In some countries, like Egypt, waste can take many forms. One of the main forms of environmental waste is burning the straw of harvested rice. The smoke emissions from the burning harm the ozone layer and even cause accidents in the nearby towns, including several cases of suffocation. In Egypt, one small-sized NGO came together to find a way to save the environment, as well as to reduce unemployment among those with disabilities. Established in 2015, El Nafeza for Contemporary Art and Development hires people who are deaf to turn rice straw into paper and decorative art!
The NGO’s manager, Enas Khamees explains the process of turning the straw into paper:
“We take the rice straw bales, which are completely dry, we soak them in water from two days to a week, so that we can take them after and we put them on a stove, to be cooked well for two to three hours. After that, we begin the milling phase, and of course it goes through many cleaning phases. It’s milled, then turned into fiber, then put in frames, depending on the size we want, A4 or A3, then put on the wall [to dry out],”
The NGO’s newfound project improves the lives of many people with disabilities, and it especially focuses on hiring female workers, considering the fact that they are marginalized the most. So not only does this project ensure the safety of the environment, but it is also a way to solve economical issues for many people in Egypt.
In the beginning, the team had faced difficulty getting their luxury product, the paper, out into the market because of its relatively high price. However, they have found a way to deal with this setback by producing ornate notebooks, boxes, frames, cards and other decorative pieces. These less-expensive items, which already have covered much of their expenses, can sell to a wider range of people.
The NGO is having some trouble funding the operation, but nevertheless is selling their goods to foreign markets like Germany, which has so far helped them in taking care of their expenses.
Hopefully, this move will encourage all of Egypt’s paper factories to restart using their own rice straw, instead of importing rice and other goods from outside the country.
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