Nabil’s idea is to introduce a new crop that leads to desert development, the creation of a new industrial profession and a new product for local and export markets. His idea is based on shifting from the traditional cultivating philosophy of the valley to a contemporary philosophy that suits the desert. With a creative and challenging mind, Nabil El Mogi chose to invest in planting a new industrial crop, “Jojoba”, in the desert land that yields high return on investment, increases employment opportunities and in the meantime suits the desert environment. Jojoba is now, thanks to Nabil, a new industrial crop in Egypt and the second industrial crop next to cotton.
Nabil’s idea is to cultivate the desert land of Egypt, using a crop that does not need a lot of water and suites the soil and environment of Egypt’s desert. Nabil’s aim is not only to plant the jojoba to address desertification, but he chose a crop that will yield a product with diversified industrial uses. His idea is to introduce a new crop in Egypt that will address the scarce water problem, utilize the vast unused desert, create a new agro business that generates employment opportunities, bolster Egyptian exports and finally support research and development leading to new and diversified Egyptian products.
Nabil’s approach is three fold; he created his “pilot and demonstrative farm” which served as the source of supply of Jojoba to other farmers. Secondly, he worked on creating new products to create a local and international market by investing in research and development and producing licensed products, and finally establish the Egyptian association for Jojoba (in process) to create a lobby group of stakeholders who will advocate his idea.
Nabil’s idea is to develop Egyptian products extracted from Egyptian Jojoba oil. He is creating an Egyptian industry for Jojoba: Egyptian Jojoba farm, Egyptian Jojoba factory to extract oil and Egyptian finished products extracted from Jojoba for pharmaceutical and other uses. Thus, he is striving to establish an industry that utilizes Egypt’s natural resources, creates employment opportunities for the youth and, most important, use the potential of graduate students of Faculties of Agriculture of Egyptian universities for scientific research and development of Jojoba. In the mean time, the idea works to preserve Egypt’s water resources as Jojoba needs very minimal water supply. Investing in and supporting R& D is a new initiative in Egypt that almost no one in Egypt but Nabil risks to undertake.
The relative scarcity of arable land and water coupled by urbanization, soil erosion and desertification made Egypt heavily dependent on external resources, mainly food aid for more than half of its food supply. Egypt used to receive relatively large quantities of food aid, especially wheat and wheat flour provided mainly by the United States and the EU. However, food aid to Egypt has been decreasing drastically as part of a global decline in food aid. Aid in the form of wheat and wheat flour decreased from 2 million tons in 1990, representing about 20 percent of the total consumption in 1990, to only 20, 000 tons in 1999, representing 0.2 percent of the total consumption in 2000. Nowadays, according to recent reports by FAO, Egypt is a substantial net food importer, except for rice which is the only major food crop with an exportable surplus, but that surplus is relatively small. The large increases in rice production were matched with equally large jumps in consumption with no significant increases in exports. The majority of other agricultural commodities are imported.
One of the main challenges of cultivating the desert is the scarcity of water which could be the catalyst for future ‘water wars’ between Nile basin countries. For countries varying from Kenya at the lowest end to Uganda and Ethiopia at the highest, the Nile represents the secondary source of water, however, for countries like Egypt and Sudan, the Nile River is the main source of water. The eastern Nile Basin countries, Egypt, northern Sudan and Ethiopia, rely heavily on the waters from the Ethiopian highlands; their problem is how to appropriate the relatively limited amount of water that originates from this source between them. Therefore, the current distribution arrangements are a source of tension between these countries, mainly because both Ethiopia and Sudan feel that Egypt is receiving a disproportionate share. According to the current system, Egypt obtains a quota that barely meets the needs of its ever increasing population and in view of its lack of other significant reliable water resources to fulfill its requirements, it is determined to maintain it. One can safely state that the maintenance of this amount of water resides at the very heart of Egypt’s national security. According to FAO, Egypt loses by evaporation 16% of its present water allocation. Egypt needs to urgently adopt new strategies for water development and management to avert severe local water scarcities.
The fact that most of the Egyptian land is desert accounts for the difficulty of finding fresh water to most of the areas especially if uninhabited like the desert. As a result, just about everyone in Egypt lives near the Nile River which is the main source of water in Egypt and does not pass through the eastern and western desert. In order to solve the desert problem by cultivating and developing it, tremendous amounts of water needs to be transported or build sophisticated water systems supply 96% of the Egyptian lands (desert). This process is very costly and needs a lot of time to be implemented, and thus hindering the cultivation proposes in the desert. The Egyptian government initiatives to cultivate desert areas started by the Toshka project which faced many critiques as the project is too expensive costing at least USD 7.2 billion shrouded in secrecy and poorly planned. Moreover, Toshka is thousands of miles away from most of the cities and villages and therefore, the cost of relocation and transportation are major obstacles to the success of the project. On the other hand, reclaiming land in the hottest part of the country that is isolated and extremely far from communities represent a poor strategic decision as the alternative was to start cultivating the nearby desert was a more convenient decision.
Another challenge for desert cultivation is the sandy soil. Statistics show that “420 thousand hectares are sandy and calcareous”, and therefore, the organic content and the concentration of nitrogen are law; hence the fertility of sandy soil is almost impossible. In addition, the western desert is composed of great ridges of blown sand, interspersed with stony tracts. As a result, the scarcity of water and sandy soil in western and eastern desert in Egypt did not allow basic crops to be cultivated. According to FAO, on a per capita basis, Egypt’s area of cultivated land at 0.05 hectars per head is among the lowest in the world. Farm sizes are small with an estimated 70 percent of holdings less than 0.42 hectars. This is mainly because agriculture is almost entirely dependent on irrigation from the Nile River.
The desertification of cultivated lands threatens agricultural productivity in Egypt by removing arable land from production. Currently Egypt is trying to increase the productive capacity of agricultural land, however, the population growth in the Delta and the valley resulted in urban expansion onto previously agricultural land. Although, the government issued strict laws to prevent building on agricultural land, nevertheless, peasants tend to ignore these laws. This led to desertification, a process by which susceptible areas lose their productive capacity. Studies showed that from 1984 to 1990, land devoted to urban use in the western Nile Delta increased by 10.13%; this represents less than 0.4% of healthy agricultural lands. Reclamation of desert and coastal lands partially offset these losses; from 1986 to 1993, a total of 92,780 hectares of desert and coastal lands were converted to productive agricultural use. However, reclamation and cultivation process of the desert is extremely slow due to many obstacles represented in water scarcity, high cost of cultivation, labor mobility etc…
In spite of the many challenges of cultivating the Egyptian desert due to the climate and environmental factors such as scarcity of water and sandy soil, it still presents an excellent environment of cultivation of some crops. However a lot of investment in research and development needs to be conducted to determine the production of these crops. One of these crops is Jojoba as it requires minimal water, sandy soil and yet provides high economic return.
Experiments and studies, carried and supported by Nabil, show that Jojoba was the most suitable solution to the desert soil plantation in Egypt, requiring minimal water, having a great salinity tolerance, lesser need for fertilizers and lesser possibility for infection and yet more yields. Therefore, Jojoba can be planted in desert land supporting Egyptian government initiative to expand the green area outside the Nile valley to reach 20% instead of 8% at present.
The main industrial crop in Egypt has always been cotton. According to the International Consultative Communities on Cotton (ICCC), Egypt’s cotton contributes 40% of total world production. In spite of the high production rate of cotton, the trend is to export cotton as a raw material mainly to the United States and Europe. Ironically, most of Egypt’s imports of ready made garments from the USA and Europe are made of Egyptian cotton. The fact that it would have been more profitable to locally manufacture ready made garments and export finished products to increase foreign currency and hence flourish Egyptian textile industry and economy have been overlooked due to many obstacles. The main obstacles of manufacturing cotton products in Egypt are the excessive taxes imposed on investors which are up to 40%, and thus, discourage investors to produce ready made cotton products, and therefore, they find it more profitable in the short run to export cotton as raw material. Another obstacle is the absence of subsidiary industries represented in the far behind technology and machinery of cloths design, prints and dyeing. Therefore Egypt lacks the capabilities of exporting ready made cotton garments to global markets as it lacks the competitive advantage of producing high quality ready made cotton garments. In addition, Egypt produces 261 TMT and consumes 232 TMT of cotton per year on average, and thus production and consumption figures are very close representing a closed cotton economy. Egypt’s average imports are 20 TMT only and its average exports are 68 TMT only, and , according to global standards, Egypt is a small player in world cotton exports. Therefore, there is a deep need to investigate other competitive crops that Egypt can compete with in the global market since cotton is no longer the “white gold”.
In the mid 1980s, Nabil decided that the only solution for Egypt’s desertification problem and its large dependency on foreign agricultural aid is to look for a new crop that does not only solve these problems but also creates jobs and has an impact on industry. His research led him to jojoba.
Planting Jojoba has a unique nature as it requires sandy and well drained soil, irrigation by dripping to minimize water consumption (a mature shrub would survive for a whole year without water), little organic fertilizers and minimal chemical fertilizers. In return, Jojoba shrub is ranked on the top of the high value plants with annual revenue of USD 120,000/hec.
Nabil found that the FAO had previously tried and failed in introducing jojoba to Egypt. Among the reasons for this failure where the lack of concern by the authorities, the absence of a local market for jojoba and its extracts and absence of local research on how to utilize the extracts of jojoba in local industry. To export the raw material was not what Nabil had in mind. He adopted a new and comprehensive approach to the plantation of this new corp. However; Nabil did not find any support from the authorities, the FAO, the universities or the banks. In order to start his pilot project, he had to rely on himself. One of the main obstacles that discourage non-risk taker investors to invest in Jojoba is that it yields in the fourth year of planting.
Nabil struggled to implement and market his idea in an environment that remains conservative in scientific research and in the introduction of new ideas. Therefore, he had to undertake the initiative solely.
In 1990, after careful studying of the risks, returns and methods of cultivation by conducting research and visiting other countries that cultivate Jojoba like Israel, Nabil bought a plot of desert land in Ismailia with the objective of dividing the land into 4 quarters cultivating different crops in each quarter where Jojoba dominates one quarter of the land. This was his first step to experiment with the success of the new crop. During this year Nabil worked on preparing the infrastructure of the land mainly water supply, electricity, reclamation of the soil, drip irrigation system etc… with the aim of initially using this plot of land for experimentation and later on growing Jojoba to encourage other farmers and investors to follow suit. In doing so, Nabil employed a number of 40 employees and outsourced graduate researchers for the R & D. One year later, in 1991, Nabil started the practical steps of planting the first Jojoba field in Egypt surrounded by date palms (to improve yield and quality of both plants) with technical help of a local agricultural expert, FAO coordinator as an expert in the field and outsourced experts in Jojoba cultivation from the United States.
In his journey to convince other investors and the authorities of his scheme, Nabil used his own resources (using his savings and selling property) in creating his pilot farm, financing Research and Development at the Faculty of Agriculture, and investing in supporting new industrial products using the extracts of jojoba. In spite of all these sacrifices and initiatives, Nabil faced a lot of problems getting licenses and permits from the authorities. He also faced the fact that for the first 6 years there was no return to any of his investment and he and his family had to bear the cost.
In 1996, Nabil partnered with other investors and established Egyptian Natural Oil Company to create awareness on the importance of Jojoba plant and oil extract, encourage farmers and investors to grow this plant, assist new growers to market their production, support and finance R&D, create the market for Jojoba oil and bridge the gap between Jojoba growers and Jojoba manufacturers. The company built its factory in 10th of Ramadan Industrial City with the required equipments for crushing seeds, extracting, filtering and storing oil. The company can eventually export oil, but its ultimate aim is to export the final different industrial products ensuring the furthest benefit to the Egyptian economic development. Since 1996 and up to date, Nabil and the company have reinvested all profits in research and Nabil is committed to reinvest all profits either in his mission or to support the citizen sector organization (CSO) that he will establish.
Nabil realized that in order for his crop to spread it must be useful for a number of industrial products. Nabil identified and invested in a lot of research over the last 20 years in order to prove to planters, producers and the policy makers the miraculous impact of planting Jojoba.
Nabil decided to invest in the introduction and production of a new industrial crop Jojoba, and is now the sole national supplier of Jojoba seedlings. His Jojoba farm, about 100 kilometers outside of Cairo, is Egypt’s pilot project for the crop. The economic, health and industrial benefits of Jojoba cultivation were the main drives that triggered Nabil’s initiative. Nabil’s aim is not only agricultural but also industrial. He researched different industries where he incorporated the extraction of Jojoba Oil. He has to date conducted and supported research on Jojoba benefits and the development of new applications for its use in Egypt, and thus a new industry. Generally, Jojoba oil is used to make ointments, inks, varnishes, waxes, detergents, pharmaceuticals, resins and plastics; it can be employed as an additive in motor, transmission and gear oils; and it is a good substitute for the oil of the sperm whale – which is used in cosmetics as well as automatic-transmission lubricants.
Nabil’s farm is profitable as he got all his money back after 7 years. Currently he is the sole owner of the farm, and among the biggest major shareholders of the National Oil Company. He researches on all the products that come out of Jojoba and gets 4% royalty and other investors get 1% royalty each. The total sale so far has been L.E 6 million on the three products.
However, to finalize the research, manufacture and license of a product and then market the product is a very long process. First, he has to get approval of Ministry of Health, then the R & D process and then the patent or license. The first three products took 4 years to be approved and in the process he spent a lot of his funds on R& D to get the finished product. The suppository product was approved to be sold in the market after 6 years. He has other products in the pipeline and, in the meantime, he is developing the market. He has his own products as well as a pet shampoo and hair oil. The research process is slow, however, it is essential to develop the product, and hence Nabil has been investing his money (the company’s profits) in the research process.
Believing in the impact of Jojoba, Nabil hired qualified researchers to conduct research and experiments on the unique medical properties of Jojoba oil. He submitted the results to the head of the National Authority for Drug Monitoring and Research- Ministry of Health- who formed a special committee to undertake research on this subject. This research confirmed that the Jojoba oil has medical properties such as anti-bacteria, anti- inflammatory, high healing power, high skin penetration and high soothing effect. After conducting extensive experiments, the head of the Chemical Industries for Drugs CID produced samples of 9 drugs ailments which were found to bear the best results in the treatment of mouth and gum ulcer, skin inflammation and psoriases and acne.
Based on these results, Nabil approached the South Egypt Drug Industries Company “SEDICO” a major private sector pharmaceutical company and demonstrated the future prospects for developing indigenous pharmaceutical products. As a result, SEDICO manufactured and produced locally three drugs with reasonable prices that are currently in the market and licensed by the Egyptian Ministry of Health. The company will also undertake joint research with Nabil, for the development and production of new applications of Jojoba oil in pharmaceutical products.
In addition, Nabil introduced local veterinary products extracted from Jojoba seedlings and launched it in the market, through the research he supported and financed, as well as the development of a new and natural pesticides product registered under commercial name NAT-1 to fight aphid, white fly and other hazardous insects to vegetables and fruits. Nabil’s company has already contracted an agreement with a pesticide company for manufacturing, packing and marketing the product plus conducting R&D for new products.
Moreover, the outcome of research and development proved that the Meal (outer shell of Jojoba which was considered as waste) contains an appetite suppression substance for humans and animals called simmondsin. This substance can also be used as a raw material for cancer treatment medications. Also, 20% to 30% of the Meal weight can be used as protein which is healthier than the Soya protein, and therefore, can be used in the food industry. In spite of these facts, Jojoba Meal are not being used in either the pharmaceutical or food industries due to limited production. However, Nabil paved the way through his research as he managed to get the approval of the National Research Center (a government body) on the different uses of Meal extracted substance the Semidicine.
Recently Jojoba is acknowledged as the miracle crop of Egypt’s future which Nabil anticipated since the 1980’s. Nabil is a pioneer in the production of Jojoba as he started researching on Jojoba cultivation and economic, developmental, social and health returns since 1985. In the process, Nabil managed to create employment opportunities for approximately 1600 persons in the agricultural field; and 900 persons in the fields of research and development, medicine, pesticide and industrial units. Currently 50 farms copied Nabil’s project and they are now cultivating 336 hectars in the desert and employed 1600 persons. On the other hand, Nabil has influenced 10 landlords to follow suit, and expects to reach and help 100 landlords to cultivate the desert with Jojoba in the next five years.
Nabil’s short term goal is to cultivate 2100 hectars of dessert land in the next 5 years and to continue proving the tremendous effects of using Jojoba oil in medical and cosmetic products. On the medium term he plans to cultivate 21,000 hectars of desert land in the next 10 years by influencing others to follow the suit. Nabil also aims to create awareness about using Jojoba oil as a pesticide as Jojoba is environmentally friendly and research proved that it improves the yield. Nabil’s far reaching dream is to plant and develop Egypt’s desert as well as to persuade oil companies to use Jojoba as engine fuel (Bio-diesel and Bio-gasoline) for the protection of the environment and address the scarcity of fuel.
Nabil estimates that in the next 10 years, the new industry of Jojoba will employ around 250,000 people including 100,000 people in the agriculture sector and 150,000 in other complementary sectors such as R&D, medical, oil and pesticide.
Nabil believes that as he reaches these goals, other farmers will be encouraged to invest in planting Jojoba with the overall goal of planting all the desert of Egypt and of turning Egypt into an exporter.
Nabil extended his experience to many farmers in the Arab Region to cultivate Jojoba as he went to Libya, Jordan and Gaza. For example, he gave a Jordanian institution Jojoba seeds to cultivate their lands.
Nabil is currently discussing with different players the registration of a new CSO (Citizen Sector Organization) that will focus on research and development of new uses of Jojoba and on training and providing young university graduates with the know how and loans for starting their Jojoba farms and industries. He intends to support this CSO technically and financially. Nabil already gave financial and technical support to 22 young farmers in Ras Seder and Nobaria, to help cultivate Jojoba. The CSO he will establish will expand that.
The CSO Nabil will establish is the “ Egyptian Jojoba Association”. The objectives of the association is to bring together the critical mass of researchers and growers where Nabil will act as their spokesman. Nabil plans to start by 100 people. He already contacted the USAID to examine the possibility of gaining support for his CSO from USAID. Nabil would not only rely on donors for support but he will use members fees to finance CSO’s activities. The CSO will support the development of the country’s growing agribusiness.
This (CSO) can provide access to proper information and support investors, growers and product developers. This is really the systematic solution to the problems his is facing.
The Egyptian Jojoba Association will first address the lack of information on Jojoba producers and growers in Egypt, as this is not easily accessed now. However, through his CSO he will be able to do that. Secondly, the CSO will advocate with the state. Thirdly, it will help in advertising and promotion of the ideas, and finally, it can “institutionally” work with medical, agriculture and pharmaceutical schools. The CSO will also help in creating a database on Jojoba growers and a reliable source of data on Jojoba production in Egypt. To date there is no reliable data except what Nabil Knows.
Nabil also worked on the “Arab” market and a regional spread strategy. He has cultivated with others 20 hectares in Libya, shipped Jojoba shrubs to UAE and is negotiating with Saudis for SA. He also has a dream of the development of large projects by the armed forces and then oil companies.