Environmental and Habitat Improvement in a Traditional Ceramists Community


1.- General Information about the Project

Geographic location: Arab Republic of Egypt, Cairo, Kum Ghurab, Ardh al-Muthalatha (al-Muthalatha land).
Project start date: August 2003.
Number of staff (permanent and volunteers): a committee responsible for the implementation and management of the project consisting of six volunteers (five gentlemen and a lady) from the target sector.
Targeted sectors (current/targeted):

– Workers (20-40 years in age) in charge of firing pottery who are directly exposed to gases emitted from kilns.
– Workers (18-45) assisting in production who were not related to the pottery firing process.
– Kum Ghurab inhabitants, due to exposure to air pollution resulting from poisonous emissions.
– Owners of old pottery and ceramics units (between 35 and 60 years old).
– Children working in the units, ranging in age from 12 to 18 years.

Number of persons/families served by the initiative: 15,300 persons divided as follows:

– About 150 male workers in charge of burning pottery.
– About 150 male and female production assistants.
– About 15,000 men, women and children of the Kom Ghorab inhabitants.
– Thirty owners of old pottery and ceramics production units (two women and 28 men).
– Children working in the units (150 children, 40 of whom are girls and 110 are boys).

The project’s geographic range (current/targeted): Ard al-Muthalatha in the area of Kum Ghurab, located behind the complex of inter-religious sites (Mugama’ al-Adyan) in Misr al-Qadima (Old Cairo).

2.- Social, Economic and Urban Reasons and Circumstances

The deterioration in social, economic, environmental and urban conditions in this area led to the people’s initiative in order to save various sectors of the society living in the Kum Ghurab and surrounding areas from extreme environmental threats that threatened the inhabitants’ health and livelihood, and led to their social disintegration. This area hosts the churches of Misr al-Qadima and the Amr Ibn al-`As Mosque, as well as borders on the ancient synagogue. About 25,000 people live in the area.

Most of the area’s inhabitants work in the production of pottery, crushers and leather tanneries that emit many vapors and smoke and pollute the air with carbon monoxide and other harmful agents. Pottery production unit owners fire their pottery by burning refuse, such as rubber, wood and garbage. This harms the health of the local community and surrounding areas, which is afflicted with a high rate of respiratory diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis and lung cancer.

In an attempt to deal with this environmental disaster, and motivated by the interest to rehabilitate the area as a touristic site, a ministerial decree ordered the kilns to be moved to Shuq al-Thu`ban, a mountain area far from urbanization, thus jeopardizing the handicraft production and livelihood of the affected population. This decision represented an economic and social disaster for those working in the field. It augured a rise in dropout rates and parents’ failure to monitor their children’s nutrition due to the deteriorated economic situation and living conditions of the families.

Main Problems the Initiative Intends to Address
Following are the main problems the initiative was undertaken to solve:

1. Deteriorated health conditions of the local community and surrounding areas and high rates of respiratory diseases.
2. High levels of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air causing major environmental pollution.
3. The threat that the pottery production, and its artistic and cultural aendowment would deteriorate and cease to exist, due to the ministerial decree ordering its removal.

3. Main and Secondary Objectives of the Project/Initiative

Main Objectives of the Initiative:
The project/initiative aims to improve the living standards of the inhabitants of the area of Fustat and relocate the owners of ceramics kilns after developing their vocation through building model, environmentally friendly alternatives, and then measuring the environmental impact through the Environmental Affairs Authority.

The Initiatives Secondary Objectives:
The project aims to develop and upgrade the old kilns and introduce modern technology in line with international standards. It also aims to allocate some commercial units to kiln owners inside the ceramics and pottery village in the area of Misr al-Qadima, secure ownership of their production units and land provided to kiln owners, renovate the houses in which kiln owners live and build new bathrooms to prevent the spread of disease, because more than one family share houses with one bathroom. In addition, the initiative sough to extend potable water, sewage and electricity networks to pottery production units, train local leaders and the Egypt Creativity and Development Association to organize themselves and find funding opportunities for necessary development projects for the area.

4.- Source of the Initiative and Participating Parties

Initiative Source:
The deterioration of the urban and living conditions in the area led the local community to initiate the project in cooperation with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS).

Participating Parties:
Parties participating in the initiative of the local community in cooperation with CEOSS and the Egypt Creativity and Development Association include the Cairo Governorate, Tourism Ministry representing the Government of Egypt, and some funders, such as the Italian Embassy and the local community.

5.- Legal Framework of the Initiative and Project Management

Legal Framework of the Initiative:
The initiative is grounded in the right to enjoy healthy living conditions and the Egyptian governments ratification of the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which enshrines the human right to adequate housing. The Egyptian government promulgated Environmental Protection Law 4 of 1994 to address pollution problems resulting from existing and new establishments. The law includes criteria for air, water and soil pollution. Major efforts are currently exerted to limit Cairo air pollution through monitoring Cairo air and obliging establishments to modify their systems in accordance with the Environmental Protection Law.

Decision-Making and Project/Initiative Management:
A committee was formed to manage the project and make decisions. The committee is formed of the beneficiaries and has the following characteristics:

  • Technical cadres represented in kiln owners.
  • The ability to contact government authorities, such as the ministry of tourism and the Cairo Governorate.
  • The ability to hold meetings with target groups to explain the project and its objectives.
  • The ability to establish financial and administrative systems in cooperation with CEOSS.
  • The ability to manage, follow up and document various stages of the project with target groups.
  • The ability to solve administrative problems in the Egypt Creativity and Development Association.
  • The ability to estimate community needs with the participation of target groups.

6.- Strategic Planning of the Project/Initiative

How all Parties Participated in Planning the Project/Initiative:

Due to the inhabitants remaining unemployed for four years, the inhabitants lacked funds to upgrade their quarter of Old Cairo, which harmed the relationship between inhabitants and the government. This was reflected on psychological and social condition of unit owners, their families and unit workers. The project was ultimately performed in cooperation between unit owners and CEOSS through building model, environment-friendly kilns and measuring their environmental impact through the Environmental Affairs Authority.

As a result, the community gathered, wanted to preserve the cultural heritage of Fustat and realized the need to commence work due to the unbearable decrease in income, which, in turn, led unit owners to exert pressure on the Cairo Governorate and the Ministry of Tourism to complete construction work in the village, so that unit owners could start their projects and upgrade their kilns. A number of entities were contacted through the Ministry of Tourism to collect the necessary funds for the project.

The model suggested to achieve the initiatives objectives included a number of development programs consisting of the following:

  • An agreement was reached between kiln owners and CEOSS to develop and upgrade old kilns and introduce modern technology in line with international standards.
  • Allocating commercial units ranging between 100 and 150 square meters in the ceramics and pottery village to 30 kiln owners in Misr al-Qadima (Old Cairo) through the Cairo Governorate and the Ministry of Tourism.
  • Contracts were signed with the Cairo Governorate allocating land to each kiln owner.
  • Houses and rooms where unit owners live were renovated and new bathrooms were built.
  • Extending water, main utilities and electricity to all pottery production units.
  • Providing training to local leaders and the Egypt Creativity and Development Association to help them find solutions to foreseen problems and train them to find funding opportunities through proposal writing.

The project plans were prepared with community participation. The community selected a group to be responsible for implementing the project in cooperation with CEOSS, which provided training on how to prepare suggestions for a development project like kiln development. The committee also designed all administrative and financial documents necessary to implement the project. Female committee members participated in managing the project, and preparing financial and administrative systems. The committee prepared a list of the units to be upgraded, determined the dangerous tasks to which working children are exposed and prepared suitable training programs. Meetings were held for the community to raise awareness and participate in the project to improve their economic and social conditions.

The initiatives strengths include the choice of technical cadres from within the village to help implement the project, the completion of successful examples, which encouraged the target group to adopt the project, beneficiaries manage the project and the provision of training for the committee in charge of managing the project in order to address expected problems. Moreover, 40% of the total project cost was provided through loans that were recycled to fund other needs. In the end, more than one government authority helped implement the project, such as the Cairo Governorate and the Ministry of Tourism, as well as various donors.
Weaknesses of the initiative included:

  • The lack of sufficient funding to complete the project within a short period, which increased unemployment.
  • The Associations lack of experience.
  • The presence of administrative problems and
  • The lack of trust between the Association and unit owners.

Assessment of Real Target Group Needs:

The initiative’s needs and priorities were determined through the following set of activities:

  • A list of the units requiring upgrading was prepared, based on meetings held with unit owners.
  • Meetings were held with working children to determine dangerous jobs they performed.
  • Meetings were held with various sectors of the community to determine their economic, social and environmental needs.

7.- Project/Initiative Resources (Funding/Capital)

Project Material Resources:
The project’s material resources consist of the cost of constructing the village, which amounts to LE6 million (US$967,741) provided by the Italian Embassy, as well as LE2 million (US$322,581) provided by the Ministry of Tourism. The project was also funded through community contributions to implement the project and part of the cost of kiln construction through recyclable loans on the basis of implementing 40% of the total project and then reuse the money to perform other required activities.

Local Resources and Social Capital:
The project/initiative is based on a number of local resources and social capital represented in the presence of highly skilled technical cadres among unit owners who are capable of explaining the project and its objectives to the target community. They will also be able to form committees responsible for the project and prepare their own regulations to manage the project through public participation, in addition to their ability to contact government authorities and exert pressure to gain the right to perform their work without waiting for the completion of construction work. They will also be able to form committees from the target groups to receive completed parts of the project according to the technical and environmental specifications, in addition to their ability to contact the media and prepare newspaper articles about the project.

8.- Project/Initiative Implementation

Role of the Local Community, the State and Other Partners in the Project/Initiative

The local community, represented in owners and workers of old ceramics and pottery production units, as well as some Kum Ghurab inhabitants, with CEOSS, Cairo Governorate and some donors (Ministry of Tourism and the Italian Embassy) participated in the project implementation through the following:

a. Changing Cairo governor’s decision to move, remove and allocate land to build the first ceramics and pottery village over an area of 3.5 feddans with unit areas, ranging between 100 and 150 square meters.
b. The Ministry of Tourism provided LE2 million ($322,580) and the Italian Embassy provided LE6 million.
c. CEOSS participated in upgrading 30 pottery kilns in the village.
d. Renovation of housing units for pottery unit owners and construction of healthy bathrooms in the units.
e. Specialists participated in training local cadres and leaders on writing project proposals/suggestions.
f. Preparing financial and administrative systems and building the institutional capacity of the Egypt Creativity and Development Association.

A number of committees were formed from the local community to be in charge of and supervise the various stages of the project, including a committee responsible for contacting government authorities and completing administrative procedures, licenses and land ownership documents; a media committee responsible for preparing newspaper articles about Bedouin art, its relation to pottery and ceramics and the importance of developing the area to place it on the tourism map; a committee responsible for dealing with the local community, explaining the project, implementing the project and preparing administrative and financial systems; a committee responsible for receiving kilns and ensuring they fulfill environmental specifications, collect contributions and loans installments; and a committee responsible for defining housing repair and new bathroom construction needs.

Obstacles Facing Project/Initiative Implementation and How to Overcome Them:

Financial obstacles represented in limited funds in the hands of unit owners and the lack of sufficient funding from the ministry of tourism. These obstacles were overcome when the ministry of tourism contacted fund donors to complete construction work in the village and obtain a grant of LE6 million from the Italian Embassy, as well as CEOSS contribution to the kiln upgrading project with a grant of LE6,000 per ($967) developed kiln, in addition to CEOSS participation in developing kiln owners’ housing through the provision of LE600 ($97) per renovated room.

Economic obstacles represented in high unemployment rates that were overcome through upgrading 20 kilns in the pottery and ceramics village thus creating employment for 100 persons.

Technical obstacles represented in the inability of the local community to upgrade the vocation and introduce modern technology. This obstacle was overcome through the design of a model upgraded kiln in cooperation with environmental specialists. The Environmental Affairs Authority (EAA) approved the design. It was also overcome through contacts between the community and the EAA to perform environmental measurements.

Administrative obstacles represented in the weak role played by the Egypt Creativity and Development Association responsible for the project due to its lack of experience. Problems arose with government authorities with relation to licenses. These obstacles were overcome through providing training to local leaders and the Association’s board of directors, as well as preparing financial systems, building the Association’s institutional capacity and forming committees where community members participate to be responsible for the project.

Areas Where the Project/Initiative is Useful:

The project serves the following fields:

  • Capacity building: Providing training to local leaders and the Egypt Association in order to be better able to organize themselves, as well as developing the ability of the local community to contact government authorities.
  • Social mobilization/public motivation: The social organization of the individuals benefiting from the project and motivating the public to participate.
  • Improving housing conditions: Renovate houses and rooms and construct new bathrooms, as well as extend basic utilities to pottery production units.
  • Urban environment: Improve the health and environmental performance of the area.
  • Urban development: Increase the income of 100 unit owners after upgrading the units.

9.- Evaluate and Analyze the Project/Initiative’s Social Production

Extent to Which the Project Achieved its Objectives/Social Gains:
The project/initiative succeeded in achieving its objectives of the following social gains:

  1. The social organization of the individuals benefiting from the project through collective work.
  2. Establishing a civil association under the name of Egypt Creativity and Development Association the aim of which is to encourage creativity in all areas of art.
  3. The ability of individuals to contact government authorities and legally ask for their rights.
  4. Signing contracts with the Cairo Governorate in favor of kiln owners to rent allocated areas.
  5. Studying issues related to air pollution and introducing modern technology to develop the vocation.
  6. Form a group of project beneficiaries to address executive and public authorities on behalf of the association.
  7. Close links were established between the area of Misr al-Qadima and the Egypt Creativity and Development Association to issue licenses.
  8. Raising the income of 100 unit owners, in addition to assisting workers, after the kilns were upgraded.
  9. The development of 150 houses belonging to unit owners and linked with the vocation where 600 families benefited.

The Project’s Relevance to the Habitat Social Production:

This project is linked with the habitat social production represented in organizing the community and beneficiaries and raising their awareness regarding the means to ask for their rights; the ability of the community to change a ministerial decree in case it contradicts with the needs and requirements of the local community; ensure ownership for unit owners; register and develop the institutional capacity of a civil association that aims to develop the area.

10.- Results and Lessons Learned from the Project/Initiative

Lessons Learned from the Project/Initiative:

Following are some of the most significant lessons learned from these experiences:

a) A well-organized society can change ministerial decrees.
b) Civil society should participate in alleviating the financial burdens borne by the state.
c) Depend on more than one fund donor to ensure that the project does not stop at any stage.
d) The need to select specialized cadres to train the community on successfully managing projects.
e) The need for the local community to participate in all the studies related to determining its actual needs.

The Future Vision to Develop or Repeat This Project/Initiative:
The future and continuation of this experiment is linked with the degree to which a society is cohesive with its members able to plan and work together to face any interference or problems that may arise. There is a potential to repeat this experiment in other areas in general, and in areas with traditional vocations in particular.

How to Promote Participating Parties in the Project/Initiative:
Organizers and participants promote these areas of expertise through the following:

f) Organize local community support workshops to benefit from the experience.
g) Present and relay the experience during international forums and conferences, as well as exchange visits.

11.- Contacts:
Nady Kamel, head of Community Development Dept.
Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS)
Block 1331, Dr. Ahmad Zaki Street
Al-Nuzha al-Jadida
P.O. Box 162 11811
al-Panorama, Cairo
Tel: +20 (0)2 297-5901/2/3
FAX: +20 (2) 295-9141