Jozour | From palm midribs to a good life

Turning palm midribs to wood

The way to turn a village from point of migration to a destination

Mahmoud Sherif & Karim Negm

The space is tight and overcrowded with the high numbers of rush hour commuters. Sameh is no longer able to control himself; he appears hysterical as he begins to shove everyone around him with all the force he could muster. He struggles to reach the nearest window, or perhaps he can make it to the door first. In places like this, Sameh cannot breathe; his allergies get the best of him. At last, he reaches the window and, as he draws a deep breath, he blames himself for deciding to hop on to this train. Perhaps, he thinks, he should have waited even longer, may be a less crowded one might have finally come along. 

This is Sameh’s story and that of many others like him. Their story is repeated daily, again and again, during rush hour in Cairo’s underground metro trains.

A breathtaking portrait! A green line stretches from the bottom up, and as it branches towards the top it turns a lovely blue. An even more captivating blue fills the right side of the portrait. The background is a bright yellow with varied and rich hues. Artful strokes and pockets of color meet the eye wherever it chooses to rest on the portrait. At first, it may be puzzling such beauty and magnificence, but soon, when it is clear that this is not an artist’s grand vision, and that it is real, the confusion turns to marvel and awe. This portrait is the map of Egypt.

Indeed, what calls for wonder is not the portrait itself, but rather Sameh who has wandered away, like millions of others, from all over the various gorgeous spots on that map to come and live in this little overcrowded dot where they suffer in the trains that run beneath the ground. Their suffering is not only medical or even physical, but it is also mental and psychological. They roam around in the midst of crowds that merged and clashed over the same cause, carrying within them that deep and dull pain which comes and settles when one’s dignity is lost. 

Pain is how it feels to see the vast waves of Egyptians crashing onto the city and leaving behind their villages and hamlets with all their wealth of values, ideals, and resources. Pain is also watching the city rushing swiftly toward the villages like an unstoppable landslide burying beneath it all that is rich, beautiful, and unique, and leaving behind ruins where all that is dwells scarred and disfigured.

It is said that a true diagnosis is half the cure. Many believe that this phenomenon, the migration from rural to urban locations, is a result of economic problems in local rural communities, from which they flee to look for better opportunities in the city that may help them secure a comfortable, dignified life. We believe otherwise. It is our contention that the human migration anywhere is prompted by a search to find the true value of life. We believe that for multiple and interconnected reasons local communities began to feel that their life, with all its social and economic structures, resources, local industries and crafts, has lost its value. Thus they look toward urban city life and the abundant access its residents enjoy to all its alluring products and productions, and think this is where life’s value lies.  The city lifestyle of consumerism and consumption has become the ideal, and has replaced the value of production.

A vast, abundant and renewable resource that has been long neglected in Egypt is that of agricultural residues. Our company, Jozour (meaning roots in the Arabic language) works on creating innovative and creative applications for recycling agricultural residues using new production technologies developed by Jozour to match the specific characteristics of the materials with which we work, and the nature of the environment and climate in Egypt. 

Specifically, the company works with palm tree midribs residues to produce lumber planks of various sizes that can be used to replace traditional wood planks in the production of furniture and other products. Palm midribs comprises one of the largest agricultural residues in Egypt with an average of half million palm trees in each province in Egypt. The byproduct of the annual trimming of palm trees yields around 200 million palm midrib approximately. Of that amount, only 10% is utilized in micro industries and the remaining residues are burned as the primary way of disposal, typically on agricultural lands and in open air, causing multiple environmental hazards. Needless to say, this agricultural residue can and should be recycled to turn it from a potential waste and environmental hazard to an utilizable resource and an economic driver for rural communities. It is indeed a resource that can create employment opportunities and transform villages from a point of migration to a destination.

Additionally, in the absence of natural forests and forestry in Egypt, the country still relies on importing timber as the main source of furniture making with a cost of about 1,000,000,000 L.E annually. The lumber planks produced by Jozour are a viable alternative to imported timber and a potential for a large local industry. 

Jozour is a materialized dream of a group of college buddies who wished to contribute to the creation of better work opportunities for their fellow rural displaced youth, and to help build a stronger and more viable economy for Egypt. Thus, not only do we work on the production of timber planks but one of our primary goals and activities is to develop and improve the technologies and machinery used in the production process, thus ensuring a thriving and sustainable local and new industry capable of scaling on a macro level. 

Currently, we at Jozour are proud to be gearing up for our first large scale production of palm midribs timber planks. This will be our first significant step toward positioning our product on the map of lumber trade in Egypt as the most viable, sustainable, beautiful and high quality local material for furniture and other product manufacturing.

Sameh now got back to his village, he could find a job with “Jozour” and he is dreaming to see 100% of midribs in his village is turned to be wood boards and he will start collecting midribs from his relatives who used to burn their midribs. He is very happy now to live and work in his own village with his old friends and family members.