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Nr. 117 - June 2012


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

Editorial Dear Readers, as Helmy Abouleish tells in this month’s interview on the Situation in Egypt, he perceives the country to be at a crossroads. The country is taking bold steps into an uncertain but promising future. One question is: What has to be done to make human and material development flourish best in Egypt?

Change in Egypt

Concert for SEKEM

Ethical Banking

Interview With Helmy Abouleish

Supporters Organise Pro-Bono Concert

Ethical Banks Globally More Successful

Change in Egypt: An Interview with Helmy Abouleish At the BioFach 2012 in Nuremberg the editors of „Mehr.Wert“, the Newsletter by Triodos Bank Germany, spoke to Helmy Abouleish to talk about the situation of Egypt and SEKEM today.

Helmy has already answered this question for himself. Just recently, he was again elected to the board of the German-Arab Chamber of Commerce. He had been a part of the committee of the major economic association from 2010 to 2012. Shortly before that, he had received the “Business for Peace Award” on behalf of his father at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. And at the end of May, the major German weekly „Business Week“ featured SEKEM as one „50 Great Ideas for a Better World“. These events illustrate how important it is to Helmy and all of SEKEM’s co-workers to continue on the path of sustainability they have taken 35 years ago. For Helmy, the Egyptian private sector is an important travelling companion on this journey.

Your Team of Editors Find SEKEM also on the Internet at:

Helmy Abouleish uses the largest organic fair in Europe to meet business partners and friends. SEKEM also regularly presents its newest products on the demeter association’s group booth.


bout one year ago, Egyptians rewrote their history - and future - in Tahrir Square. At BioFach 2012, the leading international trade fair for the organic food industry, the editors of „Mehr.Wert“, the newsletter of the sustainable German Triodos Bank, met with Helmy Abouleish from SEKEM to talk about recent developments at the initiative and in the country since the revolution. The article was first published in the March/April issue of

„Mehr.Wert“ and appears here in the reprint. Triodos Bank has been supporting and investing in SEKEM since 2007. Helmy, how widespread is the holistic approach according to which SEKEM and Triodos operate, in Egypt? The holistic approach that takes into account the economic and the ecological and social aspects is despite the long-standing work of SEKEM Insight | June 2012 | Page 1


SEKEM - so far not widely practiced in Egypt. There is a large network of farmers, customers and partners working in association with us. However, there have not yet been any other initiatives that take up our threefold approach independent of us and develop it further - neither in Egypt nor anywhere else in the Arab world. This is also one of the major challenges for SEKEM and our partners such as the Triodos Bank: How can we spread our ideas so that they are taken up and developed independently of us.

SEKEM‘s Business Model Since 1977 SEKEM has been carrying out bio-dynamic agriculture in Egypt and is committed to the idea of sustainability. In concrete terms this means that cultural, social and environmental development is promoted as an integrated whole to establish a new economic paradigm. For this business model, Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish received the Right Livelihood Award in 2003. Since 2007, the Triodos Bank has become a shareholder of SEKEM with a seat on the board of the company. In the same year the Triodos Bank released a SEKEM Bond to private investors in the Netherlands.

Were there times during the Egyptian revolution, in which the SEKEM initiative and the farm were threatened? We can call us very fortunate that our employees have, from the first day of the revolution (25 January 2011) to this day - personally and through their families in the villages around us supported and protected SEKEM and the SEKEM companies. During the days when civil security was at risk in Egypt, our employees even monitored the SEKEM farm and its facilities for 24 hours a day. We only needed to halt production one single day. Our employees have proven that SEKEM is an integral part of their lives and that they are ready to support it with all their hearts.

Has everyday business at SEKEM changed with the political and social situation? Because of these changes we now have to consider all possible kinds of bottlenecks we never had to think about before and new threats have arisen, such as the security situation in the rural part of Egypt where SEKEM is located. In the past, Egypt was a very safe country. Now we have to consider potential risks for people going out late at night. We also have to care for the surveillance of our delivery trucks, for example. However, the security situation today has already significantly improved since 2011. Last year, retailers frequently changed their working hours and opening times and many supermarkets were looted. Thus we temporarily lost some customers. The ability to pay for products also took a significant hit - many people could not or would not pay more for higher quality products. Egypt’s economy shrank by several percent and that, of course, also had a big influence on us as a business providing products essential for daily life, such as food. For what kind of changes are you now hoping after the success of the revolution in Egypt? Firstly, we need to consider that it will take time for Egypt to adapt to the radical changes, at least two years. On the other hand, if we do well - I sincerely hope and expect that we will - the people of Egypt will have the opportunity to once again consider this country “theirs” in the full sense of the word. Egypt will again be the country of its own people. The Egyptians will be more motivated to influence the way they are governed, with more love and a greater sense of responsibility. Then, Egypt may flourish again. I am optimistic that the situation will substantially improve compared to the status quo of the pre-revolution days. According to German media reports, many in the global West worry about

the rising influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and the repression of liberal parts of society. How justified is this concern and what position should Europe take towards Egypt now? In a democratic election, the Muslim Brotherhood were the largest party and the Salafists came in second. That is a reality I can myself confirm. It is now time to respect the decision Egyptians have made to give everyone a chance to actually practice democracy. If the Muslim Brotherhood meet the promises they made before the election, they will continue to lead the country in a liberal and open-minded fashion, even if more Islamic points of view make it into everyday politics. I sincerely hope that the European countries will continue to maintain close cultural, social, political, and economic ties with Egypt and assist it in its journey towards progress even more. Only if we genuinely try to understand the other and to build bridges will the two shores of the Mediterranean have a chance at building synergies that may result in sustainable long-term development for both. We are here at the BioFach, the leading and the largest trade fair for the organic sector in Europe. Why is this event so important for SEKEM? This year, a big issue for us is the question of how to better communicate in Europe - together with our partner Alnatura - the value added of the biodynamic cotton that we cultivate in Egypt and the products we produce out of it. These values include our social work and also what I would call the „environmental quality“. Because we use the biodynamic cultivation method, less water is needed, less CO2 emissions are released into the air, and our soils do not degenerate. This approach can be a part of the solution to fighting climate change and water scarcity in Africa.


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SEKEM Insight | June 2012 | Page 2


Ethical Banks More Successful Across the Globe

Placing Interests of Future Generations on Today’s Environmental Agenda

A new study reveals that values-based financial institutes are operating more successful than conventional institutions lending more confidence to the Global Alliance for Banking on Values.

percent compared to an average of 80 percent for the latter. The sustainable banks have an average core capital ratio of 14 percent compared with less than 10 percent at the former.

Banking for values“ - that is, banking based on fundamental ethical convictions, is recording strong growth globally. This became clear at the recent meeting of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) ​​ in Vancouver, Canada. In the shape of the GABV, the 15 world’s leading sustainable financial institutes formed a permanent working group. The German GLS Bank based in Bochum was the first social-ecological universal bank in the world and one of the founding members of the alliance. For several years the bank has also been an investor in the various businesses of the SEKEM Initiative.

Measured by their financial ratios, the world’s value-oriented banks currently outstrip even the largest conventional banks, according to a recently published study. The research, that was now presented to the public in Vancouver, compares the financial performance of the members of the Global Alliance with those of the 29 world‘s largest conventional (and “systemically indispensable”) banks over the course of 4 years from 20072010. The study finds that sustainable banks invested an average of 70 percent of their total assets in the form of loans, whereas the conventional banks only invested 38 percent. Even in credit volume growth conventional institutions they lagged behind GABV members with an increase of only 20

In Vancouver the impact of the Global Alliance on other financial institutions in the industry was also apparent in the number of banks aspiring to join the alliance. The Canadian Assiniboine Credit Union was just recently incorporated into the GABV and up to ten other banks have expressed their interest to join the alliance. The membership requirements include the fulfilment of six admission criteria which include the integration of social and environmental indicators into the core business model, a practice of banking oriented towards a strengthening of the “real economies”, as well as a general orientation towards long-term customer needs. The GABV plans to launch a bankwide exchange program for employees later this year. Human resource managers at the institutions would like to cooperate more closely together, too, and to develop an international seminar programme. The banks also develop a common financial tool to facilitate the continuation of the already successful institutional capital increase. The meeting in Canada was hosted by the Vancouver-based Vancity Credit Union. Vancity is the largest Englishspeaking credit union in Canada. It offers its members innovative and ethically sound financial services.


he unrestrained use of natural resources and progressive environmental degradation exacerbate the gap between rich and poor and threaten the survival of future generations. Especially today’s children suffer the consequences of misguided environmental and climate policy and will be confronted with the consequences of myopic political action as adults. „Political and economic decision makers still think in short-term cycles of elections or business profit. However, we need long-term strategies that safeguard the future prospects of today’s children”, said Danuta Sacher, director of non-profit charitable organisation Terre des Hommes, on behalf of the initiative. „We demand the establishment of ombudsmen for future generations that provide an adequate assurance that long-term thinking is made an integral part of the overall policy-making process at various levels in this world’s governmental systems [...]”. To advocate for this goal, Terre des Hommes and the World Future Council have recently launched an online petition. Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish has signed the petition for SEKEM. Signatures are collected at to pressure government leaders at the UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June into making clear and binding commitments towards the creation of ombudspersons for future generations at the international, regional and national levels. The collected signatures will be handed over to heads of state and government delegations before the event.

Source: GLS Bank

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SEKEM Insight | June 2012 | Page 3


German Pro-Bono Concert for SEKEM Attracts Enthusiastic Visitors On 24 March 2012 the German village of Oberostendorf experienced a pro-bono concert organised by its inhabitants for the benefit of SEKEM. It drew plenty of enthusiastic visitors.

project. They had learned of Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish and the manifold social initiatives of SEKEM for the first time through Mr. and Mrs. Schütz. Since November 2008 both of them have been endeavouring to instruct Egyptian trainers and teachers from the special education facility at SEKEM and the electrical training course of the Vocational Training Center in the art of problem-oriented and interactive training. Many times during their work they have had the chance to experience the warmth, gratitude and perseverance of the children, teachers and trainers.

Dieter Schütz receives a donation for SEKEM from the hands of the musicians of Oberostendorf’s pro-bono concert.


pro-bono concert organised by the local citizens’ music club of Oberostendorf (in Bavarian Swabia, Germany) last March successfully tried to support the volunteer work of Dieter Schütz, one of its own descendants, through new means. Oberostendorf‘s highly motivated musicians had been familiarized with SEKEM through a lecture recently given by Dieter Schütz (SEKEM Insight reported in March 2012). Mr. Schütz and his wife have been voluntarily supporting SEKEM for several years and had carried the word home. The town’s musicians intended to express their solidarity with them and with the SEKEM initiative. “Here in Bavaria, most villages have their own music clubs a chapels. The one at Oberostendorf, the place I was born, organises an annual pro-bono concert in the local Baroque church. The

audience consists of the local population and comes to enjoy predominantly modern church music”, tells Dieter Schütz. Right before the concert, the SEKEM Initiative had been presented by Hamed Abdel Samad, a GermanEgyptian journalist. In his book „War or Peace“ he had held previously written: “We Europeans must help the people of Egypt to build civil society structures and we must then train apprentices to build an Egyptian middle class.” This is the reason why, today, the giving of alms is not a solution. Instead, lasting partnership projects that involve both sides of the Mediterranean in their implementation and let both reap a benefit well into the future are needed. The community of Oberostendorf considers SEKEM to be such a

Each year the concert at Oberostendorf aims to support a dedicated social project. „This year the board of the town’s music club told us: ‚This year’s concert at the church will be held to honour your work for SEKEM in Egypt. We think that if someone from us is so committed to voluntary work, we need to support that.‘“ Through the diverse support of many individuals and organisations such as those of Ober­osten­dorf SEKEM is presently able to maintain a kindergarten as well as help 28 children in a special education facility, 360 students in 12 classes at the SEKEM School, 280 apprentices at the Vocational Training Center, and provide 70 children of local Bedouin tribes with school education and income. Such broad commitment is dependent on the enthusiasm and voluntary in-kind contributions of many private supporters. SEKEM and its staff wish to sincerely thank the “Musikverein Ober­ ostendorf” as well as Dieter Schütz and his wife for their commitment and financial support! Bijan Kafi

SEKEM Insight | June 2012 | Page 4


Impressions from SEKEM


n 7 May 2012 Helmy Abouleish (pictured far right) on behalf of his father and SEKEM received the “Business for Peace Award” in Oslo, Norway. The prestigious award for entrepreneurship, which is given each year to a number of internationally renowned entrepreneurs who have distinguished themselves in peace building, was presented to Helmy at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital. The award is presented by the “Business for Peace Foundation” in cooperation with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The evening was also captured on video. Helmy Abouleish’s segment at the award ceremony can be watched online at

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News in Brief

Oikocredit Invests in Organic Agriculture in Egypt

Demeter Farm Receives Prestigious „Food Oscars“

Growing Demand for WellTrained Waldorf Teachers

Recently Dutch microfinance lender Oikocredit made its first investment in Egypt recently, with a US$ 7 million convertible loan to SEKEM.

The Loch Arthur Camphill community near Dumfries, Scotland has recently won the „Best Food Producer 2011“ Award. The prestigious food and agriculture prize was given to Loch Arthur for one of its cheeses and is awarded regularly by the British BBC. Loch Arthur called the price „the Oscar of the food world“ in Britain. The radio program on which the recognition was announced described the product as „a great cheese, absolutely perfect.“

Around 600 new Waldorf teachers are needed each year just at German Waldorf schools, and the demand is increasing. 300 graduates are leaving Waldorf teacher training courses and universities each year but they cannot satisfy the demand. However, most establishments do not have capacity to increase student places.

After a very difficult year following the Egyptian revolution in 2011 conditions are now stabilizing again in Egypt, and Oikocredit‘s investment will support SEKEM’s growth plans with revenues projected to grow in 2012 to $48 million. Funds will be used to implement delayed capital expenditure in areas such as tea-packing machines, a gelatin capsule production line for the pharmaceutical plant, and additional land reclamation investments.

SEKEM’s expansion will generate additional employment of about 250 jobs relative to the current employee base of 2,000 people. In addition, each year SEKEM donates 10% of its profits to the SEKEM Development Foundation (SDF) to finance community projects, which serve educational, health and cultural development purposes. SDF runs a kindergarten and school for children with special needs, a vocational training centre and a medical centre. SEKEM employees benefit from these facilities and services for a fee proportional to their salary. The local community from surrounding villages also has access to these services.

Barry Graham founded the Loch Arthur dairy in 1986 and then gradually added a farm shop and other areas of food production to its premises. He is very excited about the price - and not only for himself. Next to a successful bio-dynamic production and shop business, Loch Arthur also is a place of work and life for its co-workers to be proud of and consider their own achievement, Graham thinks. „We view this exceptional food & farming award in light of the work we have done here for 25 years. Through the food we produce, we have created wonderful connections to a wider community, and have demonstrated what a social enterprise that has a conscience and exerts great care in its business practice can achieve”, said Graham. Loch Arthur is a joint venture located in the South West of Scotland. Many of the co-workers working at Loch Arthur are men and women with learning and other disabilities. There are nine houses, all of them inhabited by more than 70 individuals. There is also a farm, a large garden, a dairy, a bakery, a woodworking shop and a thriving farm shop. The farm and the dairy of Loch Arthur are both certified to demeter standards.

Source: Oikocredit


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Source: NNA


The Alliance of Free Waldorf Schools, therefore, has now launched the „WalfiiSch“ - (Waldorf teachers find their school) campaign to help aspiring teachers discover the „best job in the world“. The campaign aims to inform newcomers to the field through the Internet, and, among other channels, through road shows and advertisements. Special teacher training institutions, too, are working to provide schools with qualified teachers thus strengthening their regional reputation. To meet the needs of teachers familiar with Waldorf education at SEKEM, the initiative has begun to provide its own formal training courses. Source: Association of Waldorf Schools in Germany


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Masthead: The editors of SEKEM Insight wish to thank all contributors to this issue. Editor: Bijan Kafi Contact: SEKEM-Insight c/o SEKEM Holding P.O.Box 2834, El Horreya, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt Pictures: Seite 1: Bijan Kafi; 3: Dieter Schütz; 5: Business for Peace Foundation. No republication without written consent by the publisher.

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SEKEM Insight | June 2012 | Page 6

SEKEM Insight 06.12 EN  

SEKEM's monthly journal on economy, society, culture, and ecology in Egypt.

SEKEM Insight 06.12 EN  

SEKEM's monthly journal on economy, society, culture, and ecology in Egypt.