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Organic farming training opens new horizons for employment in New Valley

To promote organic farming methods, the project managed to establish an irrigation network for about 50 feddans in addition to the provision of a power network for the farm allocated to conduct the practical training.

The project achievements have also led to the development of the local community in Balat, and contributed to changing it from just a village into a Markaz. It should also be noted that the governor of the New Valley, during his visit to the project’s farm, praised the tangible results realized in the promotion of organic techniques and decided to form a technical committee to share the project’s experiences and knowledge on a wider scale.

Investment in agricultural projects, one of the areas that has captured the attention of the Sawiris Foundation since 2009, provides many compelling reasons for this pioneering step by the Foundation.

These reasons include providing very good  job opportunities for the young farmers who can get a much better farm income once they adopt organic farming methods, in addition to a safe, agri-chemical-free environment.

The SFSD selected to cooperate with the New Horizon Foundation for Social Development to start two projects developing organic farming among farmers in Balat, a small village east of the Dakhla Oasis. The idea was to create employment and promote income generation among young people in the New Valley governorate by providing training about organic farming techniques that produce crops with a higher market value and at the same time. The fund of the two projects was granted by Al-Ahram Beverages Company and run by the SFSD.

The first project which started on Jan. 15, 2009 till July 15, 2010, succeeded in training 200 small farm owners to implement organic farming practices based on drip irrigation, and raising their awareness about food safety and protecting the environment. The Training was carried out by specialists from the ARC Desert Research Centre and the Egyptian Center of Organic Agriculture. The project also established organic greenhouses and nurseries employing many of the trainees to produce and sell seedlings suitable for organic farming. More jobs were created through the implementation of animal and bird breeding projects, established particularly by women in the village to help produce the products suitable for use in the production of compost manure.

The real impact rendered by this project made the foundation adopt the model and scale it up in the same village of Balat to further enhance employment through the development of organic farming practices. The second project was also implemented by the New Horizon Foundation  during the period from November 2010 till January 2013.

Around 310 trainees, mainly young farmers, participated in the three-phases training program which focused on certain crops as well as livestock production and the manufacturing of organic manure (compost). The project provided job opportunities for 296 trainees in the private farms or on the New Horizon’s farm. A good number of project beneficiaries made use of the micro-credit program provided by the project to be able to start their own projects. The small loans  program contributed to the sustainability of the project through the  promotion of a self-employment culture.

The encouraging picture of the overall results of the project was the realization of gender balance in the training program. About 50% of the trainees were women who participated competitively, and successfully, in all training sessions. Because of the women’s increased role as income earners, the project provided the female trainees with small loans to start their own projects of livestock and compost production.