‘In the beginning, we slept in tents, because there was nothing here, just desert´, tells Dr. Mohamed Waeed, manager of the livestock division of DINA farm, along the Desert Road between Cairo and Alexandria. Desert really means desert here: we’re talking about real, yellow sand. And when Dr. Waeed talks about the beginning, he talks about 1987. It’s almost unbelievable how fast this part of Egypt has developed since then. Residential areas, farm land and an eight-lane highway now occupy the desert northwest of Cairo.
Since its canvas inception in 1987, DINA Farm has grown into Egypt’s biggest dairy farm, with currently 7000 American-bred Holstein cows, producing milk for more than 20 outlets in Egypt. The farm has its own milk pasteurising plant, furthermore there’s a slaughterhouse and DINA farm grows vegetables and fruits as well.
‘We started as a demonstration project’, says Dr. Waeed. ‘We wanted to show the Egyptians that it is possible to produce quality food in our country.’ According to Dr. Waeed, the future of Egypt’s agriculture is in desert farming. ‘We have a lot of space, we have clean areas and we have underground water.’ Dr. Waeed wants the traditional, small-scale farmers to move out of the Nile Delta, where the population pressure of roughly 80 Million Egyptians is enormous. ‘In the Delta, the soil has salinity problems, there’s an overuse of pesticides polluting the water and there’s not enough space.’
DINA farm takes its water through roughly 120 wells, that pump up ground water from a depth of more than 150 metres. In the near future, water might come to the farm through a big water pipe from the Nile as well. The river runs just ten kilometres east of the farm. ‘I don’t worry about a shortage of Nile water’, Dr. Waeed assures. ‘I know the Ethiopians want to use more Nile water. But it won’t work for them. I’ve been there, it’s such a mountainous country, there’s no space for extensive agriculture. Besides, climate change might even bring more precipitation to the mountains of Ethiopia, leaving more water for us. No, the future of agriculture in Northern Africa is in the Egyptian desert. Who knows, we might become big exporters of agricultural and dairy produce to the region.