Replacing wood with straw, an Egyptian environmental solution

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Egypt is brewing a number of entrepreneurial projects seeking to provide sustainable solutions for the manufacture of wooden furniture and décor from agricultural waste and environmentally friendly materials.

Dawayer is a startup with such a project. This design studio is mainly specialized in the production of environmentally friendly wooden planks using agricultural residues and recycled material. It then uses these planks to provide its customers with high-end, environmentally sustainable decorations and furnishings, such as lighting units, small tables, and chairs.

The three founders (from left to right): Salma Sherif, Khadija Radwan, and Habiba Shawkat. (Images via Dawayer)

Other startups in the same field are Jereed dealing with the manufacturing of wooden furniture using palm midribs, and Jozour, specialized in recycling agricultural waste and using it in furniture manufacturing.

Dawayer was founded at the start of 2014 by applied arts graduates Salma Sherif, Khadija Radwan, and Habiba Shawkat. Initially a final project for them at the German University of Egypt they decided to take it further and focus on the utilizing of ‘rice straws’.

The black cloud

Every year Egypt is plagued with an annual phenomenon known as the ‘black cloud'- each September during the rice harvest and the burning of the rice straw results in a black cloud of smoke that causes suffocation and serious respiratory diseases to affect millions of Egyptians. On the flip side Egypt spent $1.8 billion in 2014 importing timber and related products.

Dawayer wants to solve these problems - getting the straw to replace the wood.

Competitions, instrumental but not enough

Dawayer adopts a successful three stage manufacturing process. Drying the straw, preparing the adhesive, and pasting to convert straw.

In 2015, as a way to improve their business model they added more environmentally friendly raw materials - palm midribs and other recyclable materials. “Rice straws are not always readily available due to its seasonal nature,” said Sherif.

Bootstrapping since starting they are now in need of funding. Competitions though have been an essential part of funding for the startup.

After becoming a winner at Injaz Egypt 2014 Dawayer was awarded seed funding of $8,000, a workspace, and an opportunity to attend various workshops on marketing, finance, and project management.

Recycling the rice straws.

They then went on to win Injaz AlArabIn 2015 they participated in and won various regional competitions, from Young Innovators’ Awards Program (YIA) and Nahdet El Mahrousa, to Anta Elkhair is an initiative launched by MBC Alamal.


Despite not having the design program they used at university, Rhino, available in the Egyptian market, they lack of money, or even easy access to the the machines to support manufacture, Dawayer has so far produced 100 pieces of furniture and is expecting their first production line to hit the market before the end of the year. Already they have Injaz as a client, providing furniture for their events.

Products will range from 50 Egyptian pounds (US$4) to 2,000 pounds (around US$277).

[Feature image via Sharkiya Today]

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