- Middle East/North Africa
In an attempt to introduce youth to the green market and teach them how to capitalize on their potential, the DEMENA Youth Climate Ambassadors, along with environmental organizations icecairo, Nawaya and the Wadi Environmental Science Center, hosted the Green Innovation Cup ceremony Sunday.
The ceremony was the conclusion of a three-day camp that aimed to encourage innovation in the green sector and support entrepreneurship pertaining to the climate-related topics of transportation, agriculture and energy.
Amena Adel, one of the youth climate ambassadors, says the camp didn’t target people with a high degree of awareness about environmental issues. Instead, it opened the door for enthusiastic and determined youth from various backgrounds, willing to expand their knowledge in this field.
During the camp, the participants experienced interactive coaching, training and brainstorming sessions. On the third day, they presented three developed projects to a panel of experts who chose the most promising and applicable idea.
“In addition to the LE15,000 prize awarded to the winning team to start implementing their idea, the participants were introduced to a wide network of NGOs that can provide them with the needed support,” Adel says.
Omar Rabei, a member of the winning team called “AutoPeace,” explains how their project presents a new integrated vision for public transportation in Cairo.
“We envision the creation of a double-decker bus that runs on natural gas and uses solar panels for recharging the passengers’ mobiles and laptops. The natural gas will be extracted from agricultural waste by a green scientific process,” he says.
Rabei says the main problem Cairo faces is the increasing numbers of private cars that cause high rates of pollution, significantly endanger people’s health and cause traffic congestion. Many people prefer to use their private cars because they consider public transportation an uncomfortable alternative. The proposed buses would be equipped with GPS and Wi-Fi networks, in addition to coffee machines.
“This will provide a peaceful atmosphere for passengers to finish their work, sleep or listen to music while commuting,” says Rabei, who adds that adopting the project would also reduce the number of cars and buses, providing a partial solution for traffic problems and allowing employees to get to work faster, which he says would in turn increase work efficiency.
Engineer Amr Farouk, one of the jury members, thinks the secret behind the success of this idea is that it doesn’t only address the existing problem of congested traffic, but also provides a feasible solution that would have a deep and extended effect on reduction of carbon dioxide emissions.
Rabei asserts that the team has already made the required prototype and the interior design of the proposed bus, and they plan to submit it to private transportation companies, hoping to start the implementation soon.
“When young people start establishing new environmental projects, there are three main problems that arise and potentially ruin the initiative,” says Rabei. The problems he cites include financial support and technical support, while adding that obtaining licenses and permissions can often be an insurmountable obstacle as well.
Rabei hopes the government will pay more attention and provide help and support for the environmental projects in the near future.
Meanwhile, Mohamed Oghlo, the only member of the “Green Screen” project, explains his innovative idea for reducing pollution by increasing green spaces in slum areas.
“I want to cover the facades of buildings in slum areas with plants, and use solar powered pumps to irrigate them,” Oghlo explains.
Because the plants would be arranged in specific way, they wouldn’t grow randomly. In addition to purifying the air and beautifying the outlook of these areas, the plants would help insulate the buildings from the scorching sun, thus greatly limiting the need for air conditioning.
Before joining the camp, Oghlo did not know the various steps needed for planning his project. But after three intensive days of training, he is set to bring his project to completion. He plans on developing his vertical urban gardens in the Oroba neighborhood in Giza after spending some time researching the agricultural methods that would best suit the buildings and architecture.
“Al-Gemeza” was the third project in the competition, and tackled ways to raise public awareness about how to protect the environment and the importance of using recycled materials.
“We were searching for an innovative way for spreading happiness and positive energy between people in the streets, as well as increasing their awareness about the importance of plants and their great role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” says Mennatallah Hendawy, one of the team members.
She says the project aims to establish a plant and gardening institute that would distribute free flowers and herbs, which would be packaged in recycled materials.
Competition judge Ahmed Dessouky says the evaluation was based on three main factors: creativity and innovation, practicality of the technology used and positive impact on the environment.
Dessouky says he thinks teaching the participants how to set up a business plan, how to influence an audience with their presentation, and how to contextualize their ideas to suit Egypt’s specifics were the real goals of the camp and competition.
“Although most of the ideas were derived from projects that were previously applied in other countries, the competing teams could modify them to fit Egypt’s particularities,” he says.
The Danish organizations Concito and Crossing Borders developed DEMENA Youth Climate Ambassadors, which is hosted by their partner organization, the Wadi Environmental Science Center. DEMENA aims to support constructive dialogue among youth and strengthen youth leadership development in Denmark, the Middle East and North Africa.