11 Jan 2016
Cairo, Egypt
Organic Food and Agriculture

In Arabic, Schaduf means the irrigation system of ancient Egypt: A perfect name for this company dedicated to the installation of living walls and small scale farms. Driven by a desire for social and environmental change, Schaduf is greening the roofs and walls of Cairo, while helping families in need to grow their own vegetables.

In 2011 after volunteering on a farm in Louisiana, the brothers Sherif and Tarek Hosny created Schaduf, an Egyptian company dedicated to the installation of farms and living walls. Originally, their goal was to help poor families from Cairo generate income by growing vegetables. For this Schaduf guides future farmers from the initial investment (through a micro-credit system) and then teaches the techniques of soilless farming and reselling crops on the market. The company also creates living walls for businesses, shops and residential buildings, a practice that improves the air quality and thermal insulation and is therefore fully environmental friendly.

Meet Tarek Hosny, co-founder of Schaduf.

How did you get the idea of creating Schaduf?

I have always been very interested in plants and nature in general, then I discovered the microcredit system, which allows people to fund their own projects. This is when we had the idea – with my brother Sherif – to associate these concepts with the practice of hydroponics, which we had seen in the United States and Europe. In Egypt, we have a big problem with agriculture, as most of the territory is desert. This type of soilless agriculture is perfect for a city like Cairo, with all its empty rooftop terraces. Our idea was to build micro-farms on the roofs of the city, so that people could grow their own vegetables, and also sell them for income.

What type of services do you offer?

At first our project focused primarily on people with low incomes to help them create their own micro-farms. Today we have also developed services for the private sector by creating green roofs for businesses and residential buildings.

What ecological value does your project bring?

Generally speaking, micro-farms or green walls play an important role in the ecological continuity of cities. First, because plants absorb toxic elements from the air but also because green roofs are known for their thermal insulation capacity, which helps against the urban heat island phenomenon.

Is there a social dimension to your project?

Yes, completely. Micro-farms allow people to consume healthy products, but it is also gives additional income as when production exceeds consumption, we help farmers to sell their crops on markets.

The company that ‘greens’ the roofs and walls of Cairo | The Switchers

What are the virtues of soilless culture?

For me, the future of agriculture lies in soilless farming. We must not forget that traditional agriculture is the main cause of deforestation in the world. The cold, the heat and lack of rain also make traditional farming impossible in a number of countries. Soilless agriculture is a great alternative and can allow these countries to be self-sufficient, and also by growing vegetables on roofs, we do not generate any negative impact on the earth.

How are you involved in making your community aware of environmental issues?

Egyptians are aware of global environmental issues, but it is not their priority. We are trying, in a small way to participate in sensitizing people through lectures and workshops.

Is it possible to be both profitable and create an environmental and / or social value?

Of course. It’s not easy but it is possible! Currently our team consists of about twenty people. The important thing is to be open to the world. You must listen to people and be flexible in your ideas.

Schaduf Micro-farms & green roofs
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