Nr. 90 - February 2010
SEKEM‘s Journal for Economy, Culture, and Society in Egypt
Editorial Dear Readers, in SEKEM agriculture is not only organic but bio-dynamic. What does that mean? Bio-dynamic farming does not only look at the individual agricultural product for instance regarding the potential of it being polluted with harmful substances.
Orange Harvests Begin in SEKEM
SEKEM Participates in BioFach
„Anthroposophy Today“ in Cinemas
SEKEM Supports BioFach Lead Motto: Organic and Fair!
Bio-dynamic farming considers the product to be an integral part of the complex thing that is the product, the human being, its farm, the surrounding environment, and even the cosmos. A farm is not a factory but a living organism that has to pay attention to the needs of all its “inhabitants” shall the efforts eventually pay off for everyone. Bio-dynamic farming is based on principles developed by anthroposophy. Thus it is already almost 100 years old. Other movements it has inspired include RudolfSteiner-Schools and eurythmy that is also practiced in SEKEM as both an art and in professional training. You may find more on how eurythmy is positively influencing the life and work of SEKEM co-workers on page 4 where we introduce you to a new feature film that also portrays a key member of the SEKEM family.
Your Team of Editors
Christoph Kampschulte of SEKEM Europe is happy to be able to present a broad product portfolio of the initiative’s firms at this year’s leading ecological fair BioFach.
Every year February is the month of BioFach, the leading international fair for organic products, at Nuremberg. At this year’s event 43.500 visitors from the organic sectors of 121 countries came to examine the products 2.557 exhibitors had arrived to present at the fair – among them SEKEM. This year’s leading motto was „organic + fair“ and SEKEM appropriately presented not only demeter-certified products but was also prepared to inform its visitors in detail about its engagement in a number of initiatives designed to
improve sustainability and development in Egypt and abroad. SEKEM as a brand does not only represent a wide range of products including Middle Eastern specialities in high-grade demeter quality but also products the purchase of which enables the initiative and its partners to improve livelihoods for many in Egypt. These efforts often have ripple effects and improve lives also for the co-workers’ families in respectful ways: not through financial donations but transparent cooperation instead.
submitted to the agricultural minister of The Netherlands on the occasion of the BioFach. „Organic agriculture offers a holistic approach to address all these challenges simultaneously: environmental protection, climate change, economic development, and poverty“ the call that is primarily directed at the political level claims. „We therefore call on suppliers, consumers, and governments to adapt production methods and pricing structures towards organic farming, change consumption habits and renounce unsustainably grown commodities, and enact legislation which creates incentives to support organic agriculture.” The undersigned Aarstiderne, Alnatura, Ambootia, Eosta, Ulrich Walter/Lebensbaum, SEKEM, and Soil & More plan to submit the declaration to additional political leaders and publicize its suggestions on an international level. Christina Boecker
Visitors to the SEKEM booth could sample numerous organic specialty foods
Many customers of organic products as well as employees of organic food stores and other visitors used the occasion of the BioFach to sample one of many SEKEM products and familiarise themselves with the social impact of the brand. „But it’s also the taste of our products that convinces people“ as Christoph Kampschulte, responsible for the sale of branded products at SEKEM Europe, knows. He was particularly pleased with the interest from wholesalers from the European countries. „We hope that we will be able to offer SEKEM dates and sesame bars also in other countries this year still. We have concluded agreements with resellers in France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxemburg. Thus organic retailers can now begin to order our products. We are already offering these items in Germany, Austria, Norway, Italy, Greece, and Spain.“ „At BioFach we are each year weaving a closer network of partners, enter into negotiations for new product releases, and exchange experience“ says Helmy Abouleish, CEO of the SEKEM Group. The fair is an excellent opportunity for SEKEM staff to examine the latest developments in the sector, for instance the new trend towards organic production with “added value” and the integration of all aspects of product quality. „For many consumers it is not enough anymore that a product is ‘certified organic’. Many request more information on its environmental and social impact.“ Aside from its social responsibility SEKEM also informed visitors about its growing number of development projects including organic compost production that avoids CO2 emissions and allows CO2-neutral production and service delivery. Concrete cooperation projects with European clients have been concluded at this year’s fair that will be featured in later issues of SEKEM Insight throughout this year. More Organic Agriculture to Fight Climate Change Together with partners from the IAP (International Association for Partnership) SEKEM has also drafted a declaration and a call for more organic agriculture to be employed in the fight against climate change. The call was
Eliant Campaign Close to Achieving Target The Eliant campaign to collect one million signatures to influence European Union legislation with regard to various aspects of applied anthroposophy - including education, nutrition and agriculture, special needs education and social therapy, medicine and therapeutic disciplines - has almost reached its target. The Lisbon Treaty, the EU’s revised charter which entered into force on 1 December, provides for citizens’ initiatives to influence EU policy-making if they can collect more than one million signatures from a “significant number of member states”. However, although Eliant crossed the one million signature hurdle at the end of last year, that number also includes signatures collected worldwide from 159 countries. From within the EU, the campaign was still approximately 109,000 signatures short at the end of December. The Eliant organisers have now appealed for a last push to gather the required number of signatures from within the EU: “We would be very grateful if you can help us do so, and in particular spread this news amongst your friends and acquaintances via email,” they write in an email sent out last week. Countries where substantial numbers of signatures still need to be mobilised include Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, and Cyprus. Eliant hopes to meet the target in the first quarter of the year and is planning a gala evening at the end of March to celebrate the event. NNA
More information: http://www.eliant.eu
Orange Harvests Begin at SEKEM‘s Partners 500 tons of oranges are going to be processed at SEKEM this year for juice production, local use, and international export.
other products with less high quality requirements. From the sorting facilities the oranges are then automatically moved into large basins where they are being soaked in water and liquid neutral soap is used to loosen dust and dirt. The liquid is entirely biodegradable.
The oranges are being carefully sorted by ISIS‘ co-workers
Who does not love oranges: juicy fruits that delight us with their fresh, sweet taste and light up our dark winter times with their bright colour bringing the warmth of the sun to the Northern hemisphere? Fresh organic fruit is quite possibly the best example of a pure, natural product as it has not been processed after harvest. Or so conventional knowledge goes. That would probably make the more than 700 co-workers at SEKEM’s ISIS plant laugh as the scrubbing of the fruits and vegetables and their preparation for sale in Egypt and international export is keeping them busy for the greater part of the day. When the oranges arrive at ISIS as raw produce fresh from the organic farms they are first weighed and then lifted onto machines where they are now sorted and cleaned. Around 3.500 to 4.000 kilograms can be processed on such a production line at SEKEM that is close to 30 metres long and easily keeps 30 workers busy. The product is then carefully placed onto the transportation belt where the co-workers remove all stems using scissors and exclude all fruit damaged during transport to be used in
After being run through a second basin containing fresh water only all dirt that remains can now be easily removed from the oranges’ skins including the soap. The fruits are then transported across two conveyor belts fitted with sponges that can remove even the tiniest remaining bits of dust. On another conveyor belt and after passing through a tunnel where they are again sprayed with clean water through tiny nozzles the oranges are now being dried by a warm flow of air that removes all moisture. After the lengthy cleaning process coworkers carefully check each individual fruit for cleanliness and remaining stems. They are then sorted again complying with the requirements of foreign markets and their strict product specifications. Damaged orange peel, visibly flawed or discoloured fruits are now excluded. Up to two quality inspectors continuously monitor the rapid selection process to ensure the quality of the fruits that eventually go into the shipping boxes. Eventually the fruits are being scaled according to size and packed. Weighs and scales automatically take over this task: each class of weight is assigned a specific diameter, the so-called calibre. Six boxes provide enough space for fruits of any size from calibre 3 to 8. An additional slot is available for the oranges that will not fit in any of the other boxes for instance if they are of irregular shape or size. This ensures
that only oranges of one calibre actually end up in one box together. This workplace, too, is continuously monitored by quality assurance staff. Co-workers now begin packing the scaled oranges in two layers into sturdy cartons that allow stockpiling and convenient shipping to Europe. Each individual carton is coded designating the producing farm, technical designations allowing to identify the precise batch and the size of the fruits. The weight of the oranges is then checked through random control samples before they are being loaded into containers for shipment to their final destinations. Co-workers carefully ensure the robust packing and securing of the goods using reinforced packaging and tension belts. After a final check this harvest’s oranges are ready for shipment to their customers. Approximately 500 tons of organic oranges are being harvested this way every year by SEKEM. They are then either sent to clients in Egypt, processed in juice production, or shipped to destinations in various countries in the European Union. Sandra Poettrich, Christina Boecker
Oranges are cleaned and packed in SEKEM’s ISIS plant.
„The Anthroposophical Movement is a Panopticon“ The feature film „Between Heaven and Earth - Anthroposophy Today“ will be coming to German movie theatres on 4 March. SEKEM-Insight editor Bijan Kafi spoke to director Christian Labhart about the role of SEKEM in his movie.
in my view, SEKEM does provide a real alternative to the neo-liberal system. Still, it is always necessary to carefully examine how social relations are built and developed, to what an extent equality is realised. For foreign visitors many contexts naturally are not immediately comprehensible and are in need of further explanation. This can also be done trough the medium of a movie. You said that you did not want to portray the anthroposophical movement as such or single projects but individuals instead. Did you still eventually come to a conclusive impression concerning the anthroposophical movement?
Portrayed: Artistic Director of the SEKEM Eurythmy Ensemble Christoph Graf
Mr. Labhart, „Anthroposophy Today“ also portrays the work of Christoph Graf, Artistic Director of the SEKEM Eurythmy Ensemble. What attracted you to SEKEM in the first place? I was intrigued by the specific intercultural context in which the initiative is operating in Egypt. I asked myself: how do anthroposophists, specifically the eurythmist Christoph Graf, who has been working in SEKEM for many years as teacher and eurythmy instructor, deal with a culture that is so entirely different? I also wanted to know if I would immediately find traces of assimilation or direct cultural influence. Obviously, this is always a tightrope walk in places where very distinct cultures meet. It is fascinating to witness how well cultures manage this process of intercultural encounter. Plus, such a setting holds great potential also regarding its visual representation in the movie. I found it attractive to grapple with a different culture through the medium of film - specifically a culture that has such a radically different understanding of the physical and its expression in life and work. In eurythmy, for instance, these two views directly meet - a fascinating picture. Do you believe that anthroposophical institutions such as SEKEM have a special impact on development in developing countries that is different from other initiatives? I think so. They are certainly missing the aspect of radical capitalism and the drive for monetary profit. This is why,
That is true - I certainly did not want to document projects. SEKEM first and foremost is a framework, an environment for the people who inhabit it. This was what caught my interest. In the movie SEKEM is a living environment for the life and the work of my protagonist. The anthroposophical movement is incredibly multifaceted. That is the chief impression I got. It is a kaleidoscope, a panopticon of the most diverse forces, intentions, and influences. I found that very impressive. It is also nice to see that the dogmatic forces in this movement are gradually becoming less pronounced. What impact would you think „practical anthroposophy“ can have in contrast to theoretical awareness-building? Practical anthroposophy for me is first and foremost important. It is what it’s all about. Without it, the whole project would be futile. Questions by Bijan Kafi
Anthroposophy today is well-established in the practical fields like pedagogy, medicine, agriculture, or art and active on a global scale. The full-length feature film „Between Heaven and Earth - Anthroposophy Today“ by the Swiss director Christian Labhart portrays individual anthroposophists in Egypt, Germany, and Switzerland - people who struggle with anthroposophy and its impact on their daily lives. The movie launches in German theatres on 4 March and has been running in selected Swiss theatres since early February. More information: http://www.zwischenhimmelunderde.ch
You can also visit SEKEM: www.SEKEM-reisen.de Page 4
Impressions from SEKEM
Each Thursday the pupils of the SEKEM School meet in the hall of the school for the traditional closure meeting of all students, their teachers, and Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish. Musical or theatrical performances are presented on the occasion and Dr. Abouleish personally takes leave of each of the pupils at the ceremony by shaking his or her hand. These young violinists await their performance on the occasion of the recent birthday of Gudrun Abouleish, spouse of Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, in the company of their teacher, Liliane Christen.
News in Brief
GLS Bank Commissioned to Manage Microlending
SEKEM Scandinavia Supports Clean-Climate
The GLS Bank in Bochum - longstanding partner of the SEKEM initiative - has been commissioned by the German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to develop microlending across Germany. SEKEM itself has been providing microfinance to small-scale entrepreneurs in Egypt since 2006.
In December of 2009 SEKEM Scandinavia was officially founded by friends of the initiative from various Nordic countries. The society is the brainchild of Ragnhild Nilsen who had already worked with SEKEM’s Naturetex for several years. She had set her mind on fostering closer partnerships between SEKEM and stakeholders from Scandinavia.
The microlending fund has been set up with a starting volume of 100m euro, the bank said in a press release. Most of the money, which is to be used to secure loans for small and micro entrepreneurs as well as for startups, comes from the Ministry’s budget as well as from the European Social Fund. “Our objective is to support the commitment of people and to open up new vistas. This is all the more important at a time when economic circumstances are generally difficult,” GLS board spokesman Thomas Jorberg said. “Small enterprises in particular create jobs and are closely guided by demand,” Jorberg added.
It is also among her goals to now begin to support cultural and social development projects at SEKEM in Egypt. Firstly SEKEM Scandinavia has begun to support the Clean Climate project, SEKEM’s new initiative in the fight against climate change. In February the support association has bought CO2 certificates worth the equivalent of 100 tons of CO2. It now aims to distribute these certificates by itself in Scandinavia. The Clean Climate-Team expresses its gratitude to SEKEM Scandinavia for taking this step towards a healthier climate.
The GLS Bank has been involved in the field of microfinance for ten years and has built up a large network of cooperation partners. It will grant loans of up to 20,000 euros in collaboration with regional microfinance institutes. The GLS Bank has been undertaking practical research in the field of microfinance in the form of model projects since 2000. In 2004 it established the German Microfinance Institute and launched a microfinance fund. Thomas Jorberg has recently been awarded the Future Award 2009. Future, established by environmentally aware German businesses, praised Jorberg’s “responsible company leadership and consistently sustainable management,” the organisation said in a statement. The bank also won the Portfolio Institutionell Award as “Best sustainable investor”. Bijan Kafi with material from NNA
everyone interested in the work of the initiative in Egypt to the event. The agenda includes a speech by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish on the present development of the Heliopolis University and a plenary on „Intercultural Competence – a Regional and Global Challenge“. Moderated by Prof. Helge Löbler (University of Leipzig) several initiatives will present and open for discussion their ideas and concepts: Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish (SEKEM), Mayor Klaus-Peter Murawski (City of Stuttgart), Jürgen Schweiß-Ertl (CEO of the German MAHLE Foundation), and „IBIS - the Intercultural Education Initiative“. Dr. Bruno Sandkühler on behalf of the „Friends of the Pedagogy of Rudolf Steiner“ will contribute to the topic of „Emergency Assistance for Traumatized Children in Crisis Areas“. Visitors also have the opportunity to see presentations by each of the initiatives. The team of organisers will be available in Stuttgart for discussion and informal exchange at the event. A programme will be mailed in the coming weeks and is also available at www.SEKEM-freunde.de.
Visitors could familiarize themselves also with SEKEM’s many development projects at BioFach.
Invitation to the SEKEM Day at Stuttgart This year’s „SEKEM Day“, the annual convention of friends and supporters of the SEKEM initiative, will be held in conjunction with the annual members’ conference of the German support association on 17 April in the Liederhalle Stuttgart. SEKEM and its German support group cordially invite
Masthead: SEKEM, Egypt 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 insight@SEKEM.com Pictures: 1: Bijan Kafi; 2: Bijan Kafi; 3l: Markus Kirchgässner; 3r: Sandra Poettrich; 4: Christian Labhart; 6: Bijan Kafi