Green Dessert Farm: the report
"Welcome to my Utopia", are the words with which our Egyptian hosts laughingly receives us. But after a while there turned out to be a lot of truth in this statement. Zakaria Ezz Labib is the founder and driving force behind the Green Dessert Farm Association. Zakaria 's dream is to create a lively, productive mini village in the middle of the desert . Not to make money, but to create a place where people can live peacefully regardless of origin, religion or history. With each sharing and helping the other being the core values.
Zakaria's dream did not just fall from the sky. As a Coptic Christian from an Egyptian village he saw and sees a lot of suffering to its people. There are many conflicts between Muslims and Christians in the Minya area, commenced by the smallest things. In these conflicts Zakaria lost a brother, brother-in-law, and an uncle. With this tragical past it would be easy for Zakaria as Christian to become hostile towards everyone and everything that has to do with Islam. That Zakaria does the exact opposite is therefore very admirable and additionally a major strength of the project. Zakaria wants to change the mindset in his environment. "Farmers are simple people," says Zakaria. "It is easy for them to rebel against what is strange, against everything that is not as themselve". This 'small mindedness' is what he wants to change.
With the Green Dessert Farm Zakaria has created a place that is designed according to this ideal. A place where it does not matter whether you're Egyptian or Dutch, Christian or Muslim. You simply live according to a set of shared core values:
by working you earn your food and your freedom to live on the farm;
the emphasis is on sharing and helping each other;
and thus praising the one who created this nature, whatever god this is for you.
What does this mean in practice? In the past 8 years Green Dessert Farm has transformed an area of about 50 acres of desert into a mini oasis where vegetables and fruits are grown, where animals are kept and where everything that is produced is 100% organic. Zakaria has more than enough knowledge to lead the agricultural part of the farm in good jobs. However, in order to move forward, there is still an investment needed, because the farm still can not maintain itself at this point. Like a lot of visionaries, Zakaria sometimes also wants to evolve his project faster than reality allows.
In Zakaria's dream GDF also fulfills a great social function. In the first place it provides employment for a group of young people from the region. Currently about five women and 10 men are working on the farm. In addition, in the future the farm would also be a place where groups can spend a week or a weekend. To come to rest, or to learn about farming, sustainability and the dream of Zakaria.
The Utopia about which Zakaria joked in the beginning of our time at the Farm, unconsciously has a lot of truth to it. Where Zakaria prefers to invest his time in his idealistic vision for the future, in practice first and foremost he has to make sure his company can maintain itself. For this he, moreover, partly dependends on the government, natural conditions and external funding. The harsh reality of a farm in the desert sometimes leaves little place for utopian ideals. With so many dreams, for Zakaria it is sometimes difficult to see what he has already achieved. Where it is very impressive for us as outsiders to see a furtile, green area where there was only dessert less than 10 years ago, Zakaria is already working on next dreams. He feels extremely responsible, not only for the farm, but also for the welfare of his entire village. As he says himself: "Every village needs only one person who creates a spark. One person who can inspire the rest. I hope I am that person.” As an idealist in the Egyptian desert sometimes it is very important to also stay somewhat of a realist. In any case, the dreams of Zakaria will not be the problem.