Newsletter Volume 7 – September to December 2020

Dear Reader,

This is our seventh newsletter of the Organic Egypt project. This newsletter reviews the last quarter of 2020. An intensive and challenging year is coming to an end. The global pandemic has negatively affected Egypt and its general economic health and many people are still facing insecurity in terms of income. Like elsewhere in the world, public and civic life suffered from restrictions imposed by social distancing. Nevertheless, the general situation of fear and social disruptions is less severe in Egypt than in other parts of the world and our partner associations could engage to serve their purpose and help farmers to grow organic food. With curiosity and optimism we are looking to 2021 and plan to further mobilize resources and activities to support farmers. As a highlight we envision, together with our associated partner RDNA to build up a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) with our associations to help small-scale farmers to build a trusted relationship with regard to the quality of their products to the end consumers. In this newsletter we will show the status of the pilot projects implemented at the partner associations to foster innovations. Furthermore, the reader will learn more about the results of the farmers assessment done for EBDA and IDAM members. Also we will show our achievements in implementing awareness raising, educational and marketing campaigns with our different partners.

Finally, we will report on the new project in Aswan that Organic Egypt is supporting. We hope you have a wonderful Christmas time and wish you a happy new year!

Stay safe and healthy!

NEEDS AND SATISFACTION ASSESSMENT OF EBDA AND IDAM MEMBERS

In light of Organic Egypt’s strategic objectives a needs and satisfaction assessment for EBDA and IDAM members has been done. Al Moltaqa for Training and Research was contracted in May 2020 to carry out the assessment. They have just concluded their report and outcomes this month. The farmers surveyed reported high satisfaction with the availability and the level of services provided by EBDA. The EBDA technical team of extension engineers and experts are highly appreciated among the interviewed sample of farmers, due to their advanced knowledge and the quality of service they provide at the field level while establishing personal contact with the farmers.

Al Moltaqa also highlights the high satisfaction of farmers with the services of the EBDA association due to the long-standing contractual agreements between both parties. Such relationships exceed in some cases 15 years, which created a deep mutual understanding of needed services and how to respond to them. In addition to the existence of contractual agreements with customers facilitated by the association, the farmers appreciated better access to market. Some recommendations for the EBDA association were presented, such as supporting farmers to establish new irrigation systems, as most of the farmers use traditional irrigation methods, which consume high amounts of water and energy. Furthermore, mainstreaming the needs of women and youth in the provided services through including them in a financial credit system or encouraging them to lead on the component of the provision of trusted inputs as the organic compost has been identified as a potential area for improvement.

As for IDAM, Al Moltaqa concluded a high satisfaction of the farmers with the technical services provided by the association. Besides IDAM’s extension work on converting farmers from conventional to natural and organic farming and also provision of information about how to make composting some challenges were identified. Firstly, the land fragmentation is a challenge, as most of the farmers are cultivating small areas that could be affected by no-organic practices by neighbors. Secondly, the limited marketing channels of organic products, and thirdly, the availability of good quality production inputs have been identified as key challenges. The farmers formulated some suggestions to increase the satisfaction, such as providing the farmers with financial facilities, in-kind support and the provision of agricultural tools and other supplies. Amongst other final recommendations, IDAM is encouraged to conduct a cost benefit exercise with farmers to show the difference between their profit before and after cultivating organically. All conclusions and recommendations of this assessment will be used by the associations to enhance the sector and serve the project objectives. 

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 are either imported and very expensive or expired or locally produced but in very bad quality. Same for organic fertilizers on the Egyptian market. The associations are therefore 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. Furthermore, new, innovative cultivation techniques (e.g. planting cotton in the desert) are supported by the Project. The question of certification and to comply with the guidelines is a big question for all the farmers registered in our partner associations. For many, especially small scale farmers, the certification is too expensive. Therefore, new approaches are being developed and implemented within our partner associations to make certification more easy and accessible. Some of the pilot projects that are tested and implemented are listed below:

Biofertilizers laboratory for IDAM farmers

In the last three months, Organic Egypt organized several meetings between IDAM and representatives from Heliopolis University to elaborate the suitable place for the laboratory in Minia. In October a contract was signed with the company that will set up the laboratory. Construction work is in progress and it is planned to start producing biofertilizers in January 2021. In December, 6 agricultural engineers from IDAM had a 3 days training at the biofertilizer laboratory of Heliopolis University. These engineers will run the laboratory at IDAM once its working in January 2021.

Predators Laboratory for EBDA farmers – from Lab to Field

The cooperation project between EBDA and Cairo University, that Organic Egypt supports, had its first release of aphid lion predator into the open field for the green beans this month. The mass rearing process starts by placing adults in boxes which are covered with a black canson sheet. Boxes are changed 3 times a week, and the eggs are controlled daily and placed in plexiglass boxes until hatching. Alternative host eggs are introduced as a food source for larval rearing. The laboratory produces both larval and egg stages, in case of prevention measures eggs are released. However, in case of infestation 2nd larval stages are released in the open field or in greenhouses. Crops treated are amongst others: eggplants, cucumber, tomatoes, sweet peppers and green beans. For prevention measures one release is carried out at the beginning of the cultivation season. The following 6 weeks, depending on the infestation rate 2 more releases are applied. The production rate depends on the number of farms and feddans to be treated. The lab is constructed to produce around 200 packages per month, which covers around 40 feddan per month, as one feddan consumes 3 – 5 packages/release.

Field trial: Organic cotton cultivation in the desert

Organic Egypt supports the cooperation project between EBDA and SEKEM for Land reclamation, where the cultivation of long staple cotton varieties under arid conditions in the western desert in Egypt is examined. The cultivation period was seven months, from April to October. 2 Feddans have been cultivated under pivot irrigation system and 2.5 feddans under drip irrigation, the germination percentage was very good, more than 98%. Further, it was observed that there was no balls warms infection, most probably due to the hot and dry weather conditions in the western desert. Although the yields were less than the normal yields in the old, fertile soils; it can be summarized that the field experiment was successful and had positive results, which encourages further experiments in the upcoming years. 

Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)

This cooperation project between Organic Egypt and Rdna food community in Cairo was started in August 2020. As part of Rdna’s vision to provide food that is good for people and the planet, Rdna is initiating the Rdna Guarantee System (RGS). For the pilot, Rdna has reached out to 8 mainly small scale farmers to begin gathering information about their production practices. One of those farms is an EBDA farm, which already supplies fresh vegetables to Rdna. Through this project, the variety of produce will be increased as well as the transparent communication about the agricultural practices used to grow them. Rdna will conduct field visits to learn about all pilot farm practices including their challenges and successes. In addition, Rdna will conduct its own sample testing. All of this information will be communicated in an easily and publicly accessible, transparent manner to consumers. Feedback and learning from the pilot group will be integrated into the next iteration of RGS. The second cycle will expand both the number of farms/suppliers as well as the information gathered and communicated. Rdna will go through two iterations in 2021, the pilot cycle and first full cycle and will continue to upgrade RGS through subsequent iterations.

AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGN

EBDA awareness raising campaign for Organic Agriculture 

With the support of Organic Egypt, EBDA planned to organize a series of awareness raising campaigns to disseminate organic agriculture knowledge all over Egypt and increase the number of organic farmers and farms. The awareness raising campaign for organic agriculture aims to show the benefits of organic agriculture and how it can make life better for them and the whole planet. Presenting successful stories of organic farmers are key parts of transferring positive experiences to conventional farmers.

The series of campaigns started in October 2020 and aims to reach 12 cities around Egypt from north to south: Kafr El Sheikh, Damietta, Alfayoum, Alminia, Albehira, Sohag & Assiut, Al Moghra, West Elminia, Alfarafra, Toshka, Altour, Matrouh.The start was on 28th of October 2020 in Kafr El Sheikh with a successful participation of around 80 farmers which were very interested in the topic and asked many questions.

Followed by a campaign conducted in Al Moghra in the wester desert in Egypt, with a relatively small participation of only 8 farmers, all of them were very motivated and interested in the topic of organic agriculture. On 22 of December, a campaign in Fayoum in the local governorate club was conducted, 29 interested farmers attended. An EBDA farmer with over 10 years of experience in biodynamic and organic farming.

EDUCATIONAL CAMPAIGN

Organic Egypt Ambassadors Program OEAP

In August, 20 selected students from the different faculties of Heliopolis University that were accepted in the OEAP started with the first training module on Advocacy and Marketing Strategies. Given the high level of commitment necessary for the program only 8 students completed successfully module 1 and were interested in continuing the rest of the program.

The following module consisted of intensive team building activity and capacity development training. Followed by a module on sustainable and organic farming in October. A concluding team project was done in December, where the students supported in the design and implementation of Pitch n’ Match Demo Day and Matchmaking event at Heliopolis University; ambassadors contributed in the registration process for the attendees and facilitation of the event to be smoothly and well organized; they had the chance to practically experience how to organize and implement an event. Students will receive their certificates on the successful participation and completion of the OEAP upon completion of their group project presentations. An internship in the different projects at HU will be offered to the student starting from January 2021. Due to the many inquiries we received on our social media platform from students of Heliopolis University interested in the program, we are planning a second round of OEAP to be implemented in 2021.

MARKETING CAMPAIGN

Rdna 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. The aim is to bring consumers and producers together in one place. The first successful market occured on 7th November 2020 with Organic Egypt Ambassadors being present and supporting the activities. The experience is designed to foster the awareness of consumers in regards to the reality of farmers and producers through tastings, stories and communication. Organic Egypts partner associations have the opportunity to exhibit their products and engage with potential consumers. The goal of Rdna markets is multiple; Mainly and most importantly it aims to bridge the gap between consumers and farmers and create a space where real dialogue can foster strong partnerships of solidarity and passion.

ASWAN COOPERATION PROJECT BETWEEN EBDA AND PDF

In the collaboration framework between the Egyptian Biodynamic Association (EBDA), the Professional Development Foundation (PDF) and the Heliopolis University (HU), a visit to Aswan (around 1000 km south of Cairo) was conducted in October. One goal of the collaboration is to attract new organic farmers and increase the organic cultivated area in Egypt. Another goal of the collaboration is to reduce the poverty in Wade El-Noqra villages through cultivation of high quality organic products. PDF has the logistics and contacts to the farmers on site, EBDA has the needed technical expertise and will support the cultivation process and marketing of the organic produce. 

During the visit in October, many farmers were visited in the villages of Wadi El Nokra and the principles of organic farming were introduced. PDF has organized these farmer meetings. In total 14 farmers on a total area of around 18 acres (7.5 hectares) showed their interest in doing trials during this winter season 20/21 on different cash crops. 

Crops that grow in the hot, dry and arid climate of Aswan and have a high economical value and demand on the local market were chosen for the trials: fennel, anise, blackseed, marjoram, spearmint, and artichoke. After the seeds and seedlings were prepared, Dr. Saber Hendawy, the EBDA representative visited Aswan again to support the farmers during seedbed preparation; to explain how the seeds will be sown and how seedlings of marjoram and spearmint are transplanted.

In December a third visit was conducted to follow up on the cultivation and discuss farmer’s questions. The first observation is a very successful germination rate of on average 95%. Also the seedlings of marjoram and spearmint succeeded in cultivation by an average of 90%.

During cultivation time (November 2020 till May 2021) it is planned to conduct farmer field schools to show neighboring farmers the results of the trials. Also the evaluation of the trials will be shared with neighboring farmers. These field trials when planted and harvested successfully are planned to attract many more farmers to convert to organic cultivation.