El Nafeza

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El Nafeza

Cairo, Egypt
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

In order to curb unemployment and reduce polution in rural Egypt, Mohamed Abou El Naga is training communities to convert their agricultural refuse into artisanal paper products.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

the art of papermaking could be revived and branded to provide skills & jobs to the underemployed - saving agricultural waste along the way?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Egypt, the poor suffer from a severe lack of employment opportunities, particularly in rural areas where there is nearly 52% unemployment. Unable to rid themselves of plant refuse, farmers resort to burning these goods, which contributes to the overwhelming problem of pollution. As a result, agricultural communities that rely on farming for sustenance suffer because of the refuse they generate.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Mohamed is developing papermaking centers to address the issue of unemployment and environmental pollution from agricultural waste in a creative and integrated way. Mohamed established El Nafeza as a training center for apprentices in the craft of papermaking. Currently, El Nafeza serves as an incubator for a new generation of artisans. Through this program people are equipped with the skills necessary to establish centers all over the country, particularly in poor, rural villages where locals are taught how to use their community’s agricultural waste to manufacture paper products to very high artistic and commercial standards.
Impact: How does it Work

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Graduated trainees are equipped to establish their own papermaking centers in communities all over Egypt; reviving the profession, creating job opportunities, and opening new markets. Expanding beyond El Nafeza’s students, Mohamed is also collaborating with citizen organizations (COs) to offer training to local community members on papermaking and utilizing agricultural waste. Mohamed has also worked to sign marketing agreements for his distinctive paper products with exhibits and galleries around Egypt, as well as with a number of interior design and art shops. Mohamed has effectively expanded the market for the paper made through his program to an international audience. He has opened markets in Jordan and is negotiating a contract with a major firm in Germany.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Mohamed trains 10 to 15 trainers annually, who in turn, train at least ten others, building an ever-increasing cadre of artisans to spread his idea. Graduated trainees then establish their own papermaking centers, replicating the model.

Founding Story

Growing up, Mohamed witnessed first-hand environmental degradation resulting from rapid and unplanned urbanization: an experience that shaped his future pursuits. For the past ten years, Mohamed has studied paper-making techniques in Mexico, India, China, the US, and Japan. in Japan he realized that art and the careful use of environmental resources can help promote sustainable community development. There he saw how paper-making could revive a whole community, create jobs, and generate income for unskilled women and men. He returned to Egypt eager to apply his insights and create a new model of papermaking and sustainable development.