It is a story of dialogue and work that unites the community of Marsa Matrouh and Italy. A story that the local farmers’ and fishermen’s associations have written together with CIHEAM Bari and the Italian Cooperation between the beaches on the coast and the plots in desert areas.
This process started in 2010 by the restoration of Wadi Kharrouba – an erosion-prone valley – and the terrace cultivation for new plantations. More than 15 hectares of new arable land were created and redistributed to the population. This first step was followed by training activities about production chains, from sowing of the plot to sale, and by the local reorganization of the irrigation network. The figs of Marsa Matrouh are an example of high quality food, demanded in North Africa and in the Middle East. Initially sold at 5 Egyptian pounds, they are now purchased on the national and international market starting from 15 Egyptian pounds. Slow Food as well is showing interest in local agricultural products and has set up a Matrouh Fig Presidium.
Through the support of CIHEAM Bari, a new agricultural producers’ cooperative was established to strengthen and improve marketing and enhancing figs on national and international markets. Figs are not the only product of the socio-economic revival of the region. Olive trees, watermelon, quinoa, comomile, are also crops currently grown or soon-to-be under experimentation. Many actions about sound management and handling of oil mills were approved and concluded. To support the agricultural sector, compost production from Poseidonia waste material on beaches is under way.
The fishermen’s community has started a process to strengthen small-scale fishery by disseminating good practices in the frame of environmental sustainability, hygiene practices and fishery techniques. Increasing awareness for the cold chain was a major innovation factor. A refrigerated vehicle was supplied for transporting the catch, and the works for the installation of an ice-machine managed by the Fishermen’s Cooperative of Marsa Matrouh were started.
The small fleet of rowboats is being strengthened by the purchase of 10-20 hp outboard motors, so as to have diversification in fishing areas and, consequently, a reduced fishing effort in highly exploited areas. Another action was also launched to rediscover seamanship traditions and enhance the Matrouh fish through the creation of a brand for fish products accompanied by specifications for use.
Today, Marsa Matrouh community is one of the most vital components of participatory Cooperation launched by Italy, and it is a concrete hope for stability, better quality of life and development of the Mediterranean.