Solar Cities And Enviornmentalism In Egypt: An Update

I recently visited the Zabaleen neighborhood of Minsheyet Nasr in Cairo, Egypt, and met with Hana Fathy. Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen, senior supervising producer Davar Ardalan, and senior producer Ned Wharton met Hana when they visited Cairo last year. The reporting trip was part of an NPR series, in collaboration with National Geographic, called "Climate Connections."

biogas digester.

Senior supervising producer Davar Ardalan and senior producer Ned Wharton are photographed during their trip to Egypt in 2008. Staff/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Staff/NPR

You can hear those stories here:

-In Cairo Slum, the Poor Spark Environmental Change
-Slow but Sure Environmental Progress in Cairo
-Rising Sea Levels Threaten Egypt's Ancient Cities

When I met Hana, he was in a tough situation. The USAID grant money, which the group Solar Cities was using to build and maintain solar water heaters in the impoverished community, had run out. Hana had only received a handful of private orders for the units. With his first baby on the way, he had returned to the family business of sorting plastics.

Hana Fathy and his wife, Sabah.

Hana Fathy and his wife, Sabah, are photographed with their new baby, Christiano. Hana works with Solar Cities building solar-powered hot water heaters and biogas digesters. Kimberly Adams/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Kimberly Adams/NPR

But since I visited in August, things have turned around for Solar Cities. The group has become a nongovernmental organization, which makes them eligible to receive new sources of funding. Solar Cities founder T.H. Culhane — along with environmentalist Katey Walter Anthony of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks — also won the 2009 Blackstone Ranch Institute Innovation Challenge Grant. The grant, given in partnership with National Geographic, will provide $50,000 toward research on biogas digesters, such as the one on Hana Fathy's roof.

biogas digester.

This biogas digester sits on Hana's roof. At the time this photo was taken, the unit was out of commission because rats had chewed through the pipes. It has since been repaired. Kimberly Adams/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Kimberly Adams/NPR

Additionally, a variety of private funding has flowed to the organization from schools and private individuals. Meanwhile, Hana was recently hired to work for the Sekem farm in Egypt, as their chief renewable energy expert. And, according to T.H. Culhane, Solar Cities has "secured funding to bring Hanna to Tanzania to train people in the building of solar and biogas alternatives (instead of) deforesting for cooking and water heating fuel."

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