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April 04, 2014
Fruits from the Gardens of Egyptian University Graduates
Mme Iman believes it is time to branch out

A quarter of a century ago, President Mubarak handed a group of young graduates, 25% of them women, each a small piece of desert land and a rudimentary house. They struggled through trial and error to teach themselves how to farm. Many failed, and others just gave up. USAID is enabling the ones who kept on trying to share the lessons that they learned along the way.

Mme Iman knew, right from the start, that she could do it. She grew a fruit orchard from the desert, raised her sons `` daughters, and sent all of them to college. The graduates’ village in the desert has plenty of schools now, but there is still no public transport, power cuts are frequent, and the Mubarak project is history. For Mme Iman and her neighbors, the future is, still –now, more than ever, on sandy foundations.

The major crop At El Bustan is citrus. Airtransport for export crops has been disrupted and difficult recently. This year, prices both for export and for domestic markets were even less than half what the growers expected. The harvest has been bitter-sweet. Mme Iman will have to cut costs, save water, and find a buyer who will guarantee her a better price next year. Prices for soft fruits may be sweeter, but if Mme Iman decides to cut some trees and start-over, they will take years to grow.

Mme Iman knows that she is going to have to rethink, adapt and innovate. And she knows how to do it. Through the USAID-funded Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI) she took part in a knowledge exchange organized by the Egyptian Agricultural Research Center (ARC), the El Bustan Agricultural Association and the American University in Cairo (AUC).

The Egyptian national agricultural research and extension agencies might not yet have developed all of the new knowledge of sustainable land management practices that Mme Iman will need for the years ahead. However, with USAID support through WLI, they will be able to exchange knowledge with their partner NAREs in eight citrus- and soft-fruit producing countries across the region, as well as six US Land Grant Universities, from Florida to Texas, and the USDA ARS.

Thanks to USAID’s innovative support, Mme Iman still believes that she and her daughters have a bright future to look forward to in El Bustan. She feels certain of that, and others should too.