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Renewable energy production boosts hope for job creation in Egypt

How an ILO pilot project that produces biogas in two Egyptian villages is creating jobs and reducing pollution.

Feature | 14 February 2017
“The new organic fertilizer has led to better fruit and vegetable crops,” El-Desouky Refaat said.
PORT SAID, Egypt (ILO News) – El-Desouky Refaat was looking desperately for a gas cylinder in his village.

When he had almost abandoned hope, he learnt about a pilot project coming to his area that would produce biogas from agricultural waste.

“The biogas unit now produces the equivalent of two gas cylinders a month. Moreover, the fermenter produces high quality organic fertilizers protecting our crops from worms, insects, parasites and grass seeds. The yield increased and the fertilizer cost was saved,” El Desouky Refaat said.

This biogas pilot project brought together the ILO-Canada project “Decent Jobs for Egypt’s Young People" and the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture, under the auspices of the Port Said governorate. The project benefits not only the environment but also the health and livelihoods of El-Desouky Refaat’s family and others in the community.

So it was not a surprise that the project was selected as one of the country’s most successful development projects in 2016, and featured in the Egyptian Cabinet Information and Decision Support Center’s (IDSC) report: “Scanning Successful Development Projects in Egyptian Governorates”.

The project mainly aimed at diversifying energy sources... it also resulted in an increase in employment opportunities."

Peter van Rooij, Director of the ILO Cairo Office
“This is a win–win solution in a country that has a large animal population. The project mainly aimed at diversifying energy sources; it provided an alternative green method for waste management and ultimately resulted in the production of organic fertilizer,” explained Peter van Rooij, Director of the ILO Cairo Office.

“Furthermore, it also resulted in an increase in employment opportunities, and provided the necessary training to build the skills and expertise required in the field of biogas.”

He added that the project addresses the three most pressing issues facing Egypt, which are youth unemployment, renewable and efficient energy sources, and pollution.

Green Future

Biogas is a form of energy produced when organic material such as cows and buffaloes dung is left over from agricultural waste, and it is also a major source of the substrate in a biogas plant.

Nowadays, the use of biogas has spread from small to big commercial animal farms. Biogas is expected to become a significant source of energy in the future that will help preserve the environment, solve the pollution problem and promote better health in rural communities. Once animal excrement has fermented in the biogas plant, it becomes an odorless substrate, which is of better quality than fresh manure and, thus, more efficient in improving the soil.

“The new organic fertilizer has led to better fruit and vegetable crops,” El-Desouky Refaat said.

Two villages in Port Said governorate – Al-Amal and Rabiaa – were selected for the biogas pilot project covering a total of 20 households. One biogas digester was built on El-Desouky Refaat’s farm in Al-Amal, while two other digesters were built in Rabiaa.

Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Hadi, the ILO’s Biogas Consultant, indicated that the beneficiaries were selected according to their education level, need for gas, and the availability of suitable barns, which would provide enough space for a biogas digester.

The expert can already see a replication effect. While only one digester was planned for the village, a farmer who recognized its benefits built the second digester in Rabiaa.

“He was happy to invest in building a second digester. The financial and environmental benefits were clear to him. Each fermenter provides not less than 30 jobs, and the organic compost fertilizer results in high-quality organic produce suitable for export,” Abdel-Hadi explained.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian authorities hope that the replication effect will move up a gear.

“I hope that this project will be replicated on a larger scale. I hope to see a biogas complex in each village in Egypt, to provide clean green energy and eliminate animal waste,” concluded Enayat Farag, General Director of Environmental Affairs Department, Port Said governorate.