SEKEMs Journal for Economics, Culture and Society in Egypt
Nr. 69 March 2008
Dear Readers, After having completed its third decade of existence, SEKEM is about to make a bold new step. About 250km east of the current mother farm, the Egyptian initiative who intends to realise a profitable combination of social and economic development, is going to establish the second SEKEM farm in the coming years. Those who have already visited the Sinai may be wondering at the selection of the location. The peninsula is mostly barren, with large stretches of desert not appearing to offer fertile ground at all. The Sinai’s deserts do not seem to distinguish themselves from those surrounding Cairo’s suburbs. Over the past decades the peninsula has made history several times - both peaceful and military history. However, the selection of this particular ground for the site is not unusual for SEKEM. It resembles the original ground in many ways even though the short-term visitor will likely not notice. For the second time SEKEM is about to embark on a well-known journey: to use the little the desert offers and to create flourishing life - plants, animals and human life - out of it. In this issue we would like to introduce you to SEKEM’s future plans for the new farm site on the Sinai peninsula.
Your Editorial Team
SEKEM inaugurates “SEKEM Sinai”
SEKEM expands milk production
Conference on social Art in SEKEM
„SEKEM Sinai“: A New Beginning SEKEM Initiative Breaks Ground for New Farm on Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai, too, is still dominated by the experience of solitude and the barrenness of the desert
After 30 years of intensive work and substantial developments in and around the original SEKEM Farm near Belbeis, SEKEM is about to embark on a new mission by breaking the ground on the new SEKEM site on the Sinai peninsula, about 150km east of Cairo. The new ground is adjacent to the Suez Canal, south of the Bitter Lakes and about 10km north of the AhmedHamdi-Tunnel, the road that connects mainland Egypt to the Sinai.
Stunning vistas stretch in front of the high sand dunes that also allow a direct view of the freighters passing through the canal. The first steps to flattening and preparing the land have already started. Some facilities containing an office, a storage and a canteen for the workers of SEKEM have already been erected and the next steps for connecting the site to existing infrastructure are being made. The official ground breaking was celebrated on 25 March.
The ground with a surface of about 2000 feddan (approximately 1000ha) is irrigated by the Sheikh-Zayed-Canal (water from the river Nile and its Ismailia Canal).
Why another site so far away from the main SEKEM farm near Belbeis? As always, the human being and its development is at the core of SEKEM’s work. Egypt desperately needs the expan-
sion of agricultural ground to keep pace with the rapidly growing population. Sekem will be cultivating bio-dynamic fruits and vegetables such as potatoes, onions, mangoes, guavas and oranges on the new site. Additionally it will conduct trial runs with new methods for cultivation and new variants. One of the main reasons for choosing the new ground is in the fact that a large connected ground is available for organic farming. This minimizes the risk that is frequently present on smaller grounds that pesticides or residues from other chemical additives are carried into biodynamic farms by other, adjacent plantations. Therefore SEKEM also views this acquisition as a long-term investment into guaranteeing the availability of and steady prices for certain staple goods and raw materials. Scarcity in raw materials has become an increasing problem also for organic markets. Moreover, social facilities are to be created for the workers on the farm. In the long-term through the catalysis of the new labour opportunities and the social facilities a new place for living shall be created for the people on the Sinai, a place with so far only minimal population. SEKEM Insight will report on the progress in the coming issues. Christina Boecker
SEKEM Expands Milk Production and Cow Herd Cow herd grows by 150 animals In July 2006 SEKEM’s entire herd of cows moved to the new stables. The herd consisted of about 70 to 80 milk-producing cows, about the same number of female young animals and another 100–150 bulls. The new stable proved to be a delight for both the animals and their caretakers. Immediately after the inauguration of the new facilities the demand organic milk also increased so substantially that SEKEM decided to double the number of milk cows.
However despite all efforts SEKEM’s co-workers did not succeed in finding enough brown cattle, the sturdy variant they were looking for. Importing them could also be ruled out as all countries except for Canada and Australia were not allowed to import cattle to Egypt to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. SEKEM therefore decided to purchase additional so-called Holstein-Friesian cows and introduce them to the existing herd. This variant is very common in Egypt. It produces more milk than brown cattle but is substantially more prone to diseases and excessive heat. It is also only in rare cases that a HolsteinFrisian has 7 or 8 calves while brown cattle can have 10 to 13 calves. Accidentally an entire herd of 150 milk cows was offered for sale in the neighbourhood of the SEKEM farm. That was more than SEKEM’s workers had initially been looking for but it proved to be an exceptional herd. It is an entirely different thing to buy one heard a such or combine several single animals into a new one. The trade could be completed quickly and easily. The new range for the young animals had already been completed as was the milking booth that had only recently received separate stands to concurrently milk 18 cows. Additional tanks were installed close to the milking facility. The workshops of SEKEM’s vocational training centre were employed to build fodder gratings for the 100 calves. The new “five-star hotel” for the calves was quickly completed. Beginning with 10 March each day lorries with the new animals arrived at SEKEM. In some places brown cattle and HolsteinFrisian were mixed. This proved to be a good solution. Even though the new arrivals mostly have small horns (they will not be dehorned anymore in SEKEM) and SEKEM’s older cows sometimes show true antlers all of them seem to be getting along easily with each other.
SEKEM’s experts also were lucky in another way: they were able to also take over the workers who had taken care of the newly purchased animals. It is now a great challenge to supply all these new animals with bio-dynamic fodder. Luckily SEKEM has the required number of contracted farmers who are more than willing to produce corn and clover for the animals. Since the cultivation of cotton is also increasing every year there is also enough cotton seed available to be mixed with the fodder. Rice straw is also available in the required quantities. Moreover the own production is further professionalised, irrigation improved and made more effective, the facilities expanded. A the moment the herds are producing about 5 to 5,5t milk per day and supplying SEKEM’s firm ISIS. Another 300 litres are going directly to the calves as fodder. This probably also constitutes the maximum quantity of milk the herd is able to produce. It is likely that the quantity will drop somewhat during summer because of the heat. ISIS currently pasteurises a large part of the milk and bottles it immediately. The other part goes to a dairy plant close to 10th of Ramadan City and is ultra-hightemperated here and filled into tetra packs. Both variants are available as full-fat and skimmed milk and are available in all large supermarkets in Cairo. Angela Hofmann
SEKEM‘s herd of cows just grew by 150 animals
Conference on SEKEM’s Work in Egypt Focuses on “Social Art”
Impressions from SEKEM
Swiss SEKEM Support Association Organises Conference on the Initiative’s Social Development Impulse Bearing the title “SEKEM – A Social Art” the Section on the Social Sciences at the Goetheanum in Dornach/Switzerland organised a conference focusing on the social impact of the initiative’s work from 7-9 March 2008. “We wanted to trace the roots of the social and architectural-artistic impulse of the initiative... The participants shall be enabled to catch a glimpse on a highly modern initiative that was influenced by Egypt and has evolved into a role model for intercultural encounters...” the programme stated. The Swiss Association opened the Friday evening with an introductory speech on the topic of the social art and a question and answers session with Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish, an offer that was greatly appreciated by the audience. The Saturday and Sunday was begun with eurythmic exercise directed by Mona Lenzen-Abouleish. This gave all participants the opportunity to not only intellectually understand social processes but also experience them through bodily social interaction. The following speeches gave insights into the diversity of the economic and personal relations of the SEKEM ini-
tiative internationally. Prof. Dr. Götz E. Rehn, Managing Director of the AlnaturA GmbH, introduced participants to the development of economic processes. Winfried Reindl, architect of most of SEKEM’s buildings, demonstrated the multi-faceted history of the initiative by showing pictures of its constructions over the years and thereby introduced participants to how to find solutions for seemingly impossible problems of development work in rural Egypt. The contribution of Volkert Engelsman, Managing Director of Eosta, the leading reseller of organic fresh produce in Europe and long-standing partner of SEKEM, was particularly educational as he was introducing participants to the realities of making SEKEM’s products successful on global markets using up-to-date marketing analysis. Ulrich Walter from Lebensbaum told the audience about what international cooperation with SEKEM practically means. How development reflects the same developmental patterns J. W. Goethe already described for the metamorphosis of the plants was shown by Dr. Roland Schaette. Dr. med. Hans Werner contributed to a better understanding of the various development stages of SEKEM from personal experience. The evening was closed by the painters Gerlinde Wendland and Marianne Wachberger and a conclusive plenary with Prof. Dr. Abouleish. It offered the audience the opportunity to familiarise themselves with their personal experiences, observations and artistic encounters during several years of collaborating with SEKEM co-workers and artists. At the end of the conference Prof.
Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish offered the organisers of the conference a sculpture of the Egyptian goddess Maat
Dr. Abouleish presented to the organisers a sculpture of the Egyptian goddess Maat which had been “observing“ the event. The participants left the event with the positive impression that change is indeed possible and can be brought about even by individuals.
The Chamomile Children in SEKEM do not only pluck Chamomile blossoms but also marigold
The Chamomile Children are now beginning the harvesting of the Calendula blossoms. This is an ideal “work” for the children who are under threat of child labour. Their teachers are social workers of SEKEM and their number has just been increased to 6. This year they are working intensively in the choir with the children. The children also pluck Chamomile blossoms. Using SEKEM’s Conveyor Belt Drying facilities 2t of Calendula are planned to be dried and processed into cosmetic products and teas this year.
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
Daniel Baumgartner Page 3