Ibrahiem Abo Zeid: no jobs for the young

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Ibrahiem Abo Zeid: no jobs for the young

Ibrahiem Abo Zeid, 55, a semi-retired resident of Dondeed village, Dakahlia province, Egypt, describes the last 10 years as "the peak of suffering for me and my generation". Among the reasons he gives are "skyrocketing prices", inadequate wages and pensions, "increasing rates of unemployment due to the use of technology and modern machinery" and the lack of government support for agriculture. "You can say we are now destitute," he comments. "We do not feel secure."

Ibrahiem considers himself fortunate to have been able to go to secondary school and obtain a diploma, unlike his sisters, but observes that nowadays even university graduates "are still hanging around the village with no jobs". Nevertheless, he believes education is crucial because "it enables you to know your rights, and deal with the law of your country".

On the subject of agriculture, Ibrahiem, identifies several problems, the most important being that "the government has abandoned the policy of supporting farmers and no longer provides them with fertilizers". Water shortage is also a serious issue and the irrigation channels now only function once a week. "I think the government diverted the water to the desert to serve the plots of investors rather than poor peasants," he says.

Ibrahiem has no land of his own. "In the past, the land was a man's honour," he says. "Now I cannot buy land, because my income is exactly equal to or less than my expenses…" He continues: "Also, the farming area in Dondeed has shrunk considerably because people are building houses in this area...and the village is no longer big enough to accommodate the growing numbers of people. Today, there are a lot of villagers working in Cairo and other surrounding cities. The village has changed a lot; most people in the village do not work in farming any more, because there isn't enough land."

Ibrahiem is scathing about the behaviour of "businessmen who suck people's blood" and refers to "the terrible extravagance in spending on weddings and entertainment which, if distributed to the villagers, would have improved their positions (living conditions) significantly". He blames poverty on "billionaires, who control the country's wealth, and the decisions of the Minister of Commerce and Industry, which have led to higher prices of basic commodities such as electricity and water…" He adds that "the high prices have not been accompanied by an increase in income, and ration cards and goods that are distributed to low-income people do not meet the main needs of the people".

In Ibrahiem's opinion, tackling farmers' problems could also ease youth unemployment. "We need to establish plants for manufacturing fertilizers or for drying vegetables," he says. "We can set up these plants, either through the establishment of a cooperative, or by obtaining support and funds from the ministries concerned. I believe that these projects will employ a lot of youth in the village and can solve the problem of unemployment."