In the early hours of the morning, most of us wake up rushing through our routine and throwing ourselves at work before we even have the chance to refresh our minds, souls, and bodies. For Wael Basheer Abdel Halim, founder of WiiWii’s Farm, however, the mornings are for answering the calls of nature; the birds, the animals and the plants.
Living on the planet’s hungriest continent, the need to secure food and preserve land is seeing the rise of farmers as entrepreneurs and shifting farming from rural areas to cities. While commercial entrepreneurship has been the dominant driver in the market, social and environmental forms of entrepreneurship are redesigning spaces that reconcile the relationship between nature, farmers and consumers.
Building a farm business isn’t just about finding a piece of land with great soil. It is also about having the right infrastructure, being collaborative, asking lots of questions and combining passion with hard work, dedication, and will-power.
For Wael, 37, becoming a farmer wasn’t easy after working in telecommunications for years with no knowledge of agriculture. But he has since learned from several farmers how to grow food, and has taken to heart the advice of all of his mentors.
“I’ve always wanted to grow my own farm. I took care of our home garden from mowing the lawn all the way to gardening. At first it was just about owning a farm, but then it became an investment. I decided that it was enough working in the corporate world and that I needed a little change, and eventually found this farmland for sale,” Wael says.
The first challenge was taking care of the land and building farming infrastructure.
“The previous owner left it in a very bad condition. There were withered olive bushes and damaged irrigation lines, and we also had issues in electricity and water, as the underground wells did not provide fresh water, there were only salt water wells,” he says.
“There was – and still remains – the problem of labor, as it’s really hard to find someone willing to work in a remote farm. I try to plant crops that will not be affected by the quality of water and electricity, I overcame it after 3 years and we successfully cleaned the land and planted new trees, and we fixed the irrigation finally and built workers’ quarters.”
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WiiWii’s Farm also makes space for community gatherings and volunteering, with a welcoming circle of seats around a fire pit on a grassy area. Other than producing healthy food for the community, the farm also hosts many gardening and farming workshops for youth and teaches those interested how to grow their own food – demonstrating the benefits of using agriculture as a tool for community engagement, empowerment, and environmental protection.
“The farm is open to visitors and our marketing is mainly organic through friends and family as well as Instagram. My friend always visits and tries to stay as much as they can to enjoy nature. I also try to spread the culture of volunteering and bring awareness to different trends like farming and environmental awareness,” he adds.
“Many of the youth invest in cafes or restaurants, or opt for commercial entrepreneurship, but they forget about environmental activities such as farming, which is a primary resource and is a factor of production. I am trying to create a space that reconnects people with nature.”
While the project is largely run independently, many of the targets that Wael aspires to achieve, he cannot achieve alone.
“I want it to be 100 percent sustainable. I recycle everything including animal waste and we try to create a complete sustainable cycle; some of the waste does not always get processed as we always try to find environmental means to recycle. But I hope to be 100 percent self-sufficient and invest in solar power,” Wael explains.
“I hope that the rules and regulations for organic farms become more supportive and that organic farms such as mine, which provide clean and insecticide free crops, are supported to push them to continue and grow, otherwise local farmers won’t be able to continue further in their business,” he adds.
Since opening the farm business, there are achievements that are both personal as well as professional.
“Changing the land from a desert to one that is green, fertile and is productive is a huge achievement for me. I also developed a strong name in the olive oil market, and I run out of stock all the time. The best thing about the farm business is that it is client based; they are supportive and understand my farming techniques and the quality of my crops, so it becomes more of a direct interaction with them.”
It may be that our biggest story of the century will not necessarily be found in technology or innovation, but also in fighting hunger and protecting nature. Progress is redefined to mean more than just urban development, but to express care, foster and love towards all creatures of life, and to truly protect our planet.
“It feels fulfilling when you witness the entire process of growth, from planting the seed until it grows to become the plant or the crop, despite the fact that it can be very slow. You have to be passionate or else you will easily give up,” Wael concludes.