We interview Tadhg Conneely, a farmers son from the Aran Islands, on his 18th Birthday at Habiba Organic Farm in Nuweiba. We find out about his experiences WWOOFing; which stands for work exchange on organic and sustainable properties and learn more about farming in the desert…

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How did you find out about WWOOFing?

I have had a plan for a long time to travel after highschool, and thought WWOOFing to be the best way to go. Up until I was about four years old, we kept WOOFers at home. Although I didnt quite understand the idea at the time, I was exposed to it from a young age!

Do you think most WWOOFers are from farming background like yourself or can anyone WWOOF?

I am sure that a many WWOOFers do come from a farming background, but absolutely ANYBODY is able to WWOOF, regardless of their background or experience. All that is needed is an interest in Organic Farming.

How did you find out about the Habiba Organic Farm?

I found out about ‘HOF’ through a friend who I WWOOFed alongside in France. He himself has also volunteered at HOF. I was searching for my next destination, and my friend told me about Habiba in Nuweiba. I jumped at the opportunity of WOOFing in Egypt, so after contacting Maged and recieving a pleasant and welcoming reply, I didnt hesitate to book my flight!

Quite a radical concept, farming in the desert?! Must of been quite an eye opener after farming in the Aran Islands? What sort of crops are they growing?

It is amazing to see so many green leaves on such barren ground, and it certainly has its differences to agiculture in Ireland. At HOF they grow (along with many other crops) Herbs: parsely, corriander, basil; Vegetables: beetroot, radish; Salad leaves: chard, kale, roquette; Fruit trees: Olive, pomegranate and dates.

Do you think the HOF concept is sustainable, where do they source their water from for example and is there a market for the produce?

I can certainly see a solid, bright future for Habiba Organic Farm; it seems quite sustainable. Water is sourced from a well located on the farm itself, which is then pumped around the farm. This is a typical irrigation system of the desert. There is definitely local demand for fresh organic produce, and perhaps even an international market for crops such as palm dates and moringa tea!

Do you think Habiba Organic Farm offers hope to the local Nuweiba community and the Bedoins?

I think tht HOF are setting a great example for the local community. As the tourism industry has been at a low for the past few years, agriculture might do wonders for the local economy. Since HOF’s foundation, many organic farms are springing up in Nuweiba.

There are a lot of other more profitable crops grown in Sinai - does this pose a threat to convention food crops?

I dont think so. Of course there are many illegal crops that are grown vastly in the area, and it is tempting for people to grow these, simply because of the money they can make. But at the end of the day, people will always have to eat, which is why a demand for food crops will always be there. I see it as an independent problem.

I guess all the recent political tensions in Egypt have deterred some tourists and WWOOFing volunteers, what is the situation like now and do you think it's improving?

There is certainly a shortage of tourists and WWOOFers coming to Egypt due to the tensions. As far as I know, UK and Irish Governments are still advising against unnecessary travel to the country. I dont know much about the situation as of late, but I do hope it improves.

What's next for you? Are you optimistic about farming in Ireland, will you go into the family farm or pursue a career in another industry?

Next for me?… Like many people my age my plans are all over the place! I think that farming will remain an important industry for years to come in Ireland. I hope to achieve a degree in Mathematics as soon as possible, though I am not sure what I will do with it. Farming however, will will always be a hobby of mine!