Agricultural Programme Helps Farmers Increase Profits
“Egyptian farmers are used to planting the same crops year after year, often with diminishing revenues and big losses,” says Eid Emam, founder and head of Hussein Namie farmers’ association at al Zaytouna village in Beni Sweif Governorate. “When they incur losses, farmers usually blame it on fate.”
Because of price fluctuations; lack of market guidance; absence of quality extension services; and outdated agricultural practices that are not responsive to climate changes, farming has become a sort of a gamble for the majority of small holders in Upper Egypt.
- 1,200 farmers in Beni Sweif benefited from SALASEL’s expert training and technical guidance on farming.
- SALASEL’s experts helped farmers combat a fatal tomato leaf pest, decrease infection by 90% in the current season.
- With support from SALASEL's marketing team, the Namie Farmer’s association signed a contract to supply major food processors with high quality cauliflower and Broccoli. Both crops were newly introduced to the region
As a result, farmers seed their crops not knowing if a few months down the road they will end up making a profit or merely covering their cost. At times they may end up losing both their money and their crops.
Emam is one of over 1,200 farmers in Beni Sweif who received extensive training and technical guidance on fertilization, irrigation and pest control management. The SALASEL team of experts and professional agronomists helped them combat a fatal tomato leaf miner pest that had been destroying their tomatoes crop for the past two years.
“We used to rely heavily on chemical pesticides that we used every other day during the season till harvest time,” explains Emam. “This year, thanks to SALASEL, we had a great yield while spending less than a quarter of our usual expenses.”
The Pro-poor Horticulture Value Chains in Upper Egypt joint programme, known locally as “SALASEL,” which stands for “chains” in reference to the value chains, has been working with small farmers in six Upper Egyptian governorates since mid-2010.
SALASEL focuses on upgrading farmers’ skills, in growing quality crops and managing their small farms. It helps them grow into small investors with the ability to plan ahead, analyse markets and engage effectively in fair partnerships with key market players, wholesale traders, exporters and food processors.
UNDP joined forces with three UN organizations to support SALASEL, namely, the UN Industrial Development Organization, International Labour Organization, and UN Women. The four agencies partnered with the Ministries of Investment and Foreign Trade and Industry to boost Egyptian exports and introduce new industries to the Upper Egypt.
The Hussein Namei farmers were extremely happy to see that their crop was well received in the market with good pricing. Notably, Egypt is the fifth largest producer of tomatoes worldwide, according to FAO statistics. Yet in 2010 and 2011 despite the huge volume of tomato production, a considerable amount of tomato was imported from neighbouring countries. The result was a huge rise in tomato prices causing panic among consumers who consider the red fruit a cheap yet essential component of Egyptian foods especially among the poor.
This year, around 3,000 SALASEL farmers from different Upper Egypt governorates, were able to supply the markets with considerable amounts of high quality, pesticide-free tomatoes. With the help of the programme’s active marketing team, 180 SALASEL farmers were able to sell their high quality tomato produce to food processors and exporters with a total of revenue exceeding EGP 2.0 million (close to USD 350,000). Others sold the crop directly in the local market with equally high profits.
“When we established the Hussein Namie Farmers' association back in 2008 we only had 80 members all in all,” says Emam. “With the great success with SALASEL on tomatoes, our membership stands now at 250 and rapidly increasing.” This fits well with SALASEL's strategic plan to support local farmer associations as a hub of knowledge and an effective medium to promote group and contract farming.
“The programme is active in supporting small farmers to access high end markets, by planning ahead and growing demand driven crops," explains Ahmed Al Sharif, SALASEL marketing officer in the Beni Sweif field office. “Those who take part in this experiment are really small farmers with no more than one feddan of land on average. And they agreed to take the risk of planting new crops because they trust the programme after their tomato experience.”
The Hussein Namei farmer association is also working closely with the programme to spread a culture of protected cultivation. The programme financed a model greenhouse built and run by the association to promote replication. Already, three small farmers are gathering resources and swapping lands in order to apply the model.
“Being small in size does not necessarily entail little profit,” says Emam glancing at his land. “I am sure that the title ‘small farmer’ doesn’t apply to me anymore.”