The institute’s research focuses on projects addressing the management of key resources within the Egyptian environment. These are water in its various forms (Nile water, groundwater, brackish water, treated waste water, etc.), land (including both desert land and valley and delta land), plants (predominately agricultural, but also ornamental and landscape plants), and solid waste treated as a resource that can be recycled or reused. The RISE resource management agenda also includes renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and bio-fuels.
RISE research addresses resource management issues at different levels and scales. For example, water can be looked at in a regional context such as management of trans-boundary water resources among the states in the Nile basin, at the level of Egypt’s national irrigation water management strategy, the farm level as water use efficiency or even the household level, such as use in rooftop gardens or the recycling of grey water from kitchens and sinks.
The social dimension of integrated resource management within a sustainable environment is an essential component of RISE research. All RISE research projects, whether focused on physical, technological or economic aspects of the environment, must consider how people live in and interact with the environment. Understanding human behavior within an environment is basic to determining the present or future sustainability of that environment. RISE research aims to incorporate the understanding that people’s perceptions, understandings, motivations for human action and social organization are key variables to be considered in finding solutions to resource and environment problems, such as food safety, water scarcity and air pollution.
RISE research also recognizes the importance of interactions and cross-cutting relationships. For example, a key nexus of environmental relationships in Egypt today is the interaction between water, food and energy. Addressing the issue of a sustainable environment in this context implies a mix of disciplines, scientific approaches and specialists, including biophysical scientists, engineers and technology experts, social scientists and policy analysts. RISE has positioned itself within the University community in such a way that it can mobilize and draw upon the intellectual resources that are available in the various departments and schools and in the research centers of the University.
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Current Research Projects
- Climate Controlled Greenhouses
Climate controlled greenhouses balance the temperature differences between day and night, provide a perfect microclimate for plant growth and regulate soil moisture. The RISE greenhouse uses as much renewable energy as possible using a grid tie solar energy system. A solar system is intended to supply fans, irrigation system, lighting and sensors with clean electrical energy. The system is a grid connected to a photovoltaic power plant, utilizing polycrystalline solar modules. The system is comprised of two main parts: solar modules and a DC/AC inverter connected together in a design that uses minimum wiring and system losses. The installation is designed to complement the grid. The inverter synchronizes with the grid to ensure the power output from the solar plant and the utility interchange flawlessly. Sixty nine high efficiency 245W panels will be mounted using a steel structure on top of a nearby shed and connected in series in three parallel strings. The greenhouse will be equipped with:
- Exhaust Fans
- Air Circulation Fans
- Super Fogger
- Cooling Pads
- Retractable Thermal Screen
- Carbon Dioxide Units
- Artificial Light Systems
- Heating System
- Computerized Operation System
- Solar System
- Rural Agricultural Mobile Support Information System (RAMSIS)
In partnership with Orange Lab, Mobinil and the Fayoum based NGO FAODA, sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), RISE is conducting a pilot research project on the use of mobile phone technology to assist small Egyptian farmers with implementing best practices in wheat farming. RISE's three case study villages are the Delta village of Shubra Qubala and the Western Desert oases of El Heiz and Abu Minqar. The project started with an agricultural assessment of all three locations, focusing on the production of wheat, one of Egypt's most important field crops. After extensive research into best practices in wheat production in these three locations and conversations with experts from around Egypt, RISE put together a data base of SMS message content sent out directly to farmers' mobiles at the relevant times throughout the wheat growing season. The messages were accompanied by a series of trainings conducted in all three locations. The farmers responses to the information messages have been extremely and FAO is contemplating extending this successful model to other field crops and other areas around Egypt.
- Sustainable Community Development in the Oases of Egypt's Western Desert
In the oasis of El Heiz (just south of Bahariya) and Abu Minqar (south of Farafra), this is a collective name for a number of projects that have been ongoing since 2006 with support from the International Development Research Center (IDRC), the German Embassy in Cairo, the Canada Fund, GIZ and HSBC through grants and donations. The purpose of the project is to improve the sustainability of the Abu Minqar community through better natural resource management, improved productivity and incomes, and enhancing social capital and capacity building. The project is centered on community organization and resource management collectively and individually within the community. The project has produced several research reports, an MA thesis in anthropology (later published by AUC Press as a Cairo Paper in Social Science) and several technology adaptations (lined irrigation canal with distribution gates design, solar egg incubator, solar charger for batteries, hydropower plant from artesian wells, etc.). The project works closely with the local community association that was established with assistance and training from the DDC. More than 20 DDC and RISE researchers and interns have been engaged in the project during its lifetime. Currently, two donors are offering additional funds to continue this project. RISE considers this a long-term project with excellent prospects for continued funding and useful research outputs.
- Accounting for Nile Waters: Connecting Investments in Large Scale Irrigation to Gendered Re-Allocations of Water and Labor in the Eastern Nile Basin
This research project sets out to develop an innovative methodology for better understanding the (gendered distribution of the) benefits and tradeoffs of large investments in irrigated agriculture in the Eastern Nile Basin. Contracted by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), RISE is linking remote sensing tools, used to assess how large infrastructural projects alter Nile water flows, with field-based, ethnographic research methods, in order to understand how these changing flows re-distribute livelihood opportunities, productive possibilities, incomes and ecosystem services between different user groups at different scales. Sponsored by UNESCO and carried out in partnership with the University of Khartoum, Sudan, the Hydraulics Research Center in Sudan, and the Forum for Social Studies in Ethiopia, the methodology developed through this project will trace how the identified water distribution changes are shaped by, or in turn shape, existing axes of social differentiation (class, gender, age), thus allowing to assess their impacts on social equity and gender relations.
- A Waste Management for the Village of Shubra Qubala
Funded by HSBC, RISE is developing a waste management system for a village located in Egypt's Nile Delta that is replicable in villages across Egypt. As many of Egypt's rural villages are drowing in solid waste, and liquid waste is freely deposited into irrigation canals, the country is in dyre need of efficient local waste management systems that reach beyond the recycling efforts of Cairo's zabaleen community. RISE researchers carried out a full assessment of the waste management system of the village of Shubra Qubala in Monufeya Governorate, working closely with the local development association. In a series of meetings with all local stakeholders, following a rapid assessment carried out with waste management experts from the zabaleen community, RISE has designed a system for collecting, sorting and recycling Shubra Qubala's waste. The system is scheduled to be fully implemented in the summer of 2015. RISE will devise a plan for replicating the Shubra model in other Egyptian villages.
- Greening Cairo's Rooftops
This project began in 2012 from a request by an international school in New Cairo to help it with a design for a rooftop garden that the school wanted to build as a learning activity for its students and as a way to improve the school building and campus environment. Though the school eventually felt it could not fund the activity, DDC researchers continued to investigate options for simple rooftop gardens that could be utilized by householders and small-scale institutions like schools for a variety of purposes. Several technical packages were identified. In the fall of 2012, the DDC received an offer of technical support from the US Department of Agriculture - Forest Service. USDAFS experts provided advice on technology selection, installation, operation and maintenance. The DDC, in partnership with the AUC University architect, built five different rooftop garden prototypes on the roof of the Campus Development Center building. This project has continued under RISE's management. Although the rooftop gardens have not yet received any substantial external funding, the DDC and RISE have received useful technical support, and building the prototypes and testing their performance are essential steps forward in developing RISE’s expertise. The idea of rooftop gardens is spreading in Cairo and there is considerable interest in the topic already.
Completed Research Projects
- Anaerobic Biodigesters for Production of Biogas, Fertilizers and Soil Amendments
The DDC has been researching biodigester technology for the past three years as a sustainable way to produce energy and nutrients from organic waste, of which Egyptian agriculture produces millions of tons per year. Moreover, Egyptian municipal waste is estimated to have a 60 percent organic content that could serve as feedstock for biodigesters. The DDC conducted a survey of potential biodigester feedstock streams in four areas of Egypt (mid-Delta, west Delta new lands, Fayyoum and Cairo satellite new towns) in 2012. Biodigester technology has considerable potential to develop additional renewable energy resources in Egypt and to help mitigate the serious environmental problems posed by Egypt’s failure to sustainably manage its solid organic waste (both agricultural and municipal).
- Impact of Population Growth and Climate Change in Lebanon and Egypt on Water Scarcity, Agricultural Output and Food Security
In 2013, the DDC/RISE research staff engaged in a study titled "Impact of Population Growth and Climate Change in Lebanon and Egypt on Water Scarcity, Agricultural Output and Food Security." The research was in partnership with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the Columbia University Middle East Research Center (CUMERC-Amman, Jordan) and the American University of Beirut (AUB). RISE conducted all research concerning Egypt. The research began with a desk-based synthesis of previous research on farmers' responses to water scarcity in Egypt. A good deal of research on this topic has been generated for the past 30 years in Egypt, but little in the way of synthesis. The grant provided a convenient opportunity to conduct such a synthesis. A group of expert researchers, university professors and government representatives in related fields were invited to take part in an expert consultation workshop at AUC, where the synthesis study was presented and recommendations were discussed. This was followed by field case studies in three sites: a Delta village, a community in the new lands and a desert oasis. RISE is either currently working or had previously worked in all three sites selected for the case studies. This project provided the RISE research staff with an opportunity to interact with counterparts in other international research centers, namely the Issam Fares Institute at AUB and Columbia’s CUMERC in Amman. The grant provided funds for several RISE researchers to travel to Lebanon to participate in fieldwork with the AUB team. The project produced several reports: the synthesis study for Egypt, the case studies, and the final report integrating the Egypt and Lebanon findings.
- "Getting to Campus: Sustainable Public Transportation and Relocating the American University in Cairo"
Presented on May 21, 2014 at the "Building the Case for Sustainable Transportation" conference organized by the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut.
Cairo is one of the most congested cities in the world, and public transportation is one of its greatest challenges. Government strategies to alleviate congestion have stressed horizontal expansion into the surrounding desert areas and the construction of more and ever larger motorways. This paper uses the experience of the American University in Cairo (AUC) to assess policies and strategies for sustainable public transport within Greater Cairo (GC). In 2008, AUC moved from its historical downtown campus in Tahrir Square to new facilities in the emerging city of New Cairo on the outskirts of the Metropolis. By comparing how AUC students, faculty, and staff get to the new campus, the study concludes that sustainable urban transport systems must put priority on enhancing the mobility of people rather than vehicles. Furthermore, in light of current proposals by the University and the Ministry of Transport for bus and rail systems linking New Cairo to the rest of the metropolitan area, the paper identifies specific social, economic, and cultural differences among stakeholders in sustainable public transport that will strongly influence the outcomes of policy interventions.
- AUC Carbon Footprint Study 2012, 2013 and 2015
This project was started in the fall of 2011 with funding from a Faculty Research Grant from the Office of the Provost and a grant from the Office of the Vice President for Planning and Administration. The study produced a modified methodology for calculating AUC’s institutional footprint, taking into account Egypt and AUC-specific variables and emission coefficients. The project includes observations of community behavior and a transportation survey of community members. The first research report was published in October 2012 and widely distributed. In November 2013, the Carbon Footprint 2.0 Report for FY2012 was published, and it continues to get press coverage. The effort will continue to include activities on an annual basis for data collection and analysis, but followed with biannual reports and assessments. The research was, and continues to be conducted in close partnership with the University’s Office of Sustainability. There is also significant participation from the Office of Facilities and Operations, the Office of Campus Planning and Construction Services, and from faculty from the Department of Petroleum and Energy Engineering and the Department of Construction and Architectural Engineering. Disseminating the results has brought interest from outside parties to the extent that RISE may prepare proposals for outside funding to train and provide expert support to other institutions in Egypt and the region in conducting their own carbon footprint studies.
- Occurrence and Control of Black Mold in Egyptian Onions
Black mold is a fungus disease that pervasively infects the annual onion crop in Egypt. It has significantly reduced the prices Egyptian farmers can demand for their onions, and Egyptian onion exports, particularly to Europe, have been adversely affected. Initially funded by the Egyptian private sector company Pharaonic Bioherb (through the Dutch Private Sector Investment Program), this research has been conducted on Sadat City station and in farmers’ fields for the past two years. Several reports have been produced and supplied to the donor. The research results are in the public domain. RISE is currently investigating options for creating the capacity within our Sadat City laboratories to identify and analyze black mold for the purposes of continued research and as a service to farmers and commercial companies. In addition, the trial provides an excellent venue for training our technical staff to conduct experiments, and as a demonstration and training vehicle for our practical training courses in integrated pest management. Lessons learned from conducting these trials will be applied to our campus facilities and to the engagement of AUC students in applied research.
- Citrus for the Desert Lands: A Grafted Tree Nursery (Began in 1996)
- Economic Assessment of Milk and Meat Production at the DDC
- Effect of the Trickle Organic, Bio-Organic and Conventional Fertilization on the Productivity and Quality of Some Vegetable Crops (Common Bean, Turnip, Tomato and Broccoli)
- Mass Trapping, a Sustainable Method to Fight against the Mediterranean Fruit Fly in Egypt
- Effects of Different Types of Fertilizer on Vegetables
- Effect of Trickle Mineral, Organic, Bio-fertilizer NPK and Fertigation on the Productivity and Quality of Some Vegetable Crops (Tomato, Common Bean and Carrot)
- Water Management in South Tahrir and Sadat City
- The Irrigation System Evaluation at South Tahrir Station, Egypt, as a Way to Improve the Efficiency
- Animal Production on South Tahrir Farm: Economic and Technical Analysis