The micro-gardens are vegetable gardens without soil which are grown up through tecniques of hydroponic culture or with the use of mineral substrates in place of fertile soil. Micro-gardens are therefore transportable and, in both cases, the boxes are built with recycled materials in order to make the gardens more “sustainable”. The “cultivation without soil” methodology also provides an alternative solution to the problem of fertilization of the sandy soil (which in this part of the world is still often an unsolved problem) allowing moreover the use of ground without violating the sacrality of the burial space-sited in the patio inside the hosh where the families live. In addition to that the use of easily removal structures makes the micro-gradens easy to be moved in case of population displacement in the area. Each family’s garden is composed of approximately a dozen boxes (each one measuring about 1/2 square meter), forming so roughly five square meters of gardens for each family - an average that has been decided considering a minimum standard able to work as nutritional support in relation to the average of the local population’s food availability). In this part of the world the cultivation of vegetables may occur throughout the whole year, not having any period of rain and not a real cold season. 


In each box different vegetables are grown. They have been selected by the inhabitants themselves according to their dietary habits and respecting the possible applications of micro-garden (which does not allow to grow vegetables with long and vertical roots).

Therefore, within the Cairo project, the selection of seeds was made among: parsley, mint, garlic, cabbage, tomatoes, beans, lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, potatoes, strawberries, peppers. Through this technique, every family, can provide food for their own subsistence, but may also help in gradually improve their own quality of life selling the products grown in their own micro- garden inside the district or to the neighbours so as to have a little additional income.

In the first phase of the project LIVEINSLUMS provides seeds, substrate, vitamin solutions - to be diluted in water- and some materials to help in building the containers as, for instance, wood, plastic containers, plastic sheets (to isolate the containers not to disperse vitamins and water) and polystyrene to apply hydroponic technique.


Generally inside each hosh (which are mostly similar to patio-houses) the spaces for vegetable gardens were organized in the funerary courtyards, in the outdoor patios or on the roofs. A team of architects and designers helped the families to find the most suitable space for the development of the micro-gardens, considering the space availability of each hosh, the family habits and the sun orientation. Then, after a first encounter and the achievement of a certain mutual confidence, the trainers build the containers together with the families, teaching them the technique, and preparing the space chosen for setting up the micro-garden inside the hosh. The training about the cultivation technique takes about 10 days. Every day the training has to be followed by an evaluation check of what the families really learned and understood. During the training, the most important themes forthe project are introduced in a simple and straight way: the role of the seed nursery (phase which corresponds with the placement of different seeds in the micro-garden); how to use the vitamin solutions; the possible applications of the containers and the relative techniques (hydroponic or with substrate); the infor the treatment and growth of the different species. The training is made “door to door”: a daily commitment for each family performed within their own dwellings. 


Therefore the trainers can establish an intimate relationship to strengthen the participation of the population to the project. Afterwards it is prepared a specific kind of compost which is derived from organic compounds and which may be used to replace or supplement the use of vitamin solutions and the mineral substrate after a few months. This kind of compost making allows further lowering the cost of the project and to make also a safer product within an organic agricolture approach (acting especially as natural repellent against small parasites). The general aim of the project is to gradually improve the quantity of micro-gardens in order to compose a sort of “micro-garden community” and so as to increase the quantity of products for exchange and trade. These products will be hence harvested from individual families but the activity will be collectively managed through sharing basic materials and tools as well as the progressive knowledge of the micro-gardens tecnique.


Technical benefits:

1 The sacred land inside the hosh is neither used not compromised so as to respect the tombs

2 The environmental issue related to sandy soil -too draining and so not appropriate for growing gardensis overcame through the micro-gardens tecnique

3 There is a 20% water saving comparing to traditional agriculture tecniques

4 The chance of starting cultivation in all seasons - thanks to the constant and favorable climatic conditions in Cairo- makes possible for the inhabitants to establish a permanent activity

5 The possibility to move or remove micro-garden containers ensure a certain spatial flexibility which well match with the inhabitants exigences

6 The possibility of progressively supplementing or replacing the use of solutions with self-made compost allows the further lowering of production costs.



Scientific Coordinators: Dott. Agronomo Antonio Ferrante (Prof. Ricercatore di Orticultura e floricultura Dipartimento di scienze agrarie e ambientali - Università degli Studi di Milano); Prof. Salvatore Ciappellano (Prof. Associato Alimentazione e nutrizione Dipartimento di scienze agrarie e ambientali - Università degli Studi di Milano), in collaborazione con Prof.ssa Claudia Sorlini (Delegata Area Cooperazione Università degli Studi di Milano - Facoltà di Agraria) e con Mohammed Emam Ragab (Prof. di Orticultura e direttore del dipartimento di ricerca Tecniche non tradizionali di orticultura - Facoltà di Agraria Ain Shams University - Cairo)

Generale Director: Elisabetta Bianchessi - Gaetano Berni - Silvia Orazi>Photographers:
Family Trainers Agronomist: Carmen Manocchia - Andrea Giro - Tommaso Sposito
Family Trainers Architect: Carmen Zuleta, Tommaso Sposito; Amanda Marquez; Paola Serritu
Collaborators: Maria Luisa Daglia