Mr. Mahdi manager of the Mirhom Farag Farm, inspects the wheat in one of the seven 150 acre fields his farm exploits in the Egyptian desert
Normally, it would be easy to understand Mrs. Basilios Farag, one of the owners of the Mirhom Farag Farm, northeast of Cairo, but not today; especially not now. It’s Friday afternoon, and the muezzin is calling for prayers in the nearby village. ‘I think their loudspeakers are really too noisy’, says Basilios.
She herself would never go to the mosque: she’s a Coptic Christian Egyptian, a minority that –according to her- makes up for roughly twenty percent of the population. ‘The villagers around the farm are traditional people’, she explains. ‘Most of them are Muslims. But there are some other Christians in the village as well. They accept each other.’
Mrs. Basilios and her two sons own roughly 2000 cows, of which about 430 are American Holsteiners for dairy production. Furthermore, they own seven 150 feddan (acre) fields, further out in the desert. Mrs. Basilios Farag and her manager Mr. Mahdi take us out to the fields, along the desert road to Ismailia. Gigantic, green circles of land appear in the desert; huge irrigation ‘pivots’ rotate on the land.
The wheat on the fields is doing well; the plants grow fast on the basis of desert soil, nitrates and Nile water, that is pumped hill into a nearby irrigation canal. In a few weeks’ time, the wheat will be harvested. After that, corn will follow, the summer crop of choice.
‘I just heard that this afternoon the United Nations agreed on a resolution to take action in Libya’, says Mr Mahdi, standing in the Egyptian desert sand. He’s happy; these days Libyan leader Kaddafi is fighting back the Libyan opposition, something that worries him.
Although I’m interested in politics, I try to focus on the agriculture questions that I’m here for. Who owns the land we’re looking at? ‘Well….’, says Mr. Mahdi. ‘You see those date palms? You see these pivots? You see all the irrigated desert land here? In total it amounts up to 33.000 acres. We rent our land from a quite well known family. This family is from Libya. They are called Kaddafi.’
Text: Jeroen Kuiper
Photo: Ronald de Hommel