10 Oct 2019
Giza, Egypt
Organic Food and Agriculture

Established in May 2018, vermicomposting company Union for Agricultural Development (UAD) has enjoyed a meteoric rise worthy of Egyptian cinema. In the sixties, characters played by Omar Sharif and Soad Hosny would emerge from humble origins to become famous overnight. These days, UAD is staking its own claim to that glamorous heritage. The company’s organic fertilizer products have already attracted an impressive list of clients and earned membership of IFOAM, the leading international organization for sustainable agriculture.

UAD follows a simple, effective business model of using earthworms to convert organic waste into clean and safe bio-fertilizer. According to Ahmed Salem, UAD’s chief executive officer, Egypt receives a twofold benefit from this process —  it both recycles leftover food and reduces the unhygienic buildup of organic garbage. “Vermicomposting is an effective way to maintain our resources sustainably and prevent disease from this waste,” said Salem. 

UAD demonstrates that addressing pressing social challenges can also be profitable. Egypt faces an enormous problem with handling organic waste. A 2017 study found that every Egyptian generates an average 73 kilograms of food waste each year. This finding placed Egypt 16th out of 25 countries identified as especially profligate wasters of food. UAD is quite literally eating away at this hurdle, with thousands of earthworms diligently creating fertilizer from food scraps.

Commercial success has sprung from the encouraging market available for organic fertilizer. UAD already provides ongoing services for a sprawling, 7,000 acre peanut farm. According to Salem, this customer has reported healthy crops and improved production since switching to UAD’s organic products. Salem added that UAD remains aware of their clientele’s bottom line, rather than increased sustainability alone. “We do our best to attract clients by producing organic fertilizer at a very good price,” he said.

Not all clients are quite as open to new ideas, which poses challenges for expanding UAD’s business. Salem claims that many Egyptian farmers have used chemical fertilizers for decades, and can be skeptical about switching to organic. “Some do not embrace the culture of modern and safe agriculture,” he observed.

Be that as it may, business is currently booming. The company is already self-sustaining, with plans to apply for loans that will fund further growth. UAD is also considering options for exporting to international markets. 

Organic fertilizer may never become the stuff of Egyptian cinematic legend. But Salem and his colleagues are playing a vital — if unsung — role in securing Egypt’s future.

 

Learn more about Union for Agricultural Development through the website and Facebook.

Photos courtesy of Union for Agricultural Development

Since completing his MA in Middle Eastern Studies two years ago, David has worked as a freelance writer based in Cairo and Beirut.David Wood
Waste-to-taste: Egyptian vermicomposters support organic farming from food scraps | The Switchers
UAD Organic Food and Agriculture
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