The Decent Life initiative, which aims to upgrade living standards in Egypt’s poorest rural areas, is close to the completion of its first phase and is set to expand to new areas in 2023.
The initiative focuses on developmental challenges related to rural areas, including the provision of basic services, such as water and sanitation, education, solid waste disposal, roads, irrigation, and drainage.
It provides direct support to the poorest and most vulnerable in selected villages and economic development opportunities to increase real incomes through large-scale agricultural projects and credit provision to micro and small enterprises.
In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, spokesman for the Ministry of Local Development Khaled Qassem said the initiative had neared the completion of its first phase “despite unfavourable economic conditions, domestically and globally, as a result of the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the ongoing disruptions in international supply chains.”
Within the context of the initiative, launched in 2019 under presidential auspices, a LE300 billion programme is being executed that has seen 1,477 villages experiencing upgrades to their infrastructure, drinking water facilities, and social services.
The work is expected to be completed by December 2022.
Qassem said the Ministry of Local Development was playing “an important role in the initiative by coordinating the provision of the land required for the implementation of projects, in addition to overcoming any other obstacles that might arise.”
He added that community development committees had been formed, with the ministry undertaking the implementation of projects that are “complementary” to the investments undertaken by the presidential initiative.
These include the establishment of markets, parking lots and fire stations. Social initiatives are also being implemented with the aim of economic empowerment and job creation by small and medium-sized enterprises.
Qassem said that a local administration staff was being trained to follow-up, operate, and maintain the new services and projects launched under the initiative. Its second phase, due to begin in January 2023, is projected to serve 52 centres in 20 governorates, including for the first time 30 villages from the coastal governorate of Marsa Matrouh.
Commenting on the criteria for the selection of villages to be included in the initiative, Mina Ibrahim, coordinator in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Assiut, told the Weekly that “villages and districts were selected [in Assiut] based on the monitoring of the needs of the villages and their residents, [whom we represented] in meetings with members of the Foundation for a Decent Life.”
Ibrahim added that all those working on the initiative’s projects were recruited from among local residents “because there has been constant confirmation from the foundation as well as from the local authorities, of the need to use village residents in the projects being implemented. Many job opportunities have been provided as a result,” he added.
Saber Othman, former director of the climate change department at the Ministry of Environment and chair of the board of the Earth’s Climate for Sustainable Development Foundation, commented on the initiative by saying that “its goals are in line with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These focus on alleviating poverty, eradicating hunger, providing good healthcare and education, and providing drinking water and sanitation services.
“Egypt’s Decent Life initiative has upheld the rights of the poor and marginalised, ensuring that they are not left behind while also respecting gender equality in its bid to develop the country’s poorest and most deprived villages,” Saber said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 29 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.