Transforming desert land into a profitable fruit oasis

25 September 2015 – It was only a few years ago that Wafaa Abu Shanab took a leap of faith and left the city, moving her family to the desert in West Noubaria, Egypt.

Her journey began when the Egyptian government – in need of more arable farmland to help feed its growing population – began providing disadvantaged Egyptians loans to buy land in the desert as long as they agreed to farm it.

 

Wafaa and her husband, who had been struggling to provide a good quality of life for their four children in the city, were excited by the idea of owning their own land. So they signed up for a small plot of land and house in the Al Yashaa village in upper Egypt.

But almost immediately, their new life offered challenges.

"The land was dry and arid. There were no people, no services and we had difficulties in obtaining clean drinking water," recalls Wafaa.

"I began wondering if I could continue and achieve success, or if I should go back to the city?"

Soon, Wafaa began receiving technical guidance, training and support from IFAD-supported projects in the region, including the West Noubaria Rural Development Project (WNRDP).


Wafaa decided to plant fruit trees and learned the importance of soil management, pest/disease control and water management.

The project was working with farmers in the area to transform the desert into profitable farmland, and to bring services and amenities to the communities that were growing there.

Wafaa decided to plant fruit trees and learned the importance of soil management, pest/disease control and water management.

She received a loan and technical guidance on how to change her watering system from sprinkler to drip irrigation – which helped to improve overall water efficiency and reduced the use of fertilizers by half.

Soon Wafaa's oranges, pomegranates and grapes were growing abundantly. As her farm began to yield more and more fruit, Wafaa's family and desert community also began to thrive.

 

I hope my children reach a high level in their education and have a vital role in their community. Also, I hope that they continue to keep and maintain this land.

Clinics and nurseries began to be established.  Local schools started to open, and her children were able to go to school. Wafaa also took on a role as the Gender Officer at the Nubaria Farmers Union.

Thus, with the right support, not only farms but communities also can thrive, even in the desert.

"Now I have productive land and no more water problems," says Wafaa.

"We have a better standard of living here. My children are becoming well-educated, and their health is better as we are far away from the city pollution."

Wafaa is not yet done building a better life. Her future goals include seeing her community flourish and her children progress in school.

She also hopes to continue to focus on improving the marketing of her produce.

"I am very proud of what I have achieved with my farm," says Wafaa. "I succeeded in overcoming those hard challenges."