Newsletter Volume 5 – March to June 2020
This is our fifth newsletter of the Organic Egypt project. This newsletter reviews the second quarter of 2020. Since March 2020, the world has been going through an economic fallout and it feels like the world is standing still. The coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the world as we know it and it has the potential to create a devastating impact on the food and agriculture sector like many other sectors.
In this newsletter we wish to highlight the progress we made over the past few months through a selection of activities, updates on local partners and innovative services from our partner associations, and the newly established local certification body at Heliopolis University, in Egypt, for organic farmers and processors.
We hope this newsletter will shed some light on the current local efforts and innovative services in the area of organic agriculture and their significance to our society.
NEW PARTNER ASSOCIATION OF ORGANIC EGYPT PROJECT
In May 2020, we visited the “Developing Rural Women’s Agribusiness Capabilities Association” (DRWACA) which is considered one of the newest associations for the development of rural women in Tunis village, in Fayoum. DRWACA aims for rural women to be able to access resources, services, and opportunities to become a driving force for achieving food sovereignty in rural areas, reaching a sustainable society in which women enjoy their basic rights. And, enable them to have effective and productive mechanisms and tools to ensure food safety and sustainability, in order to reach the value of the participation of women in an effective role in the value chain system. The association was founded only in April 2020 with 20 members, all of them women.
During our visit, we had the chance to meet some of the women farmers who joined DRWACA. We discussed ways for cooperation and partnership possibilities. In July 2020, the Partnership Agreement with Organic Egypt project will be signed, this will make DRAWCA the 4th partner in our project.
ORGANIC EGYPT WEBSITE
Now, you can visit our project website at www.organicegypt.org. You can find there all about us, our activities, and news. Also, we provide you with a contacts database of stakeholders working in the field of organic agriculture in Egypt, as well as a knowledge bank rich with manuals, reports, and studies related to organic agriculture topics.
NEW INNOVATIVE SERVICES OF OUR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS
Organic Egypt supports the piloting of new innovative services that partner associations offer to their farmers. One of the major problems the farmers face is finding organic agricultural inputs in good quality. Most of the available organic pesticides, fungicides are either imported and very expensive or expired or locally produced but in very bad quality. The same challenge exists for organic fertilizers on the Egyptian market. The associations are therefore working to supply their farmers with good quality organic agricultural inputs like predators, biofertilizers, and bees for increasing pollination and thus increasing crop yield. Furthermore, new, innovative cultivation techniques like planting of cotton in the desert are supported by the project. Following some of the pilot projects that are tested and implemented:
Using predators is a very effective and successful way to control pests for organic agricultural farmers. In cooperation with the Cairo University, the Egyptian Bio-Dynamic Association (EBDA) is establishing a unit to produce predators for its farmers. The unit is still under construction and will be ready by July 2020. The first predators of “Aphids Lion” will be ready for distribution by August 2020.
Beehives for increasing pollination:
Pollination is needed for many plants to reproduce and form seeds. Many plants depend on honey bees to form seeds and increase crop yield and quality, therefore, having a local healthy bee breed is essential to ensure a good crop yield.
The Lamarckii bees are a local breed that is extremely healthy and is not influenced by the Varroa mites whose treatment is the biggest obstacle for organic beekeepers.
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. This pilot project started March 2020 with the first phase of reproducing hives to increase the number of bee hives. Next phase, which will start 2021 is to provide the farmers with the hives during pollination time.
Organic vegetable seed production:
In Egypt, there are no organic vegetables seeds available on the market. All seeds available are conventional, hybrid seeds from big international corporations. EBDA wants to produce different varieties of organic vegetable seeds for their farmers. Furthermore, they want to enable their farmers to plant and produce their own seeds, which can be made from open pollinated organic seeds. The conventional seeds available on the market can’t be reproduced by the farmers, they have to buy new seeds every season. EBDA purchased different vegetable seed varieties that are most adaptable to the local conditions from Sativa company in Switzerland. EBDA started to cultivate and test these varieties in September 2019. Some of the varieties were already acclimatized and were reproduced with high success rates like sweet pepper, eggplant and broccoli. Other varieties still need acclimatization and testing like sugar peas, cauliflower and white cabbage.
Organic cotton seed production
In cooperation with the Egyptian Cotton Research institute, the EBDA started to produce organic cotton seeds. On the egyptian market, only conventional cotton seeds can be found. Cotton is a high value crop for Egypt and one of the major sources of national income. However, organic cotton production is facing many challenges in Egypt, including the availability of organic seeds.
The team of the EBDA and the Cotton Research Institute carefully selected the variety that could best be cultivated organically for seed production. The pilot project started March 2019 with the goal to produce 50 tons of seeds. After cultivation and ginning and packaging, the trail was evaluated to be successful. Although only 30 tons of seeds were produced (20 tons less than expected), but with high quality and good germination rate. The 30 tons of seeds are sufficient for all EBDA farmers that are cultivating cotton during this year 2020. Further research is carried out during 2020 to reach higher yields of organic cotton seeds.
Field trial: Organic cotton cultivation in the desert
Due to the heavy use of chemicals in the old lands (the Delta and the Nile Valley), organic cotton became likely contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. Cultivating cotton in the new lands (desert areas) could be a solution to overcome the contamination with chemicals. EBDA in cooperation with SEKEM for Landreclamation, will examine the possibility to cultivate long staple cotton under arid conditions in the western desert in Egypt. The trial started in March 2020 with the following goals:
- To evaluate the cultivation of long staple cotton varieties under arid climatic conditions in an ecological and economical way
- To cultivate organic long staple cotton varieties under advanced irrigation systems (Drip irrigation and Pivot irrigation)
- And to examine how irrigation water can be used efficiently.
“Economy of Love” – The answer on today’s challenges
Since the beginning of 2020, Organic Egypt supports the new certification scheme of the Egyptian Biodynamic Association (EBDA). The new standard for transparency introduced in Egypt is named “Economy of Love” (EoL) (https://www.economyoflove.net/) and has already been accredited by the national certification body “Center for Organic Agriculture in Egypt” (COAE). EoL introduces a holistic concept that covers four dimensions: environment, fairness, cultural and economical dimensions. The cultural aspect includes the individual potential unfolding program for each involved employee in a supply chain. The ethical economic sphere focuses on transparent value distribution, true cost, and a fair price calculation along the value chain.
Another reason why this certification has been developed by the EBDA is due to the increasing amount of pesticide polluted water and air. EBDA farmers that are located in the Nile Delta sometimes struggle to keep their crop free from chemicals due to spraying drifts of neighbor farms, contaminated irrigation water or simply the air pollution.
The new EoL Standard does not want to exclude those farmers from being certified EoL. Therefore, in case of unusual pesticide residues in EoL products, an extra audit and examination will be made by an independent Certification Body to ensure that the cause is not made by the farmer itself but due to external circumstances.
AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGN
Maintaining a healthy diet system is as important as taking everyday precautions to help keep you healthy. In light of the current events, Organic Egypt championed an awareness campaign on the benefits of organic consumption and healthy diets in boosting our immune system in the fight against coronavirus COVID-19. On April 7th, Organic Egypt published an article and an awareness documentary that used an evidence-based approach and recent research to explain how organic crops and organic dairy products are rich in vitamins and fatty acids that can help strengthen our immunity against COVID-19. The article was published in three local newsletters including Al Shorouq News and gained traction from a wide range of readers.
Organic Egypt Ambassadors Fellowship a one-year pioneer educational program designed by Organic Egypt that aims at preparing young leaders to drive the transition towards organic agriculture and sustainable food systems. The program consists of an intensive team building activity, capacity development workshops, and a concluding team project (the design of an educational/advocacy campaign). The Fellowship program plays a key role in supporting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) agenda, as well as Egypt’s comprehensive 2030 vision for Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) by engaging with young leaders and providing them with the necessary interpersonal and technical skills in the area of sustainability and organic agriculture. After conducting a competitive process of applications, written assessments, and interviews, we have selected 20 bright young leaders who come from different fields of study, yet they share the same passion for organic agriculture and sustainable food systems. Now, we are preparing to welcome the inaugural class of Organic Egypt Ambassadors for the year 2020-2021.
EGYPTIAN NATIONAL CERTIFICATION BODY
With the ratification of the new Egyptian Law No. 12/2020 regarding Organic Agriculture that was issued January 2020, the sector of organic agriculture in Egypt is gaining more attention. The organic movement in Egypt is relatively small, which was also due to a lack of governmental controls and assurances on the field, thus most of the organic produce has been directed towards the export market. However, with the establishment of this new law, now the local market for organic products has the chance to develop and thrive as well. In light of this milestone, in June 2020, the Heliopolis University (HU) has established the Center for Organic Agriculture (HU-COA). This Center will mainly work as a certification body for organic farmers and processors. Currently, most organic certification occurs through expensive contracts with European or other foreign certification bodies, only two local certification bodies exist in Egypt (Icert https://www.icertdas.com/ and COAE http://www.coae-egypt.com/) both are working on receiving their accreditation. Through the HU-COA, a third national certification body will operate in Egypt, which will significantly improve the organic sector in Egypt and make certification more accessible to farmers and processors.