16 May 2018
Zagazig, Egypt
Organic Food and Agriculture, Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management

Hand 2 Hand is a community-oriented project, which aims at transforming Zagazig, a city in Egypt’s Nile Delta, into a clean and secure one, with chemical-free food grown using only top-quality compost. It targets household garbage sorting behavior and collaborates with garbage scavengers and farmers to improve the overall waste management system: organic waste to the compost, plastic waste to the recycling plant.

Located in the eastern part of the Nile Delta, the city of Zagazig has a rich history going back to ancient Egypt. It is the home of one of the largest universities in Egypt and a branch of Al-Azhar, the largest Islamic university in the world. However, it is spoiled by the abundance of unrecovered garbage. The two phenomena are often linked, as these kids are prevented from going to school and instead are employed to sort the garbage to recover recyclable materials.

The ones deployed to collect the trash are usually the street children, often called street kids. They mostly live on the streets no access to education, and are unable to envision a better future for themselves or their families. The working conditions are deplorable, since they have to sort through piles of decomposing garbage, containing everything from broken glass to soiled diapers. The whole system goes back to one key point: the absence of a garbage sorting system starting at the households.

“Hand 2 Hand aims to clean up garbage dumps using awareness campaigns targetting district residents to keep the streets clean, reduce consumption, and sort their garbage, and then reusing organic waste as a high-quality organic fertilizer for newly reclaimed desert lands”says Hand 2 Hand Founder Ahmed Al Masry. His idea is to work on three aspects of Zagazig’s waste management problem: residents, garbage scavengers, and farmers.

Transforming an Egyptian city into a model of Sustainability through collaborating on waste management | The Switchers

Teaching the resident to sort their garbage is one of the activities to be carried out by Hand 2 Hand. Providing the garbage scavenger with social support and building awareness amongst farmers to use organic compost instead of chemical fertilizers are the other two major activities of the programme. Hand 2 Hand will be the link between these three components, taking care of the supply chain from the garbage scavengers to the farmers, including turning organic waste into compost and biogas.

Al Masry expects to start turning 5 tons of organic waste per day to reach 100 tons the third year. It also has the social mission to take care of garbage scavengers’ families and to educate their children, in order to break the cycle of poverty heavily constricting those families. Only in his neighborhood, around 30 jobs will be created for these kids.

Egypt, like many other developing countries, is still half-way between ancestral techniques and heavy industrialization. This is a tremendous asset for the fight for sustainability, as it is easy, as a community and an individual, to recall environmentally-friendly traditions and adapting them to the modern-day society. SwitchMed and partners are providing green entrepreneurs like Ahmed with tools to mount comprehensive projects that easily blend into the entrepreneurial and social fabric they address. By improving waste management, this project will improve public health and prevent environmental pollution by sorting and selling 20 tons of paper, 24 tons of plastic, and other products on a monthly basis.

“I believe that the environment does not only belong to present generations, but also to future ones. We must protect and preserve resources for their sake,” adds Al Masry.


The story was originally published on the SwitchMed website.


Hand 2 Hand Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management
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