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Schaduf battles poverty by growing food on roofs

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Growing food op Cairo’s rooftops offers both a business opportunity and means to provide food for families

Tomatoes grown in a rooftop farm (Photo courtesy Schaduf Facebook page)

Tomatoes grown in a rooftop farm
(Photo courtesy Schaduf Facebook page)

In the current economic climate the struggle for daily survival is harder than ever in Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods. Schaduf, an innovative company, hopes to turn the rooftops of buildings in those neighbourhoods into green places where fresh vegetables are grown for home use and to provide families with extra income.

Schaduf aims to help unemployed youth to start and own private farms on the rooftops of their houses and produce fresh and sustainable products. The micro-investment project intends to increase agricultural production in Egypt by exploiting unused urban space, add a pure and aesthetic aspect to polluted cosmopolitan cities like Cairo, and help unemployed youth to create a sustainable source of income.

The company was established a year ago and uses hydroponic techniques which allow farming without soil. The main advantage of using the hydroponic technique is that soil is not necessary and water is saved by using a closed water system.

Schaduf uses three types of hydroponics. The first is deep water hydroponics, which uses floating sheets of Styrofoam with plants seeded in holes in the Styrofoam.

The second is the potting soil system, where soil is used in pots only and the water used is recycled. Lastly there is the NFT system, a structure of water pipes that have holes where the pots are placed and have a running stream of water carrying nutrients to the plants. The water runs through a closed circuit and is used more than once. Schaduf mainly encourages the growing of leafy plants such as lettuce, arugula and molokheya.

The company was founded with the help of the Nebny foundation, which aims to develop underdeveloped areas like Mansheyet Naser.

Schaduf offers help to anyone who wants to exploit their rooftop and company consultants visit the rooftop farms weekly to check on their progress. Consultants train and advise farmers to become self-sufficient in managing their farms.

“There are plenty of spaces in Cairo that could be very beneficial if they were well exploited,” Sherief Hosni, co-founder of Schaduf, said.

The company participates in many exhibitions and fairs to display their unique production and farming techniques. “We showed our products two weeks ago at the Taste of Zamalek event, where we received great feedback from the audience,” Hosni said.

The company hopes to turn all Cairo’s rooftops into green, productive areas using hydroponics, which will provide the Egyptian market with fresh greens and give many families additional food and income.


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