Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012

Ahram Weekly

Sowing what you reap

Al-Ahram Weekly

The “Bozoor Balady” campaign, which has been in the works for the past three months, was officially launched at a public event in Cairo.
The campaign, which started last month, aims to underline the importance of local seeds and seed diversity in the food supply, rather than be dependent on foreign seeds or the international market.
The campaign’s founders, Ahmed Al-Droubi and Hoda Baraka, said that Egypt was no longer using locally produced seeds in agriculture, potentially harming biological diversity.
On the day the campaign was launched, “seed bombs” were created in various parts of Cairo, a seed bomb being a mixture of seeds and compost that is rolled in the palm of the hand to obtain a bundle of clay-like soil that can be planted and will grow.
“There was great public engagement for the launch event and for the training sessions we had prepared,” Baraka, communications officer for the “Bozoor Balady” campaign, said.
She explained that over the past three months the campaign had held two training sessions for people who wanted to know the context of the initiative and to prepare for greater public engagement.
The organisers had been excited to find that large numbers of people had wanted to participate and that these had come from a variety of different backgrounds, ages, and interests.  
“The main message is that people can replicate what we are trying to do in the ‘Bozoor Balady’ campaign in their own homes. It isn’t just a campaign aimed at farmers, though obviously it is more important for them since growing crops is what they do for a living,” Baraka said
The founders of the campaign work in environmental protection, but the agricultural theme is the background of all who work in it. It was from here that came the idea of a multi-layered public campaign on the issue.
“We are trying to push forward public discourse on several issues related to agriculture, with seed diversity as a starting point,” Baraka said.
Al-Droubi of Greenpeace Egypt, one of the founders of the campaign, explained that there were many issues facing agriculture in Egypt.
Water was a main issue, he said, together with its effective use. Other issues included the conservation of natural resources and the protection of the environment. Agriculture production needed to be prioritised to serve local needs over larger economic interests, Al-Droubi said.
Al-Droubi said that USAID, the US Agency for International Development, had recommended that Egypt plant more export crops, rather than crops that would serve the local market.
“The idea is to plant tulips or Kiwi fruit for export in order to earn money, but this money doesn’t go towards supporting what Egyptian people need. Instead, it goes into the pockets of certain people in business,” he said.
“All this means that if the companies that monopolise the market choose for whatever reason to cut the supply of certain seeds, we will be in a difficult situation because we are not producing seeds of our own that we can turn to.” Baraka added.
The “Bozoor Balady” campaign has been contacted by the Farmers’ Union, and there have been suggestions that the campaign and the farmers should cooperate in order to enhance public outreach.
In order to introduce the initiative, the founders had had to work in the two largest cities in Egypt, Cairo and Alexandria, since Egyptian policy-making was focussed on these cities, as was media coverage.
“But of course we also intend to spread,” Baraka said.

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