In Kafr El Sheikh, Egypt, a little boy named Badr lives in fear of losing his father, a fisherman, because of a plant called the Nile rose. Also known as water hyacinth, this beautiful but highly invasive and destructive plant poses grave dangers to the fishing industry. The rose’s rapid reproductive rate and complex root structure allow it to form dense, interlocking mats which can impede navigation and affect fish populations. As a result, Badr’s father must sail his fragile boat in dangerous territorial waters to find fish, risking his life along the way.
Thousands of families around the world face this same fate every day. (The Nile rose has already invaded freshwater systems in more than 50 countries on five continents, and climate change is suspected to speed up its spread.)
Moved by Badr’s story, the two-time Enactus National Champion and 2018 Enactus World Cup runner-up team from October 6 University in Egypt set out to find a solution. “We wanted to solve this issue once and for all, providing a safe life for our beneficiaries and helping to sustain their lives,” says team member Haidy ElFeky.
Working tirelessly, the National Champions dedicated more than 1,000 hours to studying the Nile rose. After rigorous research and lab testing, the team launched Cellurose, a multi-stage project that focuses on removal and utilization of every part of the plant to drive economic development. The business produces fish feed from the petals of the Nile rose, cellulose and alpha cellulose (the building blocks of paper, cardboard and textiles) from its roots and stems, and black liquor fertilizer from the waste of the cellulose.
Instead of throwing away or burning the rose — a past fix that has further harmed the environment — each phase of Cellurose ensures a zero-waste model. To date, the project has prevented more than 1,500 pounds of waste from being burned.
In addition to addressing environmental concerns, the team is equally passionate about empowering families like Badr’s. The National Champions from October 6 University have assisted members of 80 villages with implementing Cellurose, which has elevated them above the poverty line and increased their income by more than 175 percent. The project has generated a total revenue of 268,000 Egyptian pounds.
Despite Cellurose’s success, the team has faced some obstacles, such as traveling more than 1,500 miles. Perhaps an even greater challenge, though: “Convincing the beneficiaries to break all stereotypes and try making a benefit of the Nile rose, instead of collecting … and burning it,” ElFeky says.
Through orientation sessions, the Egypt National Champion team increased its partners’ understanding of the business cycle, enabling them to take the lead. By setting up renewable contracts between the beneficiaries and their importers, the team is ensuring continuous supply and demand.
In the long run, the National Champions aspire to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. “We hope to improve the livelihoods and safety of the villagers, providing them with a more sustainable and profitable opportunity,” says ElFeky.
October 6 University will represent Egypt at the Enactus World Cup starting 14 October, where the team will present their project alongside 32 other Enactus National Champions. There, they will demonstrate their innovation in business and its impact on the world as they vie for their chance to become the Enactus World Champion.
Learn more and register to attend Enactus World Cup at enactus.org/worldcup.