« 100 Years – 100 Lives » | EGYPT - “The new organic fertilizer has led to better fruit and vegetable crops.”

An Egyptian farm owner explains how an ILO biogas pilot project made it possible for him to both increase productivity and improve the environment.

Reportage | Egypt | 14 août 2019
PORT SAID – El-Desouky Refaat was looking desperately for a gas cylinder in his village.

When he had almost abandoned hope, he learnt about an ILO 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.

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 an Egyptian official publication.

“Win-win solution”

“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 the ILO’s Peter van Rooij.

“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.

Replication effect

ILO consultant Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Hadi 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, from the Port Said governorate.

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