24 May 2018
Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia
Organic Food and Agriculture

She inherited the love of land from her family. Originally from Sidi Bouzid, Leila Horchani, founded Ferme Bio Warda, with a dream of introducing the organic farming and improving the quality life of rural women in her region, the cradle of the jasmine revolution. Considering the socio-economic potential of the Ferme Bio Warda to develop a sustainable and a soil-friendly farming sector, SwitchMed is coaching Leila in her project to support her values and benefit her region.

Every morning, with the same ambition and joy since she was a child, Horchani rolls up her sleeves, with a determined look, and begins to plough her small field of vegetables. Born in a family of farmers, she admits that she considers herself privileged, and that no other activity in the world could make her as happy and accomplished as working on her land with her hands, and as taking care of her cattle. Even after graduating from a university with a degree in food hygiene and safety, Horchani quickly returned to her native village with an idea in her mind: replacing the agricultural products of the market with healthy, authentic, high-quality nutritional.

Her first experience in an agricultural research laboratory consolidated more her knowledge and her ambition. Then only after losing two family members due to the use of pesticides and agrochemical products, Horchani officially declared war on chemicals and established her project. In the first phase, she biologically cultivates potatoes, olives and organically raises animals (sheep, cattle, and poultry). In a second phase, she transforms the products on the spot, to diversify her plantations and promote the green and responsible entrepreneurship culture in her region.

“Only in my small village, 175 rural women work in deplorable conditions every day,” says Horchani. It is true that despite the efforts made, the situation in rural areas has not changed much. The incomes are still very low, the capacity of the premises to invest is almost non-existent and the conditions under which they develop their economic activities are far from optimal: problems of access to credit, land, water, means of communication and transportation, new technologies and knowledge. These difficulties weaken their ability to reach markets and thus their chances of economic development. This is where SwitchMed came in; Horchani has been trained to implement her green business canvas, and then coached in this new incubation step to help her realize her dream. In addition, the coaching and several networking opportunities offered by the program make it easier to find funding.

“SwitchMed gives you the means to realize your green dreams. For me, organic farming protects the soil, the air, and our natural resources,” Horchani adds

It is the only alternative that ensures food safety for consumers. In addition, it saves resources and increases the profitability of production. At the beginning, even Horchani’s mom hasn’t seen this project really promising: “Our neighboring farmers do not skimp on the quantities of [chemical] crop protection products to fight the diseases of their plantations and to guarantee a very average production, in the other hand you do not plan to use any chemical product?” Warda said to her daughter in a perplexed voice.

Conscious of the richness that the old varieties represent and the challenge of maintaining them, Horchani reminded her of a recent past, where there were no chemical products and people were eating healthy and good quality products. The “Ferme bio Warda” project aims to rehabilitate the plant species and animal races that have adapted to local conditions but are nowadays abandoned.

A sum of 1,170 tons of obsolete, non-degradable and ultra-toxic pesticides are spread around in the nature of Tunisia. Through this project, Horchani hopes to reduce this amount by 20% in the next 10 years and create about 100 jobs for these rural women by direct and indirect means in the next five years.

This will reduce the environmental impacts of the current agriculture and its contribution to global warming while creating jobs in this region devastated by unemployment and insecurity. Moreover, these rural women who have neither sources of income nor university degrees, are often overexploited by other employers.

Through this project, Horchani will revolutionize the Tunisian agriculture by supporting sustainable agricultural development to boost local economies and ensure farmers’ autonomy.

 

 

This article was originally published on the SwitchMed website.

Ferme Bio Warda Organic Food & Agriculture
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