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An eye on the countryside
Published in Ahram Online on 02 - 02 - 2021

The first phase of a national project aimed at improving living conditions and creating job opportunities for more than 5,000 poor villages nationwide was launched last week.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi who spearheaded the project instructed the government to facilitate improving 1,500 villages in its first phase.
This phase of the plan, entitled the National Programme for the Development of Egyptian Villages, will last until the end of the year and will target improving the quality of life in villages where 57 per cent of Egypt's population resides.
The rate of poverty in these villages exceeds 55 per cent. The rates of illiteracy and the percentage of households where women are the bread-winners are higher than in other villages and urban areas. Most of these villages lack potable water, proper sanitation, natural gas networks, and paved roads.
The villages included in the first phase are in Assiut, Sohag, Beheira, Qena, Minya, Aswan, Luxor, Menoufiya, Fayoum, Beni Sweif, Giza, Al-Wadi Al-Gedid, Qalioubiya, Daqahliya, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Ismailia, Damietta, and Kafr Al-Sheikh governorates.
“There is a dire need to rally the efforts of the state bodies together with civil society organisations and individuals to successfully implement this huge project,” said Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Radi.
Radi said the project is designed to complement Egypt's “Decent Life” programme to improve rural communities by ensuring better living conditions, reducing poverty, upgrading infrastructure and improving public services, especially educational, housing, healthcare, power, sanitation, drinking water, and natural gas services.
“The programme also focuses on supporting small and medium enterprises [SMEs] in these villages, improving healthcare units, upgrading the efficiency of irrigation networks, enhancing agricultural and veterinary services and establishing advanced dairy collection centres,” Radi pointed out. He said the plan will include the relocation of public service offices in governorates and villages, and connecting them electronically to the related ministries in their new headquarters in the New Administrative Capital.
This is not the first time the country's poorest villages have been focused on, according to Hani Younis, the spokesman of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Construction. In 2019, there was a presidential initiative to develop 143 villages in 11 governorates; civil society participated in improving 37 of them in the governorates of Minya, Assiut, Sohag, and Qena.
The rate of internal migration from the countryside to the cities, according to Younis, has reached 55 per cent. Developing Egyptian villages will contribute to the reduction of migration to the cities. “The prime minister announced that Egyptian, not foreign, companies will be tasked with providing the resources needed for the project,” Younis said.
Younis said he believed the scheme would provide several job opportunities for youth. Factories would cooperate with the government to implement this national project, thus revitalising the country's economy. (see p. 14)

*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 February , 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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