Algerian entrepreneurs revolutionise sustainability industry: insect farming and waste recycling innovations gain EU support
July 27, 2023
By Camille Dupire
Thiziri Adir and Mouad Cheliram are two young innovators making strides in the realm of sustainability and environmental protection in Algeria. Having both benefited from the EU-funded SAFIR programme through the Algerian Center for Social Entrepreneurship (ACSE), the two entrepreneurs have turned students’ dreams into groundbreaking projects dedicated to transforming organic waste into clean energy and products and using insect farming as a sustainable alternative to animal feed.
Pioneering insect farming for sustainable animal feed
Thiziri Adir, a passionate entrepreneur from an agricultural background, is spearheading a trailblazing initiative to address the challenges of animal feed production in Algeria. With support from the European Union- funded SAFIR programme, the young woman has embarked on a mission to cultivate insects as a viable alternative to the costly and unsustainable import of animal feed.
“I knew there had to be a better alternative which consumed less energy, water and space, so I reached out to other farmers, and I realised they were facing the same problems. This is where my journey into insect farming began,” Thiziri recalls.
Wearing her engineer’s cap, the young woman studied the industry, which had already gained recognition abroad. “France is known for its leadership in the field, but it is still a novel concept in Algeria,” Thiziri explains.
Nevertheless, she was determined to make her mark in insect farming. “The added value of my project lies in the decentralised approach, where small-scale insect farms can be established on the lands of traditional farmers, creating a localised and sustainable supply chain.”
Thiziri’s vision for widespread adoption of decentralised insect farming has been driven by her desire to have a positive impact on both the local community and the global environment at large. “By building small units on farmers’ lands, we not only minimise the need for large-scale factories but also create short circuits in the supply chain,” she explains.
EU support nurtures entrepreneurship and collaboration through local incubator
Thiziri’s sustainable and socially inclusive initiative caught the eye of the Algerian Center for Social Entrepreneurship (ACSE), a local incubator partnering with the EU-funded Safir project. Supported financially by the European Union, Safir is an ambitious programme fostering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the socio-economic inclusion of young people in 9 countries across North Africa and the Middle East. Based on three pillars, the project aims to create an environment that (i) fosters the civil participation of over 1000 young project leaders; (ii) boosts the structuring and development of a regional network of supporters; and (iii) allows for the creation of spaces for dialogue between young people and the public authorities.
In addition to various skill-sharing programmes aimed at incubators, civil society organisations and universities in the region, Safir also partners with local incubators and civil society organisations, like ACSE, to support future talent and innovative initiatives like Thiziri’s.
“SAFIR, in partnership with ACSE, has been truly instrumental in shaping my project and expanding my network,” the young woman says with a hint of emotion, remembering that “they were the ones who truly believed in [my team] and our idea, which is so nice because, when you are at the beginning of such a new experience, it is important to have people on our side, not only supporting your project, but also you as a person.”
She emphasises the importance of her mentor, Ghania Outekhdidjet, who is also in charge of the incubation cluster at ACSE. “Ghania and her team really push you to evaluate your idea while also helping you find solutions and alternatives to overcome constraints.”
Mouad Cheliram, a brilliant 27-year-old who benefited from the same programme, agrees. “She is a real mentor, an exceptional guide who offers you unwavering support. You can text her in the middle of the night, regardless of the hour, she will always help you,” he adds, praising her deep understanding of financial technologies and strategic decision-making.
Both Thiziri and Mouad credit the EU-funded programme for the continued success of their entrepreneurial journey as these initiatives have not only offered them financial support but also invaluable mentorship, expert advice, and access to extensive networks.
“Through these programmes, we were able to test our prototype until we came up with the final product. We went through literally all of the design thinking process steps but not only,” Mouad explains, stressing the importance of the social impact skills they practiced at the incubator.
From graduation thesis to a thriving start-up: a “sustainability journey”
The highly eloquent young man clearly gained a lot from his time in the incubator, as he gets ready to go deliver a training on STEM and entrepreneurship in Constantine in two hours. “With these new skills, I gained the confidence to deliver pitches and even started giving workshops to other youth.”
In those classes, he tries to raise awareness of the wealth of EU-funded programmes and opportunities available for young people, notably by sharing his personal “sustainability journey” as he likes to call it.
In the picturesque rural city of Skikda, located in the eastern region of Algeria, this passionate environmentalist recently established EcoChar, a groundbreaking start-up that transforms organic waste into clean energy fuels and sustainable products. “It all started with my university thesis project on the valorisation of coffee grounds and organic waste, which laid the foundation for my future work,” Mouad remembers, listing some key life-changing moments which made him realise he wanted to “make a life-lasting change” through his work.
Teaming up with fellow students Rahimi Moussa, Morareb Nourelhouda Aisha, Balaska Tinhinane whom he met through the Hult Prize competition, he developed an innovative recycling process using coffee grounds waste and olive biomass waste to produce different eco-friendly products. Charcoal briquettes, heating logs, and fibers for textiles and paper are some of the green alternatives that EcoChar is now selling.
“Our idea really took a turn with the support of ACSE, as they helped us transition from manual production to automated processes,” the young man recounts. Forward looking, Mouad insists on the importance of having a gender balanced and innovative cohesive team to succeed. “Each of us has his/her own field of expertise, like polymer engineering, mechanical engineering or environmental engineering, and we constantly exchange with other innovators.”
With passion, he asserts: “there is something I strongly believe in: it is the power of networking and building a community. Throughout my journey with ACSE, I have maintained close connections with individuals like Thiziri, because we are crucial to each other’s entrepreneurial growth. We regularly exchange milestones and collaborate through WhatsApp, in order to find solutions together for the challenges we face.”
Into the future: empowering communities and expanding impact
Looking ahead, both Thziri and Mouad have ambitious plans to revolutionise Algeria’s relationship to sustainability. Both aim to expand their innovative solutions across the country and beyond, seeking to challenge traditional practices and drive positive change in their communities. With their innovative ideas and determination, the two young leaders are poised to contribute to a greener future, where decentralised insect farming for sustainable animal feed and clean energy and products made from organic waste are no longer a student’s dream but a daily reality.