From the heart of Cairo, Sherif Hosny and his team are helping Caireans install edible gardens on their rooftops across the overcrowded urban settings of Cairo effectively turning the concrete forest into an edible paradise one apartment building at a time. Schaduf is the name Sherif and his brother have selected for the company they have co-founded to achieve that green vision for Cairo.
The word Schaduf has an interesting story behind it. Schaduf is the transliteration of the Arabic word شادوف which is a simple tool invented and used by Ancient Egyptians to lift water from the River Nile to use it for irrigating agricultural land. This simple tool, Sherif says, was the reason behind the agriculture based civilization the Ancient Egyptians have established being able to settle around the River Nile and extend the use of its water through the Schaduf for irrigating their farms. In the same spirit, Schaduf, the company, is attempting to lift the water up to the rooftops of Cairo’s residential buildings to establish a plethora of small edible green farms.
For the know-how, Sherif relies on the expertise of the Central Laboratory for Agricultural Climate (CLAC) which is part of the Egyptian Agricultural Research Center in addition to agricultural experts within the Schaduf team including Fatma Mohamed, currently working on her PhD in agriculture and Gehad Talima also a graduate of the Faculty of Agriculture at Cairo University. Moreover, the team are doing their own explorations and experimentation in order to arrive at better quality and affordable hydroponic solutions.
Helping Low Income Families
Schaduf started as an initiative to help low income families in Cairo to improve their financial state by gaining additional income through growing edible plants on their rooftops and selling the produce. In cooperation with NGOs Schaduf offers green roofs to those people. The NGOs provide micro-funds to the low income family while Schaduf provides them with training, equipment, materials and support to have their own rooftop edible gardens installed and functioning.
The current model Schaduf uses is that they offer a low-cost 15 square meters edible rooftop garden for 2600 EGP. The NGO pays for the system while the family receiving the system pay back the zero-interest fund in installments. Selling the produce from the edible hydroponic farm a family makes an average monthly income of around 300 EGP of which they pay 200 EGP back to NGO and keep 100 EGP for themselves. This continues for one year after which they get to keep the full monthly 300 EGP for themselves having fully paid back the zero-interest fund they had received.
Realizing that selling the produce presented one of the main challenges preventing green roofs from spreading in Egypt Schaduf offer to buy the produce from the low income families effectively solving the sales issue for them. While it is no easy task selling a small amount of harvest you produce atop your roof, yet by pooling many edible rooftop gardens together Schaduf is able to obtain a sizable amount of crop which it is then able to market more easily.
Growing your own Food
While the micro-fund model for low-income families is still the main focus of Schaduf, yet they have also complemented it with a second model that suits other sectors of society after having received many requests from people who wanted to have the edible hydroponic systems installed without the need to receive the micro-funds. For those Schaduf offers a complete high-end edible hydroponic system including equipment, material, training and support. The process starts by first making a site visit to the rooftop on which the system is to be installed followed by actually installing the system and providing the owner with required materials and training. Regular site visits are conducted by Schaduf to check out the system. Shcaduf also provides support to its clients answering their questions and helping them overcome any problems they face while growing the crops. The complete system costs 400 EGP per square meter. This hydroponic system is best for those who would like to grow their own crops and want to know the source from which their food comes from. In such case they usually do not aim at selling their produce but they consume it themselves together perhaps with their neighbors and relatives.
R&D at Schaduf
Having successfully installed a number of edible hydroponic green roofs at various locations across Cairo, Schaduf is pursuing additional advancements such as aquaponics wherein the production of fish is to be combined with edible crop production in an integrated system. Another aspect Schaduf is exploring is going organic with its hydroponic systems by using organic nutrient solutions instead of the regular ones.
For updates about Schaduf you can visit Schaduf on Facebook.