CAIRO: Following announcements of likely increased air pollution this year due to an expected rise in the burning of excess rice straw, the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture have enacted two programs to convert straw to fertilizer.
The two programs will start in the fall during the harvesting of rice and encourage farmers to collect excess straw instead of burning it. Burning excess rice results in a pall of “dark clouds” that blanket parts of Egypt for weeks.
The ministries’ “Young Farmer” program will encourage young farmers to convert 90 percent of 100,000 tons of rice into organic fertilizer in the Sharqiah, Dakahlia, Qalubiya and Gharbiya governorates, and convert the remaining 10 percent to animal feed, Youm7 reported Thursday.
Minister of Agriculture Adel el-Beltagy said in a Thursday statement converting rice straw would provide 20-25 percent of the farmers’ animal feed and organic fertilizer needs, as well as 50-70 percent of chemical fertilizers after three years.
The second program aims to provide job opportunities for farmers through collecting and baling rice straw with the participation of agricultural associations and local units.
Farmers will get paid 82 EGP ($11) for each collected ton of straw.
The targeted quantity of rice straw bales in the four governorates is 200,000 tons, according to the statement.
Many environmental researchers and activists have called for recycling the collected straw and using it as soil for desert land reclamation, “but farmers with a low amount of remaining rice straw find burning straw cheaper and easier,” said Mawaheb Abu el-Azm, the former head of the Environment Research Center, in comments to The Cairo Post Aug. 31.
Additional reporting by Ezz el-Nouby