Meet Maura & her husband Mahmoud from La Duna, Egypt
“I grew up seeing my mother, grandfather and great grandfather grow their own food, and I’ve never eaten something so good after. After marriage, my husband and I lived in a crowded Egyptian city for 11 years. In 2013, a family friend took us to visit his mango farm in the Sinai Peninsula. We fell in love with that place and bought some land to follow our dreams.
We grow mostly olive trees but we also have pomegranates, date palms, figs, prickly pears, mulberry and few tamarind trees. We grow corn and alfalfa for our animals, onions, garlic, tomatoes, arugula and seasonal veggies for our personal needs, and a special ancient type of Egyptian cotton (just a little plot).
Our piece of land had never been worked or used before. We have a drilled well, 94 meters under the ground. We made holes for each of our 4200 olive trees, put lot of equine manure and a drop by drop irrigation system. Every year we add manure from our farm animals and compost. I try to increase biodiversity with flower trees, aromatic herbs (rosemary, basil, mint marjoram, lavender and others) and vegetable plants.
In four years we have never had to treat for pests. We had Acherontia atropos on olive trees, we just took them off the trees and gave to hens. And we have natural predators such as mantis, chameleons, night birds, ladybugs and others.
As our water is lightly salty, I can’t grow everything I want. There are some plants like apricots, lemons, peaches, and my beloved roses suffer because of it. But I don’t give up, I try again and again. We are working slowly but passionately towards our goals. Our next dream is to have a top bar hive.
I was a housewife before and now I am a full time farmer. We live in a more natural and sustainable way. Every time I pick up the fruits of our work, I’m so happy. When I saw and tasted our first extra virgin olive oil, I felt so proud!
Four years ago, when La Duna was just a big piece of empty sand, an agronomist from the local university had come to give us his opinion. When we told him that we wanted to grow naturally… he said “Without chemicals, it will be only a dream, nothing will grow, and you will deceive yourself".
We are so proud that we have proved him wrong. I often write “we" instead of “I" because we are just two people in this adventure; my husband and I. We work the soil, plant, water, harvest and clean all by ourselves (our two boys are still studying at Cairo University).
If we can do this in the desert, anyone of you can grow food and in the process do something good for the planet, too!"