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Nr. 94 - June 2010


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

Editorial Dear Readers,

when you as a reader of SEKEM Insight turn to us, the team of editors, with your critique or comment you will likely use e-mail to do so. The times when publishers received stacks of paper letters to the editors are long gone. Today most readers and writers connect electronically or by phone.




Helmy Abouleish Speaks at SusCon

First Education Completed in Egypt

Helmy Abouleish Nominated for Prize

Biodynamic Agriculture Creates and Enhances Biodiversity Helmy Abouleish speaks at SusCon in Nuremberg on the topic of sustainability in agricultural business.

Many however increasingly begin to make use of “social networks” to communicate not only with SEKEM’s public representatives but also SEKEM itself. Friends and supporters follow the news on its many projects and international activities for instance on Facebook, a network popular particularly among the youth. Twitter, too, is becoming increasingly fashionable as it allows the convenient and flexible distribution of small news pieces. Helmy Abouleish at SusCon 2010, the „International Conference on Sustainable Production and Consumption“

With the publication of this issue the editorial team of SEKEM Insight also in charge of its European public relations can also be reached using both services. We, the editors, would like to encourage you to make use of the new media tools that can be accessed right from inside this document using the direct links provided in conjunction with individual articles. We hope you will do so.

Your Team of Editors


t the SusCon 2010 conference that has taken place 15/16 June in Nuremberg (Germany) Helmy Abouleish using concrete examples demonstrated how SEKEM strives to enhance and protect biodiversity through the application of biodynamic agriculture underlining the instrument’s unique potential to master the agricultural challenges of the 21st century.

The United Nations have declared 2010 to be the “International Year of

Biodiversity”. They have done so to raise awareness of the dramatic loss of ecosystems, species, and genetic variety among animals and plants that takes place every day. Biodiversity underpins the proper function of the very ecosystems on which SEKEM, its co-workers, customers, and suppliers depend for food and fresh water, health and recreation, and protection from natural disasters. A loss of such “ecosystem services” affects humans on multiple different levels including the cultural and spiritual spheres. SEKEM Insight | June 2010 | Page 1


rolling out the pilot project on a larger acreage this year taking full advantage of the synergies offered by nature itself. A combination of selected crops, trees and shrubs can further improve the structure of soils and is designed to make use of synergies among the involved species regarding the availability of required nutrients and pest control. Rows of fruit trees within the fields provide shadow for tenuous herbs to blossom, which are in turn nurturing bees and predator insects that are required to pollinate flowers. SEKEM reestablishes indigenous Egyptian bee varieties

Current trends are bringing mankind closer to a number of potential tipping points that have the potential to catastrophically reduce the capacity of ecosystems to provide their essential services. The poor, who tend to be most significantly affected by them while being most dependent on them at the same time, would suffer first and most severely. At stake here also are the principal objectives outlined in the “Millennium Development Goals” (MDG): food security, poverty eradication and a healthier population. The MDG were originally meant to be achieved by 2015. The conservation of biodiversity also critically contributes to alleviating the impact and scale of climate change-related changes in the global ecosystems. Rich biodiversity can substantially reduce its negative impacts by making ecosystems more resilient and human societies with them. Biodynamic agriculture holding promise for greater biodiversity Biodynamic agriculture as practiced in SEKEM utilises the synergies of diverse and complex ecosystems as well as the symbioses between plants and animals to achieve better soil fertility also through greater biodiversity on the level of micro-organisms in the soil. To enhance the productivity of the agro-ecosystem SEKEM works

with and relies upon for its achievements, nature provides for plenty of solutions which are mostly free of costs and generally come with a large number of added benefits. For instance, SEKEM strives to revitalize and adapt traditional agricultural knowledge to our specific geographic and climatic conditions as well as to develop new and innovative solutions to spearhead the development of entirely new instruments and tools. Bees and beneficial organisms: Fighting pests naturally To give some examples, in recent years SEKEM succeeded in re-cultivating healthy populations of the Egyptian indigenous bee species “Apis mellifera lamarckii” which had been weakened to the verge of extinction by the extensive and largely uncontrolled use of aggressive pesticides, intensive cultivation, and even imported bee queens. To fight pests the natural way SEKEM also started to breed and even sell beneficial insects (“predators”) to be kept in greenhouses to protect the crops to be grown therein. In the cultivation of grapes and fruit trees SEKEM has been successfully working with cover crops and synergetic pest control for years and from a two-acre pilot of agro-forestry are now

The largest potential however lies in the careful selection of the appropriate varieties - a procedure already practiced by the ancient Egyptians. Pioneering the practice of protection SEKEM has been pioneering and supporting systematic research on biodiversity in Egypt for more than two decades. Through networking with the international scientific community SEKEM strives to expand and share knowledge. A herbarium has been compiled for 25 years as a permanent record of the original flora of the area and in an effort to conserve endangered plants. For instance, local varieties of chamomile, fennel, calendula, basil, roselle, and anise were selected for a quality-improvement program resulting in quality and seed efficiency improvements by up to 200%. SEKEM’s long-term participation in the “National Program for Genetic Resources” and collaboration in a establishment of a gene bank, the engagement in the development of a “National Strategy for conservation and sustainable use of wild medicinal plants in Egypt” with the Ministry of Environmental Affairs are all part of efforts to protect local and regional biodiversity. Plus, SEKEM has hosted initiatives such as the Egyptian “Genetic Resources Policy Initiative” (GERPI Egypt). Magdalena Kloibhofer CLICK for news on Helmy Abouleish on Facebook.

SEKEM Insight | June 2010 | Page 2


“One World Award”: Helmy Abouleish for SEKEM among the finalists Five finalists have been selected by the jury for this year‘s “One World Award 2010” which will be awarded at the Rapunzel-Festival in September. The jury made its decision, the five finalists of the second international “One World Award” have been chosen. The on-site visits confirmed that the activities of the nominees agree with the objectives of the “One World Award”. Helmy Abouleish is listed as a nominee for this year’s prize. With their extraordinary engagement, the five finalists of the „One World Award“ 2010 give globalization a positive dimension and help create a future worth living. The finalists are: Since 1994, Beti Minkin has been actively campaigning for the development of sustainable village projects in Anatolia/Turkey. In 2006 she founded the Anatolia Foundation with the goal to protect cultural traditions and biodiversity of the region. One of the Foundation’s most important projects is the promotion of organic agriculture and the preservation of old grain varieties, e.g. emmer. Beti Minkin managed to integrate more than 200 families into the project by creating sources of income for them. She is an important role model especially for local women. EL CEIBO is a cooperation of 1,200 cocoa farmers in Bolivia. The producers’ cooperative is a pioneer of organic cocoa production. Along the entire value-added chain, EL CEIBO acts in accordance with organic agriculture and fair trade guidelines. The cooperative is also highly committed with respect to social projects: in addition to retirement provisions, health care and educational support the cooperative also collaborates with a micro-financing agency that provides credits for farmers who want to invest into their work. Helmy Abouleish was nominated for SEKEM. The jury states: “SEKEM

is more than just a “farm”. SEKEM is a community of people from all nations and cultures who work and learn together, who take care of the earth and serve society. SEKEM invests into the future of Egypt and is strongly committed to the educational sector.” In 1988, Dr. Hans Rudolf Herren founded the Biovision Foundation in Switzerland. The Foundation has the goal to improve the life of people in Africa and to preserve nature as the foundation of all life. With the biological control of the cassava mealybug in the 1980s the world-famous insect scientist Hans Rudolf Herren saved millions of Africans from starvation. For this, he was the first Swiss to receive the World Food Prize in 1995. Biovision helps people help themselves and promotes ecological thought and action. An exemplary project is the propagation of the pushpull cultivation method in Kenia. Mrs. Rachel Agola is a farmer and one of the pioneers who developed this environmentally sound technology that improves corn yields and soil fertility – without the use of mineral fertilizers, pesticides or GMOs. The project also focuses on the prophylaxis and combat of malaria, the promotion of small businesses and the protection of biodiversity.

groups and partner organizations, new Tree Foundation advances the forestation of waste lands. Protected from goats and sheep, the soil-bound seeds and roots produce a beautiful diversity of indigenous tree species. Now the question remains which finalist will receive the hand-made „One World Award“ statue and the award money of 25,000 Euro that is donated by RAPUNZEL NATURKOST. The decision will be made by the jury members Joseph Wilhelm, founder and Managing Director of RAPUNZEL NATURKOST, the two laureates of the Right Livelihood Award, Vandana Shiva from India and Tewolde Egziabher from Ethiopia and IFOAM Vice President Roberto Ugas from Peru. The winner will be presented on September 17, 2010 at the Rapunzel Festival in Legau. Bijan Kafi with material from “One World Award”


More information:

Franziska KaguembègaMüller is founder of the newTree Foundation in Switzerland that follows the slogan: „Daring visions – living dreams“. In Burkina Faso she directs the Sahel reforestation project that aims to improve the life of the rural population by regenerating the soil and the vegetation. Together with families, women’s

SEKEM Insight | June 2010 | Page 3


First Eurythmy Diploma Concludes Pilot Project The first Egyptian Eurythmy student has successfully finished his 7-year training receiving a diploma. specialisation greatly contributes to the personal and professional development of the students. Looking back on the last years of his training Mohamed comments: „During the preparations for my diploma and the training sessions over the last 7 years my life has passed through many highs and lows. My social life, too, has greatly changed over these years together with my spiritual life. My outlook on the world today is less narrow than it has been back then. Through eurythmy I have received great motivation to further educate myself.”

Eurythmy can be studied since 2003 in SEKEM in the framework of a pilot project

On 20 and 24 May 2010 the first Egyptian eurythmy student concluded his 7-year basic professional training and thereby the first formal training programme in eurythmy in Egypt. The diploma performance was given on the stage of the Heliopolis Academy. Together with his 7 male and female colleagues of the 4. and 2. year of training Mohamed Mamdouh presented the audience with a sample of his artistic abilities selecting musical pieces for solo and group performance. Viola Zweifel, a student from Europe, participated in the event and also concluded her own professional training. Mamdouh later also gave a speech on the topic of “Eurythmy as Way, Method, and Experience in Life“ in front of 70 teachers of the SEKEM schools thereby concluding his theoretical work on the subject. A pioneering programme When SEKEM commenced the training course in eurythmy 7 years ago

in June 2003 as a pioneering course nobody would have expected the project to develop so successfully. By now eurythmy has found a respected place in the SEKEM School, the Vocational Training Centre, and even inside the firms integrated into the co-workers artistic “training on the job”. Early Practical Training Among the characteristics of the professional training at SEKEM is the opportunity for the students to contribute to the provision of eurythmy lessons right from the start. Thanks to the practical experience of teaching children of all ages and the co-workers teachers witness how the students develop their personal abilities in the course of their training. They soon develop their very own expressive artistic personalities. The practice of performing eurythmy with and for their own students from early on and to publicly represent their own understanding of specific fields of artistic

The students of the second year, too, have had the chance to look back at their first encounter with eurythmy. All of them remarked a substantial change in their spiritual outlook on the world through their practice as well as the experience of having become calmer and more balanced in mastering everyday challenges. Through the training they claim to have experienced a change in their perception of themselves: „I am today looking at the world and the things around me not only in one way but understand that there are many different ways of perceiving it, of exploring it“ says Fawzy, who is now in his 2. year of eurythmy training after having studied sports for 6 years at the SEKEM School. It remains to be seen if the first professional course in eurythmy will become a regular educational institution. This would allow a grater number of eurythmy practitioners to spread the word and raise awareness of an innovative artistic form of expression also in Egypt. Martina Dinkel, Christoph Graf CLICK for news on the SEKEM initiative on Facebook.

SEKEM Insight | June 2010 | Page 4


Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish Receives Honorary Doctorate from TU Graz After receiving the recognition from the Medical University of Graz Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish recently could also accept an honorary doctorate by the TU Graz. Against Passivity and Fatalism

Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish receives the honorary doctorate from the hands of rector Prof. Hans Sünkel

On 2 June the Technical University of Graz bestowed their highest academic recognition on Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish. He received the honorary doctorate of the technical sciences “in academic recognition of his unique innovations in the field of socio-cultural entrepreneurship and sustainable development” in person out of the hands of the institution’s director and friend of SEKEM Prof. Hans Sünkel. Ibrahim Abouleish, who was born 1937 in Mashtul in the Nile Delta, originally came to Graz in 1956 to take up his studies of medicine technical chemistry. He later moved to a leading position in a local business before eventually returning to Egypt and founding SEKEM in 1977. Bearing the signature of one man The celebration was held in the aula of the Technical University Graz in the very room in which Ibrahim Abouleish had received his engineering diploma

in 1965 and his first doctoral degree in 1969. This time however, the circle of friends who had arrived to congratulate was huge. In the audience where the family (spouse Gudrun, her sister Erika, son Helmy with his wife Konstanze, grand children Sarah, Soraya, Mariam, Junis) joined by many dignitaries of the Technical University, the Karl-Franzens-University Graz and the Medical University Graz - three institutions that have already established cooperation agreements with SEKEM and the forthcoming Heliopolis University, respectively. Naturally, the German and Austrian support associations were also present as well as - to the delight of Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish - Mag. Helga Broschek and her son Pascal Broschek of the firm Gebro Pharma Gmbh. Gebro Pharma is the Tyrolean business the research and development department of which Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish had lead after his graduation.

The laudation was delivered by the rector of the Technical University Graz Prof. Dr. Hans Sünkel who also presides the Austrian Higher Education Conference and who himself has repeatedly visited SEKEM. „I am simply overwhelmed by this fantastic work that bears the signature of one person: Ibrahim Abouleish“ Sünkel exclaimed. „As a vision SEKEM is a philosophy of a society constantly reinventing itself. As a model SEKEM is an integrating network consisting of farms, businesses, research institutions, educational and therapeutic institutions. As an initiative SEKEM is a lasting reminder how sustainable development can be realised in all fields of work and life. It is an organism that flourishes in the present and will have positive effects reaching far into the future countering societal passivity and fatalism in word and deed.“ Sünkel put SEKEM’s charity for the Egyptian population in direct relation to the personal biography of Dr. Abouleish: „This charity that he initially expressed towards his classmates in school and then later towards his motherland and people is the ‘human carrier wave’ on which the manifold social and cultural activities of Ibrahim Abouleish are modulated.“ Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish has already received an honorary doctorate at the Alanus School in 2003 and has been named Honorary Citizen of Graz the following year. Again one year later he received the honorary doctorate of the Medical University of the city of Graz. Dr. Hermann Becke

You can visit SEKEM yourself:

SEKEM Insight | June 2010 | Page 5


Impressions from SEKEM

May 11 saw this year’s annual musical recital at the SEKEM School, a traditional event that concludes the current school year in the form of an artistic presentation by the school’s pupils. 70 children in total performed what they had learned over the course of the past year on the violin, the cello, the flute, trumpet, or drum. Visitors could witness how, for instance, the children of the 1st grade made their first insecure steps in playing their personal instruments, how they grew more and more accustomed to it over the year, and finally managed to perform a melody on their own and in front of an eagerly waiting audience. A collaborative musical piece that featured multiple voices concluded the afternoon of individual presentations. The pupils were proud and relieved by the positive impression their performance made on the parents present at the event. The recital at the same time was also a farewell concert for and a tribute to the work of Liliane Christen, a music teacher, who has over the course of the past 13 years taught the violin at the SEKEM School. She will return to Europe this summer. SEKEM cordially thanks her for her untiring work, patience and personal interest in the wellbeing of the children whom she introduced to the playing of their personal instruments and to the musical experience in general.

SEKEM Insight | June 2010 | Page 6

News in Brief

SEKEM Report on Sustainable Development 2009

Alanus School Now Institutionally Accredited

Demeter Demands Germany Consider Alternatives

For the third time the SEKEM group publishes its comprehensive annual report containing news and achievements related to all dimensions of sustainable development. The report is structured along the ‘Sustainability Flower ‘, an image symbolizing the four dimensions of cultural life, societal life (encompassing rules and conventions of society), economic life, and ecology.

The Alanus School for the Arts (near Bonn, Germany) has been institutionally accredited by the German Scientific Council as the first nongovernment arts school in the county. Additional to the 10-year accreditation the school also received the privilege to offer doctoral degrees in the faculty of “Educational Sciences”.

In consideration of the dramatic global problems in the field of agriculture and nutrition the German Demeter e.V. has requested the federal government of Germany to more openly speak out for a fair and sustainable reform of global agriculture thereby drawing the consequences of the world agriculture report. SEKEM also signed the report.

The report 2009 provides an overview on SEKEM from its vision to its institutions and projects. It also outlines the specific approach of SEKEM to each of the four dimensions. A lot of facts and figures are presented including data on the composition of the personnel base, the consumption of resources and waste disposal, or social investments to “CO2 footprints”. The report reflects the results of a critical self-assessment and defines targets for improvement. In addition to enhanced transparency in corporate communication in general the document aims to provide SEKEM management with a superior tool for integrated business development. The report is the result of an extensive data collection and evaluation mission. The new edition of the annual report is supposed to help critically evaluate SEKEM’s activities and to identify further room for improvement. It thus demonstrates how companies can assess the value they provide to societies while at the same time improving internal management by integrating a broad range of extrafinancial information into their daily monitoring and evaluation efforts. Key results of the report will be presented in detail in upcoming issues of SEKEM Insight. Digital copies of the SEKEM annual report can be ordered on request. To order your copy please send an email to: Source: Maximilian Boes

The school is said to have developed a unique profile through the successful fusion of the arts and the science of education. „The characteristics of the school’s concept are a source for interdisciplinary questions and many international artistic projects“ commentary by the Scientific Council on the accreditation reads. The committee that is appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Germany specifically applauded the school’s research performance in the field prior to the accreditation as exhibiting a specific and innovative research profile in its confrontation of various forms of approaches to reform pedagogy. „The decision by the Scientific Council is a great recognition for exceptional research performance of the Alanus School“, says Andreas Pinkwart, Minister of Innovation of Northrhine-Westphalia. He also explicitly expressed his recognition of the fact that the school has succeeded in convincing the official committee of its scientific standards and thereby receiving the privilege to award doctoral degrees as only the second private higher education institution in the entire German state of Northrhine-Westphalia. Source: NNA


More information:

The report that was published in 2008 by an international committee of experts acting on request by the United Nations and that still has not bee signed by the German government estimates the current number of people living in hunger at 1 billion worldwide. 70 percent of them live in rural environments. „They need support to help themselves, not agricultural industries” the declaration states. Moreover the Demeter farmers, retailers and consumers request more research on local, development-aware agricultural instruments also encompassing the knowledge of practitioners. The European agrarian model of a multifunctional, regional, and sustainable agriculture rejecting genetically modified food should be expanded. Source: NNA


More information:

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: 1,2, 5: SEKEM; 4l+r, 6: Sandra Poettrich No republication without written consent by the publisher.

SEKEM Insight | June 2010 | Page 7

SEKEM Insight  

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

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