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Nr. 101 - January 2011


SEKEM‘s Journal for Economy, Culture, and Society in Egypt

Editorial Dear Readers,

Those who knows SEKEM well are aware that in the past 34 years of its existence there have been major milestones in its development that are easy to spot. At first and for many years after its launch in 1977 SEKEM remained a very local initiative. This was also true for its radius of impact. However, from the beginning there plenty of contacts with foreign supporters, many of them German. New professional staff slowly moved to Egypt primarily from Europe.


Islam Seminar

New Products

SEED Meeting at Bahareya Oasis

Popular seminar is held again

New spreads and premium dates

SEED Initiative Strengthens Education for Sustainability The SEED Initiative introduces SEKEM’s young generation of co-workers to issues of sustainability within their own fields of work.

In 2003 SEKEM won the „Alternative Nobel Prize” and the “Schwab Foundation Award for Outstanding Entrepreneurship”. The new awareness, which was associated with SEKEM’s transformation into an international initiative, drew more, especially young people to Cairo. But it has been only in recent years that this interest began to reach a „critical mass”. Today, a team of half a dozen young people from European countries works in SEKEM, many in business development and sustainability. The SEED initiative strives to prepare them and their colleagues for the developmental challenges that lie ahead. We cover SEED’s latest event in this issue.

Your Team of Editors

The members of the SEED Initiative and co-workers of SEKEM during their visit to the Bahareya Oasis, home to a new farm of the SEKEM Group of companies.


n 17 December morning the participants of the SEED Working Group (SEKEM Development Program for Entrepreneurship) made their way from the SEKEM farm to the desert just West of Cairo. Their destination was a new SEKEM farm located in the oasis Wahat el Bahareya approximately 350 km outside of the capital, where since mid-2008 about 1000 hectares of desert land are being prepared for organic farmed. A major part of this work involves the reclamation

of the sandy grounds for use as arable land suitable to organic farming procedures. At the end of 2010 about 150 ha of soil in Bahareya were already being cultivated with mint, palm trees, agroforestry, liquorice, clover, alfalfa, and geranium. In the busy environment of the sprawling desert village the young SEKEM co-workers aimed to get their chance at better understanding the motivation behind and the benefits SEKEM Insight | January 2011 | Page 1


of a sustainable use of natural agricultural resources and its impact on their own work environments. Many of them currently work the field of sustainability and business development at SEKEM. SEED intends, however, to introduce young co-workers from all fields of activity to the issue of sustainability in daily business practice.

question of what is practically needed to establish a farm of such a size in an arid area as the Western Desert. All of the participants came to better understand what it takes to turn the inhospitable environment into fertile land ready for large-scale food production a challenge only growing in dimension in times of climate change.

Regular meetings

Encounters with nature

The group first familiarised themselves with the state of development of the new farm and its importance to SEKEM’s future challenges. Talks with young and experienced members of its staff and specially invited experts offered additional insights into the potential of and opportunities associated with the adoption of biodynamic methods in large-scale agricultural production. The reports were aimed at highlighting the importance of agriculture for a sustainable and equitable global food security and the opportunities it holds for environmental protection and the fight against climate change.

After having set up the tents for spending the night in the desert some participants presented issues from their own fields of work in the form of short “fireplace presentations”: soil management, compost production, biodynamic preparations, agroforestry, and global agriculture and its impact on climate change.

These issues had already been introduced at meetings the previous year. This time the group expressed the desire to dedicate an entire weekend, both practically and theoretically, to the issue. Since agriculture is the basis of SEKEM companies’ daily work, SEED participants looked to broaden their knowledge about the natural foundations of it on SEKEM’s own farms. As Magdalena Kloibhofer, a participant, said: the SEED meeting successfully „showed the extent of the synergies between the sometimes seemingly vastly different types of work at SEKEM“. Hard work and more of it Upon arrival Angela Hofmann, responsible for animal husbandry and biodynamic agriculture at SEKEM, led the participants through the facility. The tour of the farm gave everyone a vivid impression of the sheer size of the area and the diligence of the employees reclaiming every metre of precious ground. A discussion developed on the

The contributions were not only highly instructive for co-workers not directly involved in the fields but nevertheless working towards the same goals. They also served as a starting point for lively discussions until late into the night. The natural seclusion of the nightly bivouac only served to strengthen the special bond of all participants with nature - in an intellectual and in an intuitive sense. Trees for the climate The next morning the guests together with staff from the farm set out to plant 250 new Casuarina trees on the new premises as windbreaks for the fragile, newly planted fields of herbs. Casuarina trees are a fastgrowing coniferous tree species wellsuited for breaking the ground as it requires little water and nutrients. Within a short time the trees reared in the nursery of the main SEKEM farm will thus create a strong natural and highly effective barrier for the desert’s fierce sand storms. The SEED initiative will continue to carry out events such as this one to encourage the young generation of SEKEM employees to meet and address the natural basis and the conditions of their work. Sarah Abouleish, Bijan Kafi

Impulses of Renewal in Islamic Societies Although the three Abrahamic religions have the same origin and are derived from common written and oral sources of religious devotion a perpetual peace among them still seems far out of reach. In this year’s iteration of the popular Islam seminar, which will take place 21-24 April 2011 in SEKEM and which will again be facilitated by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish participants will have the unique opportunity of better understanding the esoteric core of Islamic teachings and their practical implications for life and work in Egypt and at SEKEM. Dr. Abouleish founded the SEKEM project in Egypt as a “comprehensive development project”. His initiative for sustainable economic, social, and cultural human development in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East and abroad is regarded as a successful model for a winning combination of respectful treatment of the environment, high humanitarian and ethical standards, and strong economic success. As a place of cultural and religious encounters SEKEM is an example of sustainable development also in the social sense. In addition to seminars with Dr. Abouleish and artistic exercises (Arabic calligraphy, Quran recitation, Arabic songs, Eurythmics) the upcoming Islam seminar will feature a day trip to the Islamic quarter of Cairo with multiple visits to selected Islamic mosques in the vicinity. For registration and more information please contact: SEKEM travel, Dieter Kreuer, Managing Director, Tel, 0049 (0) 75516003724, Fax 0049 (0) 7551-6003726, mobile 0049 (0) 1520-9884487, www. Source: SEKEM Travel


More information:

SEKEM Insight | January 2011 | Page 2


The Business Development of the SEKEM Group in the Year 2010 The positive business development of SEKEM companies has continued in 2010. In future SEKEM Insight will publish a brief consolidated report on the current quarterly development.

Turnover (consolidated)

The following information summarize the developments of the year 2010. Sales and operating income figures have been compiled from all companies within the SEKEM Group. The turnover of the companies created through inter-company sales have not been included (consolidated). Sales (consolidated) The turnover of the SEKEM Group in the year 2010 increased to 230 million Egyptian Pounds (EGP) compared to a turnover of 193 million EGP over the same period in 2009. This represents an increase of 20%.

Operating Income (consolidated)‘

Operating income (consolidated) The SEKEM Group has generated an operating profit of 120 million (EGP) in 2010 increasing from 101 million EGP in 2009, an increase of 20% over the same period. Shares of operations in sales mix

*Turnover minus raw materials and direct costs of production.

The total sales overview of the SEKEM Group in 2010 distributed across the individual business units reveals that FMCG (consumer goods such as food) make up more than half of it. This is the largest share of turnover followed by the textile sector, the pharmaceutical industry, and agriculture.

Sales Mix (by business unit)

Sales (domestic vs. foreign markets) In 2010 73% of the sales of the SEKEM group were generated on the Egyptian market. This compares to a share of 27% generated on international markets. The development of 2010 represents a shift in favour of the local market of 7% over the same period in 2009.





Sales (local vs. foreign markets)

Financial flows to the SDF The SEKEM Group of companies in 2010 financially supported the SEKEM Development Foundation (SDF) with 1,7 million EGP in support payments. With these and its own funds acquired from private and public funders and the international SEKEM support association the SDF has carried out a number of social and cultural projects in the past year.



SEKEM Insight | January 2011 | Page 3


New Breakfast Spreads for Organic Specialty Retailers The leading organic food fair BioFach will take place in Nuremberg, 16-19 February. SEKEM will present two new specialty products.


wo new types of breakfast spreads - SEKEM Fruits of the Sun Pomegranate and Fruits of the Sun Fig - are now available to complement the already hugely popular varieties of mango, guava, dates, and bitter oranges. The four known flavours are already available in organic food stores.

of calcium and phosphorus. They also provide the body with iron and are rich in vitamin B1. For SEKEM Fruits of the Sun a typical Egyptian variety is used, which is characterized by its fruity and mild taste. The fruits are carefully sorted and processed immediately after their harvest to preserve their valuable naturally active ingredients.

Pomegranate - the fruit of life

The two new varieties, each available in the attractive, easy to distinguish 220gr hexagonal glasses, completes the assortment of unique fruit spreads available from SEKEM via its European distributor SEKEM Europe. The SEKEM team launches the new varieties of Fruits of the Sun at its booth in hall 7, 111 (at the combined demeter booth) and invites visitors to come and give them a try.

The pomegranate, also known as „fruit of life“, is enjoying growing popularity due to its exotic, fresh, slightly sour taste, and its numerous positive health effects. Its high content of antioxidants is particularly effective against free radicals and can positively influence physical aging processes exacerbated by stress, ultraviolet light, or smoking. It is also thought to protect against cell damage through its high polyphenol content. No wonder the bright red fruit with its many seeds appears in many myths and legends as a symbol of fertility. In SEKEM’s Fruits of the Sun breakfast spread the juice of demeterpomegranates is gently processed to preserve the pure flavour of the fresh, sweet-sour taste of the exotic ingredient. The fig is best known in Germany as a dry fruit. However, the fresh, pearshaped fruits are becoming more and more popular. Their mineral content is excellent: figs contain large quantities

The full range of products as well as other Middle Eastern specialities from SEKEM will of course also be available at the booth. In addition to the popular sesame bars and the aforementioned dates the SEKEM team will also launch a new selection of oriental spices developed and offered in collaboration with SEKEM’s German partner Lebensbaum. Christina Boecker

ISIS Dates Now Available as a Premium Product In January, the sales team at ISIS began with the introduction of a new and very special product on the local Egyptian market. The new product will be familiar to customers but still represents an unusual release from SEKEM. Its packaging pleases the eye while its contents appeals to the taste of any discerning Egyptian customer. SEKEM’s organic dates bearing the popular brand of ISIS are now beginning to be offered in a new and elegant premium packaging. ISIS dates of the highest quality, dipped in honey and filled with exquisite nuts, will thus be available in five different varieties: with almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pistachios, and a selection that combines all these in one convenient sampling package. The sale of the new product through supermarkets was launched in early January. It is being offered on shelves next to chocolates and other highquality confectionery. In addition, the ISIS-marketing team is presently engaged in talks with duty-free shops at Egyptian airports, specialty confectionary stores, pastry shops, and major hotels. Lamyaa Farouk, junior marketing manager at ISIS, is looking forward to the first sales reports and reactions from the market because the development of the entirely new sales channels has been a great challenge for the sales team. Christina Boecker

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Impressions from SEKEM


t is an almost trivial fact that more people have drowned in the Sahara than have died of thirst. Egypt may not be the Sahara yet, but it consists of at least 96% of desert, a place that is by no means always hot and dry, as our picture of the SEKEM farm shows. In the early morning hours and especially during the winter months a dense fog slowly lifts from the fields of the main farm. It dissolves quickly with the first rays of the sun. Until then, however, it dips the entire farm grounds in a ghostly light that recalls memories of the famous moors of the northern hemisphere. From October to March the temperatures that stay just above zero degrees Celsius during the night rise to only about twelve degrees during the day. Many visitors to the farm are surprised by the humidity on the ground and the moisture in the air in the morning hours, a phenomenon to be explained by the proximity to the Ismaylia canal, constant field irrigation, and the lack of cloud cover and therefore lower surface temperatures during the night.

SEKEM Insight | January 2011 | Page 5

News in Brief

SEKEM Companies Receive Recertification

Rudolf-Steiner-Express Picking Up Speed

International Lobby for Future Generations

The year 2011 began with good news for the companies of the SEKEM group. TÜV South, the technical inspection authority of Germany, after several on-site visits to Egypt eventually confirmed in December that all companies would again receive recertification in 2010 in all major international quality standards: ISO 9001 for general quality management, ISO 22000 for the management of food safety (including HACCP), ISO 14001 for environmental management, and OHSAS 18001 for the system for the management of work safety.

In an original idea to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the philosopher, writer, scientist and founder of anthroposophy, Rudolf Steiner, the “Rudolf Steiner Express” is ready to take to the rails in a journey which will take it through four countries and 20 cities of central Europe.

The Foundation World Future Council works as a voice of future generations and their right to inherit an ecologically and socially intact world. Five new Council Members from four continents now strengthen the Council of international personalities:

For the first time SEKEM’s latest addition to its group of companies, Lotus Upper Egypt, which dries organic herbs and processes onions in the area of the town of Minya in Upper Egypt was certified according to the new standards. The preparation for the TÜV’s multiple missions presented the staff of the central quality management teams and their colleagues, the officers in charge of quality control in each of the companies, with new challenging tasks. They had to ensure that all standards were known to and fully implemented by all employees in their daily routine - no easy task for a workforce in the hundreds in multiple locations such as that of SEKEM. Thus, the inspection was also taken as a welcome opportunity to reexamine the routine implementation of all the quality assurance systems with the aim to determine not only if they are being implemented with little effort and friction, but also to further optimise workflows and procedures and to ensure that all staff accept and comply with the many rules and requirements of the demanding regulations.

The five day journey from 24 to 28 February – from Cologne to Vienna and back via Steiner’s birth place in Kraljevec in what is now Croatia but was then still part of Austria-Hungary - comprises a comprehensive programme of events both on the train and in the stations visited by the train, including a special cultural programme in the Rheingold club car. Among the events along the trip, 150 white peace doves will be released during a celebration to open the anniversary year in Donji Kraljevec and a brass band will play during a stop in Prien in Bavaria, to name but two. In Vienna, passengers can learn about “Rudolf Steiner and Kinetism” or “Rudolf Steiner in the Coffee House”. Or they can attend a varied programme in the “House of Anthroposophy”. The highlight of the trip will be the festive ceremony to open the anniversary year of the philosopher, writer and scientist – founder of anthroposophy and associated movements such as Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture or anthroposophic medicine - in the Austrian National Library in Vienna under the patronage of the Austrian president, Dr.  Heinz Fischer. 150 of the 200 seats are already booked. Those still intending to join are asked to book immediately via the website below. Source: Rudolf Steiner Archive

Christina Boecker


More information: quality/certification/index_de.htm


More information:

Alexander Likhotal, political scientist and historian, advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev and President of Green Cross International. Dipal Chandra Barua, economist from Bangladesh and co-founder of the Grameen Bank. Dr. Sándor Fülöp, environmental lawyer and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in Hungary since 2008. Alyn Ware, educator and advisor for nuclear disarmament of the government of New Zealand and of the UN. Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, UN advisor and since 2009 National Chief to the Assembly of First Nations uniting 644 Canadian indigenous tribes. WFC Founder Jakob von Uexküll: “With their experience, contacts and their enthusiasm they will make it possible for us to intensify our work for the rights of future generations.” Source: World Future Council

Masthead: The editors of SEKEM Insight wish to thank all contributors to this issue. Editors: Christina Boecker Bijan Kafi Contact: SEKEM-Insight c/o SEKEM Holding P.O.Box 2834, El Horreya, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt Pictures: 1,4: SEKEM; 5: Bijan Kafi No republication without written consent by the publisher.

SEKEM Insight | January 2011 | Page 6

SEKEM Insight 01.11 EN  

SEKEM's monthly journal on economy, culture, and society in Egypt. January 2011 issue.

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