SEKEM‘s Journal for Economy, Culture, and Society in Egypt
SEKEM Insight Nr. 78 - January 2009
Dear Readers, the producer of a wellknown brand of soft drinks who also produces juices has recently published a study on the carbon footprint of orange juice. In the study the producer measures the CO2 impact of the entire production chain of a single carton for the first time. The surprising result: the conventional cultivation of the oranges itself is - by far and before their processing and distribution - the production step with the gravest CO2 emissions. Another producer of organic dairy products did the same analysis for the production process of yoghurt. It came to the same conclusions: even before the production inside its factories the raising of the milk cows produced the heaviest impact in CO2 emissions on the environment. These scientific results show one thing: that the emission of greenhouse gases frequently happens in places unknown and unexpected. Could it be that measures to reduce them thus also have to focus on unfamiliar methods so far unthought of? This is what Helmy Abouleish, CEO of the SEKEM Group, believes as we will show you in this issue of SEKEM Insight.
The SEKEM Solar Heater Project
Helmy Abouleish speaks in Poznan
SEKEM Sinai: Greening the Desert
A Second Green Wonder: SEKEM Sinai Flourishes
Greening the sandy deserts of the Sinai peninsula is an equally daunting task as was that of the SEKEM farm
„Greening the desert...“ - it is in this way many people describe the wonder that has been unfolding since 30 years roughly 60km northeast of Cairo. Those who visit the SEKEM Farm do not see much of the desert they are referring to anymore, however. It is only along the road from Cairo to the farm where they can catch a glimpse of how the landscape on the SEKEM farm looked like three decades ago. But the picture still fascinates: windswept, endless deserts of sand and rock with only few green plants scattered about, fighting against the hostile climate inspiring a sense
of hope. This picture contains one of the strongest motives why the SEKEM initiative has received so much support over the years by so many people. That said it has not come as a great surprise how much positive response SEKEM has received over the past year after some of its co-workers had reported on the progress they have made with the new agricultural projects: the new farm land on the Sinai peninsula and in the oasis of Bahareya in the Western Desert. It is the nature of comprehensive development initiatives that they
need substantial time spans to flourish and that news cannot be reported every month. However, in the meantime and through the tireless efforts of many of SEKEM’s coworkers much has happened. The first plots have been prepared on the Sinai farm in such a way that a new irrigation system could be installed. Its main plant spans 350m in length and moves in a circular fashion irrigating a surface of 700m in diameter during one day. Before the system could be brought in the land had to be prepared using compost produced on the SEKEM farm. The numbers of trucks moving in and out of the farm were almost impossible to count. Additionally, a new water reservoir was constructed that is going to hold enough water to bridge possible temporary shortfalls in the supply from the canal supporting the farmland for several days. This way the risk of droughts threatening valuable harvests can be minimized. Compost and the efforts of countless hands has created what by now resembles the beginning of a new “green wonder”: clover has begun to grow on the fields that is going to be ploughed under in early spring and is supposed to inject valuable nitrates into the ground for better fertility. The cultivation season is to launch during the coming summer. The small trees that had been planted in March during the celebrations on the occasion of the laying of the first groundworks have
The deserts of the Sinai are beginning to show first signs of flourishing green
successfully stood up against the hot desert winds and continue to flourish. The irrigation systems are still being extended to areas where oranges will be planted during 2009. Similar developments can also be reported from the farm in the oasis of Bahareya. Mint had already been planted on its grounds this winter season and the first harvest is to be expected in early summer. The infrastructures of new plants are still being erected and everyone expects the new farmland to be ready for cultivation still in 2009. New facilities and storage areas have been built on both farms that are also going to house the first coworkers that will continue to do pioneering work in the desert sands for still some time to come. Christina Boecker
SEKEM Participates in Conference on Corporate Ethics From 13th – 14th November 2008, a group of diverse leaders from all sectors of society gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels to chart a roadmap to sustainability, and discuss the global financial crisis and its possible link to business ethics. They called for a reformation of the financial sector and a focus on holistic solutions that encompass all five pillars of society: politics, business, academia, spirituality/religion and civil society. They agreed that the crisis facing the world today is not something that can merely be solved through consultation between governments or between businesses. The Conference identified the need for ethical leaders with a multidimensional approach. “Policy makers would tend to think we need better codes of ethics and in some sense that would seem to be true. More transparency would help. However Enron had a state-of-the-art code of ethics, so having these things in
place are not enough to get out of the bubble-phenomenon. We need people who can spot when bubbles form. These leaders need to be courageous, ethical, perceptive and politically powerful,” said Michael Klein, Vice President of Financial and Private Sector Development at the World Bank. Many of the speakers called for a Martin Luther King-type personality who could lead a complete reformation of the financial sector. “We are at a turning point,” said Nirj Deva, British Member of European Parliament and Chair of the Conference advisory committee. “This is the time when the world decides if ethics will simply disappear in the battle for survival, or if it will become the foundation on which we build our future.” Rudy Aernoudt, Former Head of Enterprise Financing, European Commission highlighted that we are now in the phase of a value driven economy. He went on to say that this crisis could mean a catharsis which might be a good thing. We have thousands of pages of regulations, and countless publications and yet nobody could understand what happened. If you speak of uncertainty, the only solution is trust. And trust comes from human values, he said. “And the key question is: how to earn decent money, decently. Ethics is good for business. Ethics, just like optimism, is a moral duty and presents an opportunity – a business opportunity.” In discussing the global financial crisis, Sali Berisha, Prime Minister of the Republic of Albania, pointed out that it took a crisis to show us that when the parts work together, the whole becomes stronger; that smaller differences can be forgotten in a united search for the common good. The Conference culminated in a resolution, which stated that ethics should be the guideline for further development in all fields of life.
The Conference, now in its fifth year, is organized by the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), a charitable non-governmental organization dedicated to the development and promotion of human values in society. Over 300 delegates participated, including politicians, humanitarians, religious leaders and academics, as well as CEOs and senior representatives from multinationals such as Microsoft Corporation, Coca Cola, Wipro, Etihad Airways and GMR Group. It is rare that young professionals have the opportunity to engage with the current leaders of society in a meaningful way. Recognizing the importance of their engagement, the Conference offered an open platform for them to voice their call to business, academic, political and religious leaders. 54 youth aged 18 to 35, and selected from 16 countries, participated in CCS World Youth Forum (WYF). The WYF encouraged the young leaders to identify and discuss urgent challenges in the global scenario and define possible solutions, while developing and strengthening their skills and capacity to take responsibility in the world. In the European Parliament, the youth presented their vision to the Conference delegates. Their presentation took three formats: a speech (with a clear message calling for a new definition of profit that encompasses the value of natural and human resources), a theme song (“Be the Change you Want to See in the World”, inspired by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi) and a short film. Their message was received with a standing ovation.
SEKEM Again Expands Tea Bag Production
The SEKEM Solar Water Heater Project
In December another packing machine for tea bags has been inaugurated at ISIS. Next to regular tea bags the new IMA C27 can also produce tea bags in paper envelopes. This is particularly beneficial for the aroma of the fresh teas and is appreciated specifically by customers from the catering sector.
Everyday the sun sends more energy than humankind can use within a whole year. This holds especially true for the equatorial countries such as Egypt. Thus to satisfy the growing energy needs of society is not mainly a question about availability. Even without fossil fuels or nuclear power everyone would have surplus energy available. It is rather a question about utilization of our abundant resources specifically wind and solar energy. There are various ways of using solar power. For Egypt solar thermal power is especially promising. It is less expensive and needs less technical know-how than photovoltaic cells for example. Solar Water Heaters (SWH) at the same time offer the opportunity for local industrial production, development of skills, and increased employment. However, there are also various obstacles.
The new machine presents significant new marketing opportunities for ISIS particularly in the field of catering services. The sales team has therefore selected five of the most well-known and beloved varieties that are now being packed using the new machine. Its capacity is therefore already fully used. Overall nine machines are now in use packing close to 300 million tea bags containing organic teas per year. New workplaces have been created for five employees. Another new machine has already been ordered and shall join the others in November 2009. This is primarily because demand is expected to outgrow the capacity of the existing nine machines already by the end of the year. With the new plants SEKEM has been able to expand its leading position as the second biggest packer of tea bags in the entire Middle East. It is now positioned right after Lipton, producer of one the most wellknown brands of black tea in the entire region. Christina Boecker
At the conference Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish also received the IAHV Ethics in Business Award 2008 in the category of “Outstanding Individual” for integrating commercial success with the cultural and social development of society. Bijan Kafi with material from IAHV
SEKEM‘s new tea bag packing machine
With its Solar Water Heater project Sekem takes on an active role in overcoming these obstacles and in fostering broader use of solar thermal power. Sekem uses SWH on its premises for years supplying its houses, factories, and cafeterias with cheap warm water and thereby reducing the emission of green house gases. Recently, Sekem shifted attention to the development, production, and distribution of SWH. Sekem examines the available technologies and develops its own prototypes tailored to the requirements of the local market. At all times its engineers work together with the vocational training centre and integrate the students in production and development. Thereby they also focus on raising awareness on environmental issues in society. For the future they are intending to distribute and maintain SWH in Egypt and the Middle East thereby helping to reduce the emission of green house gases and the dependency on fossil fuels. Martin Haagen
Agriculture and Climate Change: Helmy Abouleish Speaks in Poznan „Agriculture has the potential to change the world’s climate problems within 12 years when shifting from conventional to organic system on a global scale!” this was the challenging thesis, which Helmy Abouleish, managing Director of the SEKEM Group stated at a panel discussion at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan/Poland on the 4th of December. The discussion round was organized by the World Future Council. It was prepared during a meeting of the council’s expert group for fighting the climate change in London in October this year. During this meeting the council’s staff presented their research, actions and campaign to the experts, among them some of the councillors like Nicolas Dunlop or Bianca Jagger, Chairperson of the World Future Council. Helmy Abouleish was invited to present Egypt’s view on the challenges of climate change and the important role, which renewable energy can play to fight the negative impact. Next to his experience with introducing this technology in Egypt and convincing opinion leaders in the government to invest into renewable energies he also stressed the important role of organic agriculture and he was therefore invited to present his opinion at the congress in Poznan. Bianca Jagger introduced the truly international audience to the urgency of the topic: climate change will lead to an increase of hot weather periods and aridity in SubSahara Africa, leading to less yields and more malnutrition in the poor regions. It will also lead to flooding of coastal areas and directly to an increase of diseases, which will kill millions of people. In her opinion, climate change is no longer an environmental problem only, but also an economic and ethical problem and
it must be our noble goal to fight the development while there is still time to stop the negative impacts.
Impressions from SEKEM
Helmy Abouleish took the opportunity to explain to the audience some figures to back up his entry statement: There is about 800 Gt (gigatons) of Co2 in the atmosphere, which means a concentration of 385ppm . Scientific research shows evidence, that any concentration values above 350ppm lead to negative impacts on our environmental and climate system. Therefore it must be our aim not only to reduce the CO2 emission, but also the concentration already present in our atmosphere. The soils of our earth contain about 2500 Gt of CO2, but have lost about 76 Gt into the atmosphere in the last 80 years due to soil erosion and desertification. Soils in organic farming systems show a better humus and better ability to sink CO2 then the eroded soils of conventional farms. Converting the world’s farming land into organic farming, would lead to a better ability of the soils to absorb CO2. Scientists suggest that the potential of all farming land of the world has a potential of 0,6-1,2 Gt CO2 Sequestration, which can lead to a substantial reduction of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Organic farming is therefore the most effective single means to reduce the CO2 concentration and would have numerous positive “side effects” like a better livelihood for farmers, less health hazards due to agro-chemicals etc. Helmy Abouleish therefore strongly demanded to include agriculture into the next Kyoto-plus protocol. If organic farming would get incentives from the Kyoto scheme for capturing CO2, this could be a strong promotion for organic farming with all its positive impact on the climate, the environment and the livelihoods of people, especially in developing countries.
Children are among the key beneficiaries of the project
SEKEM’s well-knows “13-VillagesProject” that has been supported by the EU comes to a successful end these days. Next to the children pictured above, most of its services were specifically directed at women, villagers suffering from acute poverty, small-scale entrepreneurs and young Egyptians during its life span of 3 years. During these 36 months hundreds of pregnant women, sick, elderly, and otherwise impaired people have benefited from its activities. Several new vocational training courses and new social services could be launched that still are not common in many parts of rural Egypt. SEKEM Insight will report on its results comprehensively in one of its future issues.
Imprint: Publisher: SEKEM, Egypt The editorial team of SEKEM Insight would like to thank all correspondents who have contributed to this edition. Editors: Christina Boecker Bijan Kafi Contact: SEKEM-Insight c/o Sekem Holding P.O.Box 2834 El Horreya, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt