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The Desert Development Center (DDC) was established in 1979 as a nonprofit, applied research institution. The center focused on the ecological, social and economic sustainability of communities in Egypt's arid lands. Through agricultural and socioeconomic research, training programs and community service, the DDC worked for more than 30 years to improve the overall well-being of Egyptians living in desert areas. In November 2013, the DDC became the Research Center for a Sustainable Environment (RISE). The new institute keeps with the main components of the DDC’s mission, but has significantly extended its scope.

For the DDC’s founding in 1979, the Egyptian government leased 600 feddan (578 acres or 1,428 hectares) in South Tahrir and 26 feddan (25 acres or 62 hectares) in Sadat City to AUC, both of which are located off the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road. Between 1979 and 2013, the DDC developed these two sites into stations for applied research on horticulture, animal husbandry and land analysis, as well as training centers for desert settlers and farmers. The larger station located in South Tahrir in the agricultural governorate of Beheira, 150 km northwest of Cairo, was used for applied research and agricultural experiments, demonstrations and trainings. Its facilities included a dairy processing plant, beekeeping area, silkworm production unit, livestock facilities, greenhouses, fields for horticultural projects and a sample windbreak forest. The DDC was able to make groundbreaking contributions to the Egyptian horticultural sector, particularly citrus, by developing rootstocks for tree grafting that fare particularly well under desert conditions and are cultivated by large numbers of desert farmers to this day. Through years of applied research and testing, the DDC also bred a cross between Egyptian and Swiss Brown Cow breeds that is adapted to desert conditions and promises significantly raised milk and meat production. In 2013, the DDC South Tahrir research and training station was transferred to AUC facilities and is scheduled to be released from AUC in 2014. 

At its South Tahrir station, the DDC hosted its acclaimed training center, offering two dormitories with more than 100 beds, a lecture hall and a cafeteria. More than 1,000 men and women per year were trained by DDC faculty and engineers on the practicalities of sustainable desert agriculture. The centers’ course topics included citrus cultivation, pruning techniques, marketing and rural women’s skills, to name a few. RISE’s new training center builds on the strengths and vast experiences of over two decades of DDC training activities. The new training center offers an improved and extended course range of short, practical training courses in the domains of farm management, quality control, accreditation, water management, sustainable farming, renewable energies and waste management.