A Visit to Gaffar Village

A little while ago I had the great opportunity to go visit one of our fellows, Sameh Seif, in Gaffar Village outside of Beni Suef.  Sameh is a truly amazing fellow, and we were able to visit the sites for both Housing For All and his clean sewage system.

New sewage system near Gaffar Village built by Sameh Seif, will eventually be hooked up to HFA housing

We started in Gaffar Village, visiting some of the HFA sites. HFA is Ashoka’s first collaborative platform, which brings together four fellows in four separate, low-income communities who will improve the safety and sanitation of these homes through microfinance. These fellows all have strong ties to their communities and well-respected microfinance organizations. One of the primary focuses of HFA renovations is to improve sanitation in the household. This includes moving the bathroom away from the kitchen, connecting the house to a clean sewage system that does not contaminate groundwater, and moving animals out of the main house.

First, we visited some of the houses that are going to be renovated. We were able to talk to the families that lived there about what they hope to get out of the project and they were all very excited to have clean, sanitary houses. We saw examples of animals sharing the same entrance and hallways as the family, dirt floors that are hard and time-consuming to clean, and kitchens near bathrooms.

Example of conditions in a pre-renovation house

Next, we saw a house in the process of being renovated. It was almost complete – they were just finishing up the painting and spackling. The floors were tiled easy to clean; the bathroom and kitchen were separate; there were balconies and great light. The house was a wonderful improvement.

Example of a renovated house

After seeing this house, we visited the new animal section of a different, post-renovation house. For me, this change was the most inspiring – it was such a simple design but with huge added benefits. First, the separated the animal room from the house, giving it a second entrance on the street so that animals were no longer walking past the sleeping and eating quarters. Next, they gave the room a sloped, cement floors. The cement is easier and faster to clean than the old dirt and straw dust ones. They can hose the floor down and it will drain into a trough at the bottom of the sloped floor. This also facilitates the collection of manure, which the family can sell for added income.

Another shot of the simplistic yet highly effective and environmentally friendly sewage system built by Sameh Seif

Finally, we went to Sameh’s sewage plant in the next village over. It was this idea that first made him an Ashoka fellow. I was amazed how simple the design was, how much cheaper than the government systems it was to build, and how much more effective it was at removing the pollutants from the water. To read more about this project, visit:


Account written by Zoe Goldman, photos by Nairy Abd Al Shafy


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