Last October, in the run-up towards World Food Day, a seed bombing event was co-organized in Cairo in collaboration with Nawaya. Nawaya is a start-up social enterprise focusing on agriculture as a core driver for rural development — but not just any agricultural system. Nawaya specifically promotes ecological farming practices whereby Egyptian rural communities become stewards of their local environment and agro-ecological resources. This is a long process of awareness-raising and marketing to change farming practices. Consumer ignorance and apathy to what is available has lead people to choose Chinese big white garlic cloves over the small purplish highly potent Egyptian variety.
The seed bombing event itself was very different from what Egyptians are used to seeing every day: a lack of infrastructure and general awareness leaves streets and untended areas like mini garbage dumps rife with stray animals and flies. Around 100 people gathered to purposely ‘dispose’ of productive plant seeds, neatly stored in seed balls providing nutrients and soil. The walk passed through Tahrir, where curious onlookers would stop and listen to information about seed security. The event was called "Bezoor Balady" in Arabic, and was organised to raise awareness about Egypt’s need to preserve local seeds, and promote Egyptian varieties of fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains. The best tasting Egyptian dishes are nothing without them! All Egyptians can relate to this!
Attendees of the march to Tahrir, then to Abdeen Palace, were highly engaged — practical workshops were run over the two weekends leading up to the event to make the seed balls themselves. The technique, originally a Japanese agricultural practice, was translated into the urban context to raise a debate on the role city dwellers have in preserving and supporting their farming communities. Farmers depend on the state for many resources, increasingly seeds also. Nawaya’s involvement in the event is closely tied to their work at the community level to encourage and protect local seed exchanges and networks across Egypt. By creating strong networks and building a sense of community rooted in the elements of sustainable and conscious agriculture, Nawaya is continuing to promote "Bezoor Balady" by starting a local community living seed bank.
Nawaya’s next event switches the role around: the city dwellers will come to the countryside and learn the principles of sustainable land use in a new context. An international Permaculture Design Course is being hosting on Nawaya’s agricultural demonstration plot between February 14th to 25th, 2013. This is definitely an exciting time to host a PDC in Egypt, at a time where the people cannot afford to lose sight of their rural cultural skills and treasures, that are key to a resilient and secure future for a growing and hungry population of 83 million….