Newsletter Volume 9 – April to June 2021

Dear Reader,

This is the ninth newsletter of our Organic Egypt project. This newsletter reviews the second quarter of 2021. In this newsletter we will share the trainings and workshops that were conducted with our partner associations. Also we will show the status of the pilot projects implemented at the partner associations to foster innovations in spreading organic agricultural methods in Egypt. Furthermore, we will present the awareness raising and educational campaigns that we implemented with our different partners. Finally, we will report about our project in Aswan where we support in converting farmers to organic cultivation.Enjoy reading our latest activities Stay safe and healthy!

TRAININGS AND WORKSHOPS FOR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS 

Training session on “Biological Control'' for partner associations

Organic Egypt supports its partner associations in training sessions and programs to build capacity within the association. Many training sessions have been conducted. In April a theoretical and practical training session on “Biological Control'' by Dr. Ashraf El Arnaouty was conducted.

The expert introduced and explained different predators used in biological control and how to apply predators to their crops in the fields. Moreover, he talked about several insects and diseases that engineers might face in the field and how to solve it by using biological control. The EBDAs predators lab, that is supported by Organic Egypt project was visited during this training and the engineers had the chance to see the predators and how they are reared and produced in the lab.Also the engineers learned which predators can be used against which pest and how to apply them in the field. What must be considered during transportation and application of the predators to ensure successful results.

Training session on Soil Salinity and how to read Soil Analyses

In June a training on the soil salinity and soil analysis and how to properly read the analysis was conducted by 2 experts. The session “Reading soil Analysis” given by Dr. Mohamed Salah was about how to read a report of soil analysis and how to analyze a sample inside the laboratory. He also explained the material and methods used to make an analysis of a soil sample. The session “Soil Salinity” was given by Mr. Corne Lugtenburg’s from the Netherlands, who explained how to detect soil salinity through proper reading of analysis as well as what measures could be taken and used to overcome soil salinity.

ToT in organic olive cultivation for DRWACA association

Some rural areas in Egypt are completely isolated and hard to reach, e.g. Sidna Al Khidr village in Fayoum governorate. Many feddans are covered with olive orchards and some herbal plants as cash crops. All the workers are small landowners and their families. In fact, they face many problems such as poor soil quality, water scarcity, but most importantly a lack of extension and technical support. Also, due to climate change, olive trees get infested by pests that usually show in spring, now infecting the trees much earlier; which was an additional problem for the farmers. Consequently, they excessively use agrochemicals to overcome the soil problems, weeds, pests, and diseases without knowing the adverse consequences of these applications on the soil, plant, and human health. Additionally, they do not obtain good quality and appropriate quantity after harvesting.

Therefore, Organic Egypt started a ToT program for organic olive production to its partner association DRWACA. The program is being delivered by the consultant Dr. Hamed Hosney and consists of 10 sessions going through different topics (e.g. the establishment of an organic olive orchard, nutrition/fertilizations including preparing compost and applying it, pest and diseases management, pruning, irrigation, harvest and post-harvest treatments, and organic certification). The training program started in June 2021 and is planned to be completed in October 2021. By the end of this program, DRWACA will be equipped with 10 well trained staff and farm leaders that can deliver the organic cultivation method to all members of DRWACA wishing to convert their land to organic cultivation and to enter a new and rapidly growing market of organic produce.

Rdna Governance Workshop

RDNA specialty grocery store was born out of a desire to re-connect people with the land, with farmers, and to encourage informed food choices based on transparency, diversity, and a willingness to improve. RDNA is a strategic partner of “Organic Egypt” and responsible for setting up a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) with a wide range of small scale suppliers that support the promotion of organic and agroecological agriculture in Egypt. The founders of RDNA identified the need to work on its organizational structure and operational systems to better manage the increasing complexity and further scale up their business, and with support of Organic Egypt, conducted a workshop with Dr. Maximilian Boes. During the workshop, the governance structure of RDNA was explored as well as different possibilities to organize work flow, roles and responsibilities more clearly and with a higher degree of self-management. Additionally, self management tools were discussed as well as indicators which measure the healthiness of the business.

EBDA – Compost training

With the support of Organic Egypt, the Egyptian Bio-Dynamic Association (EBDA) successfully conducted a one-day workshop for interested people on compost and the composting process. Some members of EBDA and IDAM attended the workshop, but also different people interested in the topic.

The workshop was conducted on the farm of one of EBDAs members in Sharqia and consisted of a theoretical and practical part. The participants showed a very positive response towards the workshop and requested other training on topics related to organic agriculture like biological control and organic fertilization. EBDA is planning for future workshops.

Strategic planning workshop for IDAM staff

A three-day strategic planning workshop was conducted in Minya with the agricultural team of IDAM and Organic Egypt in April 2021. IDAM started the workshop with a presentation showing their partners, the running and planned agricultural projects, and the strategic plan for IDAM as an association. Followed by discussing the recommendations from Al Moltaqa satisfaction survey which had been done with IDAMs farmers at the end of 2020. Consequently, IDAM developed projects to meet the needs of their farmers, and in compliance with the environmental agriculture concept that IDAM adopted while providing its services to farmers.

We went through the pilot projects and services namely, fayoumi chicken program, biofertilizer laboratory, soil and water analysis laboratory, marketing of natural produce, compost unit and farmer field schools and discussed the status of each project. IDAM invited Organic Egypt team to visit Hassan Al Sharq’s Museum in Zawyt Sultan village. He is an international painter and great artist, his works are inspired by nature, local ecosystem and folklore.

On the last day of the workshop, we met Dr. Adel Abd Elsalam who is the responsible consultant for the fayoumi chicken organic rearing program. We discussed all relevant points and went through the training materials. 


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 April 2021, an training course regarding ISO 17065 & ISO 17067 for a group of delegates from different certification bodies was conducted by Dr. Ahmed Hammed. The trainees who received this training course should be more able to perform in their job as auditors in a certification body. This training gave the employees a greater understanding of their responsibilities within their role in the certification process according to the ISO. ISO 17065 & ISO 17067 is a prerequisite for any certification body to get the accreditation.

In June a training on the EU- Regulation and other organic standards including the new Egyptian organic legislations was conducted. The training was given by Dr. Sabry Nasif for the same group of inspectors and auditors. This training aims to first, make the trainees familiar with regulations practically and how to easily apply regulation articles; second, acquire the ability to follow the regulation when they apply new organic techniques or technology. Most importantly, the training emphasized on the new Egyptain organic law and its legislations.

TRAINING AND LEARNING MATERIAL FOR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS

Catalogues for organic fertilizer, pest control and seeds

Due to the lack of knowledge about the organic pesticides, fertilizers as well as organic seeds on the egyptian market, the Egyptian Biodynamic association (EBDA) in cooperation with Heliopolis University and Organic Egypt developed catalogues for organic fertilizer, pest control and seeds. These catalogues include all information related to biological control and fertilization products that are available on the Egyptian market.

Learning videos for organic agricultural practices:

The EBDA in cooperation with Nawaya and Organic Egypt are working on creating new learning videos on specific topics of the organic farming sector. Nawaya is an NGO that focuses on True Sustainability and has implemented projects with small scale farming families and disseminating knowledge on sustainable farming and small-scale food processing. A key working methodology of Nawaya is to highlight lead farmers and people through training videos to disseminate knowledge through peer learning.

The planned videos cover a wide range of topics including; what is organic agriculture, how to apply biological control agents like predators and microorganisms against pests and diseases, organic poultry, managing sustainable irrigation, soil build up using organic practices, biodiversity and organic seed production. 

The expected outcome is to create appealing learning videos that can be watched by farmers and people interested in organic agriculture, sustainable development, environmental questions and organic food.


NEW INNOVATIVE SERVICES OF OUR PARTNER ASSOCIATIONS

Organic Egypt supports the piloting of new innovative services that the partner associations offer to their farmers. The supply of good quality organic pest control and fertilizers are one of the association's new services. Further projects like piloting the Fayoumi breed in Minia Governorate and spreading the principles and values of the new standard economy of love are supported through the project. Some of the pilot projects that are tested and implemented are listed below:

Postharvest drying facility in Fayoum for FAODA farmers

FAODA's drayer in Fayoum, which had many technical issues according to the last report. Dr. Heba Mosalem from the faculty of engineering Heliopolis University, with an expert team were responsible for the consultancy and maintenance procedure. Dr. Heba visited the dryer in April 2021 to approve the system and the repair and check if all is working properly. All technical issues were revised and the dryer was delivered to FAODA team. FOADA made a production plan for the dryer that will serve many farmers in the village and neighboring villages.

Predators Laboratory for EBDA farmers – from Lab to Field

In April 2021, the second release of aphid lion predator for the 10 feddans of lemon and orange trees at Adlia farm, one of EBDAs farms located in Sharqia, had been done. Also 6 feddan of vegetables like green beans, summer squash had the third release of aphid lion predator. On another EBDA farm, located in the Wahat Bahariya Oasis, 10 feddans of medicinal and aromatic plants have finished 3 releases of aphid lion predator. The first release was in March followed by the second in April and completed with the third release in May 2021. 50 feddan of coriander, dill, chamomile, carthamus, fennel, Nigella sativa,caraway, and Cumin amongst others, got the third and last release in April of aphid lion. So far, the numbers of aphids are under control on all crops where the aphid lions predators were released.

At the beginning of May, in addition to distributing the predator to the mentioned farms, the lab sold aphid lion predator to several external neighbouring farms to control aphid infestation on tomato, sweet pepper, squash and camomile. Each crop had approximately 1 feddan, the release was at a rate of 6 packs/feddan and was repeated 3 times. With a price of 50 pound per pack, the expenses for 1 feddan are approximately 900 EGP. It is planned to continue producing the predator for the mentioned EBDA farms and the external farms in Sharqia. Approximately 180 packs of aphid lion predator every month are planned to be produced for the current summer season cultivation.Generally it is planned to increase the marketing of the lab to attract new farmers, but also market the products more among the farmers of the partner associations and the existing network.

Pilot project Fayoumi chicken for IDAM association

Fayoumi is an Egyptian breed of chicken that derived from ancient jungle fowl and is believed to have been around during the days of the Egyptian Pharaohs. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Fayoumi is their ability to be incredibly resistant to disease.Their natural immunities to many of the viral and bacteriological diseases that plague other poultry are being studied by researchers all over the world. Notably, Fayoumis are suspected to be resistant to Marek’s Disease, Newcastle disease, maybe even Avian Influenza as well as many other illnesses.Owing to their incredible resistance to disease and early maturity, IDAM started a pilot project to raise this breed in Al Minya and distributed the breed to its members.

Organic Egypt supported the pilot project partially with the cost of the breed, training the staff and the monthly vet-consultancy. The consultant Dr. Adel Abd Elsalam is training the staff of IDAM and supporting the vet-consultancies to IDAM members. The end of the first cycle of the Fayoumi breed will be reached in October 2021. Parallel to that, a manual for raising and rearing the fayoumi chicken will be created by the consultant and will be available for all partner associations.

Economy of Love Standard (EoL) and Educational Program (EoL EDU)

The launch of the first economy of Love certified products was successful. Economy of Love and it’s strategic partners started an online campaign to promote the launch. The new website of economy of Love www.economyoflove.net was also successfully launched and includes a great update of the innovative tracing tool “impacTrace”. Moreover, the economy of love education program was successfully tested in the companies over six months so far. 3 training sessions were given to EBDA engineers in the last 3 month. The trainers Nana Woo and Hadeel Bahaa discussed the questions of how the engineers can create a community that follows these aspects, and how to explain it to the farmers. This program is aiming to spread the principles and values of economy of love among the employees working in an economy of love supply chain. A new achievement is the connection between the standard and the voice of the consumer, that we were able to do through the Rdna Salons, where we engaged and connected directly with the customers.

EDUCATIONAL AND AWARENESS RAISING CAMPAIGNS

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 April, 13 vendors were selling their products at the market, around 250 people participated and connected to small scale producers and farmers to exchange stories. Among the vendors were IDAM as well as EBDA members. The market was also accompanied with the activity of making seed bombs with seeds of flowers, herbs and vegetables; as well as organic egg coloring as it was easter time.

The Market in May was themed with native Egyptian bread where 9 vendors were selling their products at the market, experimenting with new types of Egyptian breads with the participation of 250 people. IDAM hosted a session on Grains that are used in Egypt to bake traditional breads, and Dr. Hala Barakat did a talk about “the story of bread”. In addition to that, Baladini, one of rdnas partners did a bread baking activity with consumers and baked fresh bread in their oven in the garden.

Consumer – Farmers Excursions

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.

An excursion was conducted in May to WiiWii’s Farm on the Alexandria Desert Road. WiiWii’s Farm supplies Rdna with fresh fruits and vegetables. 15 consumers attended this one day trip, where they took a farm tour through the olive trees and the open field plants, as well as the greenhouse and the stables with sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, and two donkeys. There were many discussions with Wael, the founder of the farm about his story, how he started the farm, and why he is growing everything with organic principles. At the end of the day, all participants engaged in potato harvesting.

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 April, 4 sharing circles were conducted on a Tuesday evening at KMT house in Maadi. The first session was about “imagining and Economy of Love” that was designed by the Economy of Love educational team. The questions explored in this session included: Do you know the stories behind the products you buy? your impact? How can we care for each other, the planet and meet everyones’ needs? It was an interactive session with the 10 participants. The discussions were supported with artistic body movement and awareness activities. 

The second Rdna salon was conducted under the topic “organic meat”; how to raise organic cattle, slaughtering and kind of meat cuts was among the topics discussed.

The third salon in April was conducted by Mohamed Abu Khatwa Shams, a farmer and member of EBDA. He shared his decades of experience in organic vegetable production. The challenges they face in planting organic vegetables from seed to harvest. It was a lively discussion around the topic and many questions were raised by the participants.

The fourth Salon was about “Natural Gold – essential oils” by Dr. Engy Mohamed. She shared her knowledge and experience in the field of essential oils and superfoods. Around 10 people participated and the discussion went on how essential and carrier oils are made, what their benefits are, and what superfoods are and how it affects our health and immunity.

Participation in food fairs

Rdna with products of Organic Egypts partner associations participated in two food fairs which took place in downtown katameya and arkan plaza in April. The implementation organization for both events was Bazarna, which is based on the idea of fostering the skills and creativity of business owners, offering a branding and marketing platform for SMEs to introduce their brands and products to target audiences. Rdna aims to reach more potential audiences who are interested in their healthy products, which were around 800 audiences at both events, also in order to spread awareness on health through nutrition. Rdna participation was mainly to do tastings on some of their products, such as organic vegetables and organic meat from EBDA partner farms. Rdna did on-ground activities by bringing BBQ equipment for tasting, letting people taste the organic food.


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. End of April, a harvest festival was held to celebrate the harvest with the farmers! A film team of PDF attended this visit to interview the farmers on their experience in cultivating organically and if they have interest to continue with the organic farming.

The basil nurseries for the summer season cultivation are going very well. The 17 farmers on a total area of around 30 hectares are excited to start the organic basil cultivation!

During the visit in May, a compost training for the 17 farmers and other interested farmers was conducted in Alamal village. In total 32 farmers participated in this training. All farmers were very interested and engaged and asked lots of questions.

Representatives of the EBDA joined the visit in May and gave a small presentation on the association's work and activities and how to become a member. All 32 farmers signed up as members in the EBDA and other 8 farmers showed interest and signed up after the visit. The EBDA gaind in total 40 new members in Aswan Governorate.