Farm is an organic farm which is built around the concept of agritainment, meaning hosting consumers in a fun and educational space to learn more about organic cultivation. Around 30 consumers attended this excursion. The day was filled with fun activities. The highlight of the day was the picking of vegetables, or what they call “shopping in nature”. The lunch consisted of exclusively farm harvested vegetables (except for the rice!) and was meant to inspire consumers to cook creatively with seasonal ingredients. All recipes were shared afterwards.

Farmers and Processors Market

Organic Egypt in cooperation with RDNA food community implements Farmers and Processors Markets on a monthly basis in an open space at KMT house. In May, Under the collaboration between RDNA Market and the Amani Institute, (a non profit organization with the aim “to offer a new model of higher education, originating in the Global South, for social impact professionals, accessible for people all over the world.”), Amani organized and implemented a workshop on “Exploring Climates and Food Systems”. Additionally 10 vendors sold their products and consumers had the opportunity to taste, discuss and buy their products. In June, RDNA Market also collaborated with the dutch organization Ocean Love to celebrate World Ocean Day. The day included discussions about ways to stop plastic waste/use and put an end to plastic pollution affecting our rivers and seas by 2030. For the love of the Ocean and giving back to our Earth. 11 vendors participated, around half with ecologically produced food products and the other half were into environmentally friendly products such as shopping bags made from upcycled plastic bags.

NETWORKING ACTIVITIES OF ORGANIC EGYPT PROJECT

Meeting with Ebdaa Bnfsk association in Beni Suef

Ebdaa Bnfsk is an active association with a good reputation between farmers in Beni Suef and many agricultural funded projects. The association showed their interest to be included as a partner association in Organi) to visit the association at their headquarters. The association is a non-profit civil society organization, involved in projects concerning poverty, health, women empowerment, youth empowerment and other development programs. It consists of 45 members in the general assembly, and is based on the principle of diversity and representation of the popular base, and the beneficiaries are around 3600 members, (2200 women and 1400 males) working on 650 feddan in total. Demeter Egypt (EBDA) has been involved with the Ebdaa Bnfsk association since October 2021 in the framework of the Agricultural Innovation Project (AIP). Demeter Egypt (EBDA) supports around 15 farmers of Ebdaa Bnfsk on around 400 feddan to convert their land to organic farming. It is being examined at the moment, which form of cooperation is the most beneficial for all entities involved.

Workshop on the Future of Organic Agriculture

In cooperation with Heliopolis University; Devilag, Organic Knowledge Hub and Organic Egypt project co-organized and co-funded the workshop on “The Future of Organic Agriculture between Learning and Applications”, as the achievement of food security is one of the core concerns of all nations now, it is at the forefront of concern for leaders and decision-makers. It has become clear that achieving sustainable food security requires consideration of other dimensions beyond food availability and regular access to it. However, it is just as important to consider food production methods that are safe for human health and the environment as well.

The first session was about the organic agricultural law in Egypt and its executive regulations. Different influential actors were panelists and shared the role of their organization in the implementation of the regulation. Dr. Maysa Lotfy represented the general administration of organic agriculture and Dr. Samar Sharawy represented the National Food Safety Authority and Mr. Abdelhamed Aldemerdash represented the Agricultural Export Council. The discussion with the audience from different backgrounds were very fruitful and informative.

The second session was about organic agriculture between learning and applications. The aim of this session was to discuss the situation of the organic agriculture programs in the different universities and the problems that the students face through the learning process. Representatives of the different Universities were panelists.

The third session was about the marketing and job opportunities in the organic sector. The main objective of this session was discussing the marketing opportunities for the organic products, the different types of certifications, and the job opportunities for the organic agriculture graduates. Representatives of the organic retail market, the processing and the certification bodies were panelists.

The forum was attended by many different stakeholders related to organic agriculture; university professors, association managers, farmers and students, so the forum was a great opportunity to network and meet people. A meeting was held with Dora Fiani, the founder of Bashaier, a digital platform in the agribusiness field. We discussed the possibility of creating an online pesticide and fertilization guide of organic preparations in cooperation with the ministry, certification bodies, companies and associations. In light of the organic law and its executive regulation this guide will be of great interest for all involved parties.

Another meeting was conducted with a youth movement supporting sustainable and organic agriculture in Beni Suef called “Improve Your Land and Increase Your Crop”. They explained why organic farming? because the production costs are less than conventional and the exportation potential is higher and more profitable. The initiative is interested in a cooperation with Organic Egypt to spread the knowledge of Organic farming between farmers, youth, and consumers.

Meeting with the African Organic Network

Meeting with African Organic Network (AfrONet), to discuss possible corporations, AfrONet is the continental organization of organic actors in Africa, established in 2012 to lead, unite, network, and facilitate the development of the organic sector through policy dialogue, capacity building, information dissemination, and facilitating organic value chain development and trade. Currently the Network includes 26 countries of the 54 African countries. AfrONet works with the umbrella organizations in the respective countries. They approached Organic Egypt to discuss the possibility of including Egypt in the Network. By 2026, they want to have representatives of all 54 African countries in their Network.


Attending the event on the Entrepreneurship initiative for the blue and green economy

Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE) in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Environment (MOE), organized the first Consultation Session in the framework of the “SwitchMed Down the Nile Project to support Sustainable Economy and Green and Blue Entrepreneurship in Egypt”, at the Ministry's venue in Cairo. where the Consultation Session aimed at introducing the project’s objectives and components to the participants, who represented stakeholders from governmental & non-governmental business support organizations (BSOs). Organic Egypt was invited to be a part of this event as one of the stakeholders, who included international organizations, financial institutions, banks, incubators, academia, and universities’ research and innovations centers.Where the project seeks to support the circular economy, promote green entrepreneurship, and integrate the principles of the blue economy into the ecosystem, especially under the increasingly deleterious impact of climate change and global warming. Dr. Hassan Abou Bakr (Organic Egypt consultant) represented the project in the event and illustrated the project activities with partner associations in different governorate to provide services for both organic farmers and those willing to shift to organic farming, which eventually will ensure and enhance sufficient income for farmers (males and females), with green sustainable activities. Also, other stakeholders like startups spoke about their contributions and the potential opportunities that will emerge from the green and blue projects which match SDGs.


ORGANIC EGYPT AS A SUSTAINABLE ENTITY

Organic Egypt as a case study for the Adaptive leadership workshop by Amani institute

Amani Institute is a global non-profit organization whose mission is developing professionals who create social impact with their careers. One of Amani’s programs is adaptive leadership, and Organic Egypt was invited to be presented as a case study for the 3 days program. The workshop was conducted in Egypt, KMT house with 14 fellows from different nationalities and was led by Hicham Jadaoun and Geraldine Hepp. Organic Egypt team presented its activities and challenges to the participants, who chose one of the challenges as a case study and worked on it, applying all the learned steps of the program. Organic Egypt attended the workshop and learned a lot. 3 different challenges were chosen and discussed during the workshop. First, how might the relationship/dynamic between Organic Egypt and the partner associations be changed to improve the solutions and services for the end beneficiaries (farmer). Second, How to find a strong position within the organic movement in Egypt?. And the last chosen challenge was concerning the Egyptian organic law and bylaw, and how organic Egypt can support the governmental entities to apply the law effectively with the cooperation of all stakeholders. All the outcomes were documented to be used by Organic Egypt team.