January 18, 2016

Trendy and sustainable, quinoa and chia research in Egypt

Christine Arlt, SEKEM Initiative

Chia and quinoa seem to be predestined for Egypt.

Chia and quinoa are dry and salt-tolerant crops. Both of them have a great potential to improve food security in regions that do not have enough water resources.

“In march 2015 I visited the SEKEM Initiative Farm for the first time and gained awareness of the huge challenges that agriculture in this very dry desert region is facing,” reflected researcher Laura Mack. Mack is a PhD student at the Institute of Crop Science at the University of Hohenheim who studies quinoa, a grain crop that grows in South America and is popular in organic food stores. Inspired by her first visit to SEKEM, she decided to write her PhD thesis about these trendy crops and how they can be cultivated under Egypt’s climatic conditions. This work especially focuses on seeking ideal irrigation methods in arid regions. Since her visit, Laura is regularly spending time in SEKEM.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on news.sekem.com. It is re-published here with permission. 

Laura Mack is researching the

Laura Mack is researching the viability of growing quinoa and chia plants in Egypt’s arid climate.

Superfoods with Small Water Requirements

On SEKEM’s farm Adleya, Laura installed trial fields where she is sowing chia and quinoa at different times and irrigating them in various ways. “Agriculture in Egypt uses up to 85% of the available water. Hence, politicians are asking for more knowledge on irrigation practices and are promoting crops that don’t require too much water, yet generate high economic returns in the international market,” commented Mack.

Chia and quinoa hit both of these marks. They are able to enhance food security in regions facing water scarcity and are considered “functional superfoods,” which is all the rage in Europe nowadays. These amazing crops contain an outstanding amount of proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, and many other wholesome nutrients. Additionally, they are gluten-free and can be used in a multitude of ways. Laura adds: “Chia and quinoa may be very useful to Egypt’s agriculture. Local farmers will be able to increase their income by exporting the seeds to Europe, where they are currently in high demand.“

Laura Mack-Flore

Laura Mack (right) with her SEKEM colleague during her research in the field.

After starting her research last summer on SEKEM’s farm Adleya, Laura is planning to expand upon her work in other SEKEM locations across the country (Al-Minya, Al-Fayoum, Bahera, Banha and Aswan). In cooperation with SEKEM, Laura is aiming to collect information about the ideal sowing time, location, irrigation quantity, and the quality of certain features of the crop–such as how much protein or oil is produced. Her findings will contribute to the search for solutions to the huge water challenge that Egypt is facing. Additionally, she is supporting SEKEM in its efforts to break Egypt into the international market for these popular health foods.

Read More

Try one of Laura’s favorite recipes with Chia or Quinoa. They are absolutely delicious!

Laura Mack, PhD candidate at the German University Hohenheim, is doing research with the SEKEM Initiative on how quinoa and chia crops can be cultivated in Egypt. Her work especially focuses on water management in drylands.

The SEKEM-Group is a part of the SEKEM Initiative founded in 1977 by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish to strengthen sustainable and holistic development in Egypt. The Initiative produces, processes, and markets organic and bio-dynamic foodstuffs, textiles, and phyto-pharmaceuticals in Egypt, the Arab World, and in international markets. With part of their profits, the SEKEM companies co-finance the social and cultural activities of the SEKEM Development Foundation. This entity runs schools, a medical center, a non-profit university, and other institutions. SEKEM has been widely praised as an “Egyptian organic pioneer” and has received the 2003 Right Livelihood Award (“Alternative Nobel Prize”) as a “Business Model for the 21st Century.”

Christine Arlt is a part of the Public Relations department in SEKEM and is in charge of news.sekem.com.
More From Christine Arlt


  • Neil
    January 28, 2016 at 12:00pm

    A friend told me chia is great for breakfast. I’ve tried the store bought pods and didn’t like them, but I understand the homemade thing is great.

  • M.I.Zuberi
    January 21, 2016 at 3:06am

    Yes, really excellent idea and implementation. Should be tried ouit every where.. ..sustainability being a challenge to be accepted….May I get some seed samples of successful adoption in SEKEM Initiative trials…to try out here in the semi-arid land scapes of the HIghlands of Ethiopia with my local colleagues….please.
    Dr M.I.Zuberi, Ambo University, PO Box 019, Ambo Ethiopia.

  • T. Reader
    January 19, 2016 at 12:40pm

    Good, good, good.

  • T. Reader
    January 19, 2016 at 12:40pm

    Excellent reading material for those interested in sustainable farming.