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Nr. 91 - March 2010


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

Editorial Dear Readers,

the Arabic Initiative for Sustainability in the Gulf States (ASLG) started off in May 2008 with a meeting of the then 16 participating enterprises. Back then Helmy Abouleish represented SEKEM on the founding team of members of the venture whose envoys had come from an initial 5 countries from the Arab region to discuss how sustainability can be realised better in the area through the support of private businesses. In Egypt SEKEM has now begun to participate in the foundation of the local chapter. For its role the SEKEM group of companies can look back on a substantial number of innovative projects and experience for instance the production of bio-dynamic seedlings to stimulate conversion of conventional agriculture, the use of mobile solar collector systems to generate clean energy, or the use of modern information and communication technologies to raise efficiency in organic agriculture. We introduce you to the new Egyptian chapter and its work in greater detail on page 3. In the future the new initiative will serve its goals with major contribution by the SEKEM Initiative and all its firms.

Your Team of Editors




First Harvest in SEKEM Minya

ISIS Products Presented at GulFood

Arabic Initiative for Sustainability

First Harvest on SEKEM’s New Upper Egypt Farm For the first time the new SEKEM grounds at Minya in Upper Egypt allow the harvesting of fresh produce.

Dill is among the first products to be harvest on the new grounds at Minya in Upper Egypt


here a year ago still the sandy soils of the Egyptian desert stretched towards the horizon SEKEM could start harvesting fresh green raw materials for its products this year already in January and February: SEKEM Minya, one of the new installations of the SEKEM Initiative, that is supposed to secure the supply of high-grade organic raw products far into the future. Remarkable work has been done by the co-workers over the course of the last months on the farm

that is situated about 240km south of Cairo. When in April 2009 the new drying plant at Minya was publicly inaugurated the contract for the grounds had just been signed. However the piece of land still showed the signs of the barren desert bounded by the hillsides of the plateau that limits the extension of the Nile delta in the area. Only products by contracted demeter farmers in the region were processed in the said factory. Most of them have been SEKEM Insight | March 2010 | Page 1


In SEKEM Minya, too, the desert ruled until only recently.

working with SEKEM for years and also grow sesame, cereals, and onions for the initiative. Since then the land has been flattened and countless truckloads of compost have been brought to and unloaded at the site. The compost hails from SEKEM’s own production lines. The fertile material was then brought out onto the sandy acres by co-workers on approximately 130 feddan (ca. 60 hectares). This surface area is to be substantially increased in the future. The First Harvest Last autumn the first seedlings specifically prepared for the new farm were brought in: fennel, dill, parsley, celery, coriander, and also some cumin - each plant in its own place to allow for careful and reliable irrigation. For the co-workers though the workload stayed high even after the initial preparations had been completed. Weeds had to be removed, biodynamic preparations brought onto the fields, and the acres themselves had to be kept under close control to ensure that the wind did not blow over the fragile irrigation systems that had been installed close to the ground. The installation of such irrigation systems is among the most challenging tasks in such a harsh environment when a new agricultural site is to be explored and developed. The erosion of the fragile soil is a major problem, too. No natural wind protection could be “installed” on the

farm until now, for instance. The sandy soil can be easily blown over by the wind. However, the first small trees to serve this purpose have been planted last winter already. They will be able to provide some wind cover to the tiny seedlings in the years to come.

New Production Lines for Sesame Bars

In January the Dill was cut for the first time. The work continued with parsley and coriander and still the co-workers are busy harvesting the remaining herbs - a great rewards after the hard work of each of the colleagues over the winter months.


Great Expectations

After two months of preparations new lines for the production of SEKEM’s sesame are unveiled. welve new workplaces could be created in the 3 newly renovated rooms that have also been equipped with new machinery.

The production capacity on the new lines now allows the manufacture of almost 5.000 sesame bars every day in the flavours orange, black cumin, honey, or cinnamon for local consumption or export.

In the coming years the new farm that has a size of 1000 feddan in total will be developed further and further and be transformed into fertile land more and more. That will be the most important task for SEKEM, the people in the area of the new farm, and Egypt itself. Firstly, the new installation is meant to provide SEKEM with a secure source of high-quality organic raw materials in great and even growing quantity and strong international demand for a long time in the future. At the same time Egypt still cannot use more than 4% of arable land nationwide even after decades of reclamation efforts. It is therefore still dependent on the import of foodstuffs to feed its rapidly growing population and is thus in great need of additional fertile soil. Lastly, the Minya farm also creates valuable employment for the people in the rural area of the site that has been traditionally called the “Gate to Upper Egypt”. They receive new opportunities to improve their livelihoods in a region that is notoriously underdeveloped in terms of infrastructure and has a high unemployment ratio. This way, the new Minya farm also contributes to the sustainable development of the entire region and its people.

Production of the well-known sesame bars on SEKEM’s new production line.

The additional purchase of new equipment for the lines also allowed the expansion of the existing product portfolio to include energy and fruit bars. Product development is already in full swing for the new items. Two different varieties of energy bars are already in the final stages of market introduction. The new varieties are now waiting to receive the final design of their packaging and introductory marketing material. The new varieties will thus soon enrich the product portfolio in Egypt with the flavours „DateSesame-Cinnamon“ and „Fruit–Oat Flakes-Dates“. Sandra Poettrich is quality manager in SEKEM’s firm ISIS and in charge of quality assurance for exports to European countries.

Christina Boecker

SEKEM Insight | March 2010 | Page 2


Arab Sustainability Leadership Group Receives Key SEKEM Support Helmy Abouleish and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan launch Egyptian chapter of the Arab Sustainability Leadership Group.

and serve as a voice of the Arab world in the global debate on how to tackle today’s challenge of developing more sustainable economies and lifestyles. SEKEM was among the founding members of the ASLG and Helmy Abouleish has been playing an active role in the initiative’s further development.

Helmy Abouleish and Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at the opening event

Giving reason to hope for an emerging broader movement for Sustainable Development in the Egyptian business community almost 40 business leaders and heads of non-profit organizations followed an invitation by Helmy Abouleish to form a national Egyptian chapter of the Arab Sustainability Leadership Group (ASLG). Founded in 2008 by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan the ASLG is a network of high-profile companies, government entities, and non-profit organizations committed to promoting sustainability management and its integration into day-to-day business operations. The group members work to raise awareness regarding the fact that sustainable development cannot be achieved without every element of society playing its part. Making business practice more sustainable not only reduces risks, sparks innovation, and creates benefits through greater productivity and better relationships. It is also essential to ensure future competitiveness across all sectors. Collectively, the participating business leaders intend to promote best-practice in more sustainable businesses management in the region

The Egyptian chapter of the ASLG will bring together current and aspiring sustainability leaders from the private sector and support them through knowledge, expert training, and peer-learning opportunities. The national branch was launched at the annual conference of the EJB on 28 February 2010 titled ‘Sustainability’s Competitive Advantage’. After an inspiring speech emphasizing the importance of private sector engagement for sustainability, Her Majesty Queen Rania personally presented the membership certificates to the founding members at the launch ceremony creating memorable moments for all. Within the framework of the ASLG’s mission to spearhead best-practice sustainability management SEKEM is leading by example with its practice of thorough analysis and open communication of the SEKEM companies’ sustainability performance for instance through its “SEKEM Report on Sustainable Development”. Using clear goals and indicators in the economic, cultural, social, and environmental dimension of sustainability, SEKEM measures its activities against its own expectations embodied in the principles of high-quality and healthy products, fair prices, responsible business practices, and reliable long-term partnerships. Magdalena Kloibhofer is sustainability manager at the SEKEM Group and currently setting up a sustainability consultancy at the Heliopolis Academy.

New Products from ATOS During the last months SEKEM’s phytopharmaceutical enterprise ATOS has introduced three new products to the Egyptian market. Pentox 600 SR is available from local pharmacies on prescription only and is given for the treatment of “claudicatio intermittens” an illness caused by a lack of blood flow in a patient’s extremities. The illness that is accompanied by severe pain is widely known in Egypt and frequently affects men. Obesity and arteriosclerosis promote its effects decreasing the quality of life for the patient. A new Ginseng tea and slices of packaged Ginseng root were also recently introduced. The red Ginseng root has the highest concentration of Ginseng. Its antioxidants help relieve stress and fatigue and improve concentration. The root plant for ATOS’ Ginseng is imported from Korea. Clinical studies have confirmed its effectiveness in cases of type-2 diabetes. This suggests that especially in cases of erectile dysfunction caused by diabetes Ginseng can improve the patient’s wellbeing. The new products are available from pharmacies without prescription. Carmipret allows the ingestion of peppermint and caraway in capsules as a dietary supplement to counter functional indigestion. The product is also available without prescription but can be prescribed by a medical doctor. It is thus available from medical practices as well as regular pharmacies. Christina Boecker, Nehal Abou Seada

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SEKEM: A Model for the Future? The German support association of the “Friends of SEKEM” invites friends, partners, and the general public to its annual member convention at the Recital Hall, Stuttgart.


ow can we build a global society that combines economic success with ecological, cultural, and social awareness? This is one of the most pressing questions of our time. This year’s annual members’ convention at the Recital Hall Stuttgart (Liederhalle) shall provide an appropriate opportunity to discuss the issue in a wider circle including representatives of various initiatives and the interested general public. SEKEM has transformed Egypt

For 30 years SEKEM has shown in impressive ways that economic prowess can be successfully combined with social and cultural development. Dr. Abouleish began in 1977 to create an oasis in the middle of the Egyptian desert. Today, SEKEM is market leader for selected organic products in high-grade demeter-quality in some countries and runs a successful organic agricultural business on 3.000 hectares of farmland close to Cairo. The Egyptian project has thus

not only made the desert flourish. It also has brought society and cultural expression in the area to life. From the kindergarten to the university in development: SEKEM has inaugurated and maintains multiple educational activities, an academy for the applied sciences and the arts as well as a hospital for over 30.000 people. In 2003 awarded with the “Alternative Nobel Prize” SEKEM has been working for the mutual understanding across the cultures of the West and East and a lasting exchange for years. Is SEKEM a model that can transform the world? This “SEKEM Day” in Stuttgart is a traditional event that has been held for many years. Under the title: „Intercultural Competence – a regional and global challenge“ the organisers this year intend to use the occasion of the “SEKEM Day” for the first time to include initiatives working in partnership with SEKEM and will be presenting their projects in the form of a public plenary discussion and exhibitions.

The programme published here is only available in German as the event itself will be held in the German language. It gives all dates and times for the individual sessions and their topics that are spread across the day. The organisers cordially invite the interested public as well as all friends and partners of SEKEM and its various firms. This year’s SEKEM Day 2010 will be held on Saturday, 17 April 2010 in the Schiller Room of the Recital Hall Stuttgart (Liederhalle). The organisers also wish to thank His Excellency the Mayor of the City of Stuttgart, Dr. Wolfgang Schuster, under the auspices of whom this year’s event is held. Roland Schaette, Waltraud Bandel

The event shall feature introductions into the major projects of several of the partnering initiatives that work for education and the social and cultural integration of youth on a regional or global basis. All of them strive to supply youngsters with additional ways of developing their futures across invisible social and ethnic boundaries to lead a life in dignity and utilise the entire set of their abilities. This year Dr. Abouleish will also talk in greater detail about a specific high point in the development of the SEKEM Initiative: the opening preparations for the new Heliopolis University.

See SEKEM yourself: SEKEM Insight | March 2010 | Page 4


Impressions from SEKEM


he new operation room has been inaugurated only recently in the new wing of the SEKEM Medical Centre. The new room now provides better and more services to all patients of the rural institution. The room that has been furnished according to current quality standards and employs mostly used technology donated by European partners is already regularly in use and adds a substantial range of medical services to the portfolio of the „SEKEM Medical Centre“ - services that are desperately needed by many in the vicinity who would otherwise have to travel far to either the next city or even the hospitals of Cairo.

SEKEM Insight | March 2010 | Page 5


Elisabeth Gergely 27 August 1920 -27 February 2010


lisabeth Gergely had since her early childhood days dedicated her own life to the service of the Anthroposophic endeavour with enthusiasm, courage, and conviction. She searched for and found her own way on this path and has relentlessly pursued the vision of her life: caring for the development of other people with all her heart and commitment. She intimately bonded her intention with the SEKEM idea. Elisabeth and I both went into the desert to realise our visions because she also met with a “desert climate” in a metaphoric sense when she set out to realise her project of a “Free School” in Austria. For both of us realising our lives’ destinies was only possible through the combination of Orient and Occident. We were not only connected through our goals but also the way that leads to the future of mankind.

Elisabeth has worked for SEKEM and specifically for the new Heliopolis University in her own way. The SEKEM Foundation has decided to inaugurate a department for “East-West-Relations” at the new institution that will bear the name of “Elisabeth Gergely” . It would like to honour her work for furthering the East-West dialogue that has always been close to her heart. In the future it will be connected to her name.

Elisabeth Gergely

Students from the global West shall be enabled to get to know more about the cultures of the East and young researchers from the East shall be able to familiarize themselves with the culture of the global West. In was in this sense that Elisabeth often quoted Goethe’s famous phrase: „Tolerance should only be a passing trait. She must lead to acknowledgement. Accepting means insulting.“ In her manuscript „Education to Freedom – Education for Community“ she quotes Mohamed Iqbal on the first page: Im Westen ist des Lebens Grund Vernunft / Im Osten ist das Weltgeheimnis Liebe / Schließt Liebe sich zusammen mit Vernunft / Wird sie der Bildner einer neuen Welt. When Elisabeth came to SEKEM in January, we felt honoured that she had decided to connect her own future to the SEKEM idea. Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish

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German-Indian Conference On Sustainability Research


rof. Karl-Ulrich Rudolph from the German University Witten/ Herdecke presented to a selected group of 150 participants of the 3. German-Indian Conference on Sustainability Research comprehensive water supply and sewage solutions for the 1.2 billion inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent. The German university is a long-standing partner of the SEKEM initiative. The Institute for Environmental Engineering and Management at the University of Witten/Herdecke (IEEM) is official cooperation partner of the United Nations in the field of international water management. The conference on the topics of water and waste technologies was organised by the German Federal Ministry of Research in cooperation with Indian partners. For the German ministry Dr.  Rolf Junker pointed at the high importance placed on international cooperation in science and the industries and the field of sustainability studies in Germany. Indian certainly is an important partner in this scheme, he said. Prof. Dr.  A. K. Gosain of the IIT, the Indian Institute for Technologies, explained the tremendous demand of his country for comprehensive solutions in the field of water and waste technologies. On behalf of the German delegation Prof. Karl-Ulrich Rudolph spoke on the state of research in water technologies and management. From HighTech equipment for water recycling to affordable solutions for natural water filtering systems and decentralised plants in rural communities there are many approaches invented or discovered in Germany that could find successful application in India. Prof. Dr.  Martin Kranert from the University of Stuttgart spoke on research in the field of waste management - from post-processing to the fully comprehensive solution. The scientists from Germany and India produced a list of possible fields for collaborative action for common

research in both partner countries that could contribute to the further development of sustainable approaches to managing India’s water and waste problems. Next to HighTech plants this specifically includes solutions that require minimal maintenance and come equipped with a comprehensive service plan, for instance specialised recycling systems for waste or biogas power plants that produce energy of sewage remains. The high point of the event was the official address welcome for the delegation extended by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Horst Köhler, and his spouse.

ISIS products presented at the GulFood Tradeshow

the food industry and use the opportunity to meet colleagues, business partners, and familiarize themselves with the latest developments in production, processing, and distribution of organic products originating from factories in the region. This time ISIS was part of the Egyptian booth, which attracted plenty of visitors because of its distinctive design and the promotion package, which the Egyptian Exporters Association had prepared for this tradeshow. “We were very positively surprised by the number of visitors, their expertise and professionalism who came to our booth” says Dr. Iman Dawood, export manager of ISIS. “Organic Food is certainly a growing niche in the Arab markets and visitors were obviously satisfied to find that they can now purchase organic food produced in the Arab world and not only in European or US factories.” ISIS’ sales team made a number of new contacts and used the occasion to meet with their customers from many Arab countries. The team is looking forward to a very promising sales season 2010.


rom 21st to 24th of February SEKEM company ISIS exhibited its wide range of organic food products at the renowned business tradeshow GulFood at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The exhibition with its affiliated conference is considered the most important tradeshow in the Middle East featuring foodstuffs and beverages, ingredients, but also events such as the famous “Salon Culinaire” with more than 1.300 young chefs competing for the prestigious award of the Emirates Culinary Guild. More than 45.000 industry professionals on average visit the booths of the 3.300 exhibitors are the tradeshow to see the latest offers and trends in

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 Pictures: 2r, 5: Bijan Kafi; 1, 2l, 6, 7: SEKEM; 3: Egyptian Junior Businessmen

SEKEM Insight | March 2010 | Page 7

SEKEM Insight  
SEKEM Insight  

SEKEM's monthly journal for economy, culture, and society in Egypt. English edition.