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Agroecological and educational farm for the promotion of sustainable agriculture

Nestled at an altitude of 1,000 meters in the mountains of the Chréa Park, the farm of Sidi Serhane offers its visitors, coming from all over Algeria and Europe, in addition to the stunning panorama on the mountain chain and surrounding forests, a panel of colours, odours, and especially flavours that delight young and old. Each week, baskets full of organic vegetables and fruits, picked that morning, await their buyers. Depending on the season, Rachid the farmer, already trained in the principles of agroecology and permaculture, makes available to urban dwellers fennel, coriander, parsley, strawberries, celery, beans, carrots, and fresh artichokes. Abdelmadjid Arfa and his partners of the TORBA collective look upon with pride, this dynamic that they created at Bouinan, a small market that offers healthy foods, products with respect for humans, biodiversity, and the rhythm of nature.

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The TORBA collective was born out of this desire to return to Mother Earth, and to provide a better quality of life to the urban dweller and the farmer. It is through their project "The Agroecological and educational farm for the promotion of sustainable agriculture" that TORBA is proving that a new model of agricultural development is possible.

Today, with around one hundred members, the Collective has launched the AMAP concept (Association for the Maintenance of Small-Scale Farming) and is working for the maintenance of farmer-led activities by offering to sell their organic production, or rather that which is "healthy, exempt from artificial fertilizers and pesticides from local seeds, less and less valued", according to the own words of Abdelmadjid.

"This system is beneficial for both myself and my clients" says Rachid Bentoubal 

Since 2014, thanks to the commitment of its members, the collective trains both professionals and the public in permaculture with the collaboration of Mr. Bentoubal, the owner of Djnen Salim in Ouled Fayet. TORBA also organizes discovery classes for schoolchildren as well as eco-touristic and gastronomic cultural events such as Open Days.

"Every opportunity is a good one to raise public awareness on agroecology and to promote the products of our terroirs" says Abdelmadjid, founder of the collective.

Better still, at Djnen Salim, the collective has introduced the concept of shared gardens to involve consumers in the production process and in the distribution of organic foods. An innovative idea that allows urban dwellers to temporarily have their own plot of land and come weekly with their children to cultivate their own vegetables by learning permaculture practices in a warm and friendly atmosphere, all enlivened by activities that are fun, participatory, recreational, and sometimes festive.

Thus, the TORBA collective is strengthening social ties in the urban and rural areas and creating local wealth that reduces the drift of the rural population. From an environmental point of view, the project is contributing to the conservation of farmer seeds all while reducing the ecological footprint. Given the socio-economic and environmental impacts that the collective has produced in its region, and its reproducibility potential, SwitchMed has selected it to provide assistance according to the needs expressed.

 

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"We are only at the beginning of the incubation phase, but we already feel the rapid evolution. Thanks to SwitchMed, we have received technical and managerial support, and are already reaping the benefits", explains Abdelmadjid.

As with Rachid, 12 other members of the TORBA collective have received quality training in agroecology thanks to SwitchMed. Indeed, an expert has been assigned to them to improve their knowledge and know-how regarding mastery of cultural practices as well as their ability to mount or accompany the creation of an Agroecological project.

 Currently, these members are teaching, in turn, permaculture and farming techniques that are profitable and respectful of health and the environment. Three training levels are offered.

 

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Since 2016, more than 100 people of different profiles have received this training, ranging from the professional small farmer to the curious with a future conversion project in Agroecology. With these first successful experiments, the TORBA collective will try in the future to convert more "classic" farmers to agroecology and accompany agroecological initiatives throughout the Algerian territory.

TORBA is also trying to get into eco-construction through the realization of an ecological building which will serve as a rural cottage to develop eco-tourism potential in the Bouinan and Blida farms.

In addition, TORBA plans, in the medium term, to concentrate its activities (Djnane-AMAP-training and promotion centre of the terroir in a single area (Djnane Salim)) in order to make it a national promotional reference in agroecology and the solidarity economy, and to radiate across the national territory.  

For more information, visit their website and follow them on their Facebook page. Contact: Majid: majid.arfa@worktel.net

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