More and more civil society organisations are becoming involved in activities carried out as part of Egypt’s presidential Decent Life Initiative to help serve its goals of alleviating poverty and improving the living conditions of vulnerable groups, especially in rural areas.
One such NGO is the Professional Development Foundation (PDF) that focuses on south Aswan. It has now finished work it undertook in the first phase of the Decent Life Initiative, PDF Chairman Mohamed Farouk Hafeez told Al-Ahram Weekly.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi launched the Decent Life Initiative in January 2019 to help develop rural areas. It became a national project earlier this year meant to improve the lives of rural inhabitants countrywide and enhance the services available to citizens.
The initiative seeks to unify efforts among state institutions in cooperation with NGOs, private-sector companies, and domestic and international development partners to promote sustainable development and alleviate poverty in 4,658 villages nationwide, with investments estimated for the three-year project at LE700 billion.
By developing three villages in south Aswan, the PDF has changed the living conditions of residents. It renovated 290 houses and focused on the economic empowerment of villagers. Women were taught crochet knitting, and a website was set up to exhibit their handicrafts online. Contractors trained local young men in technical skills, such as electrical engineering, carpentry, and plumbing. They were then given equipment to help them to kick-start their own projects.
The PDF contributed to roofing 175 houses and developing 60 others in the Hikma and Manar villages, developing 100 houses in the Karama village, furnishing and equipping 20 houses for widows in Hikma and Manar, and providing each family with appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and stoves, along with gas cylinders, chairs and sofas, and kitchen cupboards.
The government covered 80 per cent of the cost of renovating government buildings in the villages enrolled in the Decent Life Initiative, and the PDF shouldered the remaining 20 per cent. The buildings are part of projects supervised by the Ministry of Housing in 44 villages in Aswan, Hafeez said.
The PDF also signed a cooperation agreement with Misr Hitech Seeds to provide farmers in the targeted villages with high-quality corn seeds for free to improve the quality of their harvest and consequently bring in more revenues. The agreement said that PDF agricultural engineers would educate local farmers about modern means to increase production.
Hafeez said that agricultural production had increased 3.5-fold as a result, and some 41 feddans of corn were cultivated experimentally in the Hikma and Manar villages. One feddan produced on average 16 ardabs of corn, an increase of 200 per cent. In June 2020, the PDF coordinated with farmers in the villages of the Wadi Al-Naqra area in Aswan to prepare 500 feddans of land to be cultivated with corn the company would donate.
The Jeena Company that specialises in aromatic plants donated seeds to the villagers and guided them on modern irrigation methods to increase production.
The PDF will now participate in the second phase of the initiative, which focuses on developing human resources and raising workers’ skills, offering training programmes, rehabilitating nursery employees and managers, upgrading centres for people with disabilities, developing community schools, and empowering women and young people, Hafeez said.
Studies were conducted on the needs of Aswan’s Manar, Karama, and Hikma villages, including demographic characteristics, the social, educational, and vocational status of the inhabitants, average incomes, jobs, and the number of individuals in each family, Hafeez said.
The PDF is providing the villages with trained and qualified help in cooperation with Aswan University, he added, explaining that economic empowerment includes training the owners of small and medium-sized enterprises.
The PDF held its fifth annual NGOs Award of Excellence ceremony in mid-October under the guidance of the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The award is meant to encourage NGOs to offer their best in service of the community.
NGOs applying for the award should be licensed, their activities should focus on human development, and the monetary award should be spent on the project for which the prize was awarded.
In the latest round, 1,012 NGOs applied in the competition, and 14 qualified for the final round. Four monetary prizes will be presented to those NGOs that have had the most positive impacts, these amounting to LE150,000, LE100,000, LE75,000, and LE50,000. Other NGOs will receive in-kind prizes through training courses designed to enhance skills and stimulate innovation, as well as take part in the information technology support programme Techsup Egypt.
The PDF is now presenting a new award under the slogan of “Raising Awareness” to spread ideas for development projects on social media and motivate as many users as possible to engage in volunteer work.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly