Nr. 108 - August 2011
SEKEM‘s Journal for Economy, Culture, and Society in Egypt
Editorial Dear Readers, SEKEM‘s commitment to organic agriculture is well known - less known, however, is the importance of livestock breeding for the initiative. It is also carried out in accordance with the global demeter standard. In fact, SEKEM is the only demeter-certified breeder in Egypt.
Animal, Farm and Man in Harmony
Lebensbaum: A Partner for 25 Years
The Developments at SEKEM of 2010
An Important Part of the Whole of Agriculture As the only demeter-certified breeder of livestock in Egypt, SEKEM is treading unusual ways in ensuring animal welfare and educate their keepers.
Generally speaking, animal welfare is still a rarity in the country. One obstacle to it are Egypt’s geographical limitations. There is not enough surface area to allow for the open grazing of animals and the climate makes permanent stabling necessary. Social aspects of common practice play a role, too. Many travellers have witnessed the infamous livestock transports through the country’s deserts where the animals are placed on pick-up trucks, on top of each other, while still being alive. SEKEM’s calves are held in stables all year round with lots of space to move about.
In contrast, animal husbandry following demeter standards calls for a radical rethinking of the relationship between animal, farm and man. The animal is no longer of material interest only but treated as a „partner“ in creating a liveable environment. This issue features a special article on animal breeding at SEKEM.
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odern animal husbandry in Egypt today suffers from just the same problems of intensive agriculture and animal breeding as its counterparts in many industrialised countries. It is seen primarily as a factor of production and thus monetary investment. The keeping of livestock in a symbiotic relationship with the practice of agriculture, that is in addition to crop production and as a natural ingredient of soil care and conservation, is virtually unknown. Therefore the individual
animal and its needs are generally not at the centre of interest of its owner, but primarily the question of how the greatest financial return can be earned through rapid fattening on a massive scale. Only in rural areas, a small-scale form of animal husbandry has occasionally survived the ages. Here the cow is sometimes even treated like an actual „family member“ and often in fact inhabits the house of its owner. SEKEM Insight | August 2011 | Page 1
Chicken still populate the kitchen of many country houses, too. But where the modern practice of factory farming has prevailed, large-scale livestock breeding facilities dominate the countryside with their huge surface areas being inhabited by hundreds or thousands of animals with little individual space, supervised by foreign farm staff, and monitored by computers. Pig raising only plays a minor role in Egypt. Part of the Whole of Agriculture Demeter-based farming practice strives to raise and animals in harmony with their environment, that is the farm and the people living and working on it. It believes that animals develop healthily and optimally if these interrelations are respected and through proper care and feeding with demeter feed. In this type of agriculture animals are not objects of material gain only but true partners in developing the natural environment. At SEKEM animals are an integral part of the whole of the farm. With their manure they support the livelihoods of many people as they allow for the fertilization of the desert through compost produced from green and animal waste. This way they also contribute to maintaining the soil’s fertility. Man also receives from them milk and meat. Therefore, SEKEM employees strive to meet the animals’ needs as much as possible and to encourage and to reward their contribution to an integrated agricultural practice that benefits nature, animals, and man living off both. This process already begins at birth. The calves from the large herd of 550 animals made up of “Allgäuer Braunvieh” and “Holstein-Friesian” cattle remain with their mother for the first 3 days. They can roam freely and drink and feed from their mothers‘ milk as often as they wish. Supporting the mother-child bond is important for the individual cow as well as the herd as cows are social animals. The calves then meet their fellows for the first time and the animals receive pure
At SEKEM all animals receive only natural fodder respecting their present development stage.
cow‘s milk for a full 3 months. SEKEM does not use any milk replacements. Horn an Important Part of the Body All animals in SEKEM keep their horns. This makes more spacious living environments a necessity as a cow with horns frequently enjoys engaging in struggles with her peers and thus requires a larger „safety margin“. It is worth noting that all ruminants have horns or antlers. For the cow its horns are an important and integral part of its body. They appear to be directly associated with the capacity of rumination, that is with the ability to digest crude, fibre-rich feed indigestible to humans and many other animals, and to produce milk from it. It is believed that dehorning has a negative impact on the performance of the cow’s digestive system. Cows which have lost their horns, for instance, appear dim in their behaviour and almost apathetic in comparison to their fellows which have not been dehorned. The horns provide the animal with a heightened sense of sensitivity. Shepherds from the European Alps know, for example, that animals without horns are hard to herd and steer.
Individual Mixtures of Herbs While cattle in Europe is released onto grazing pastures in summer, this is not possible in Egypt, where the animals’ food must be grown using irrigation water provided through ditches or sprinkler systems which would be destroyed by the animals. Therefore, at SEKEM too, its cows live inside a 0.5 ha stable throughout the entire year. Once the animal is able to digest enough roughage to provide it with all the nutrients it needs, it is fed almost exclusively on green feed, hay and straw until shortly before calving. During this time a rich rumen flora is developed, which later enables the cow to produce as much milk as possible from basic green fodder. Each animal gets a daily mixture of herbs appropriate to its age to stimulate its senses of smell and taste and to harmonize its digestive system and metabolism. Hay or straw are always at their disposal. If such feeding practice is not heeded and too much concentrated feed is provided, cows can react sensitively with problems involving their digestive tracts, their fertility, or their limbs. Then begins the cycle of severe illness and the following SEKEM Insight | August 2011 | Page 2
then be allowed to do it at her own pace. She must not have any fear!” The alienation of humans and animals often goes so far that such instructions are met with astonishment - because they do actually work. It is a challenge for many animal keepers to learn to intimately understand an animal: if a cow roars, then that has a reason that can and needs to be found. No physical violence is necessary. A good keeper, after some time, intuitively understands the needs of the cow. This often results in calmer animals and a more balanced relationship between them and their caregivers.
with a solution of 80 effective microorganisms (lactic acid, yeast and photosynthetic bacteria) („EM“) that help prevent rot, smells, flies, and mosquitoes and counteract pathogens.
This individual supervision and instruction is complemented by a range of intensive professional education offers that are provided by invited engineers and veterinarians who familiarize the keepers specifically with current issues of animal health and care. These courses are held once a month.
Training in Animal Care
Apart from the small-holder farmer whose cow sometimes still inhabits his own house and is often valued higher than his own wife, economic interest in animals comes first, especially in industrial livestock farming. This practice also leaves visible effects with the keepers in charge of handling the animals. Stress on both sides is the result.
In addition to the raising of cattle SEKEM also has a large herd of sheep of about the same size. During cattle raising a lot of food is accumulated that SEKEM’s fat-tailed sheep can still utilize well. They also graze on fields’ edges and keep the grass under the trees short. They serve the wellbeing of the countryside in their own way.
SEKEM‘s herd of 550 sheep is cared for by a Bedouin.
administration of antibiotics or hormones. This process usually goes on until the cow is to an extent “stable” and able to become pregnant again, which is necessary for her to continue to provide milk. This vicious circle is, for instance, well known from factory farms worldwide that also supply popular fast food restaurants in Egypt. Social Gregarious Animals At SEKEM the breeding bulls are housed close to the cows, so that the herd instinct among female and male animals may develop in a natural way. That helps in bringing calm to the herd. Furthermore, no animal is leashed thus allowing cows to maintain their social life, meeting, sniffing, and grooming each other, be apart or choose to stay close. In addition, each cow can determine for itself how much it intends to eat or drink, how much they wish to stand in the sun or shade, roam around, or intend to do whatever else may contribute to their wellbeing. Healthy Animals Without Drugs SEKEM is anxious to get along with as few drugs as possible in ensuring the health of its animals. It also strives to give natural remedies a chance. Twice a week all stables are sprayed
Developing the professional behaviour of SEKEM’s 40 animal keepers towards the animals in their care requires long-term training on the job. SEKEM has achieved the best success through an approach based on „learning by doing“. This requires the person responsible for animal husbandry to be present in the stables every day and to carefully supervise and assist the keepers in their work routine. He or she must accompany the workers in all activities of interaction with the animals. This specifically includes the exercise not to demand too much of the animals, to allow them to find their own ways: “Clearly show the cow what you intend her to do. But she must
Besides camels the sheep are the traditional animals of the Egyptian Bedouin. They also take care of SEKEM’s herd of 550 animals. For them, as Muslims, the sheep bear special significance. Every adult Muslim annually slaughters a sheep at a feast in commemoration of Ibrahim‘s sacrifice. Through its approach to animal husbandry based on demeter principles SEKEM intends to recall the caregiving role of man over nature and its inhabitants just as it is being professed by specifically Islam. Angela Hofmann Angela Hofmann SEKEM is in charge of demeter agriculture and husbandry at SEKEM.
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Mutual Respect and a Harmony of Ideas Aromatic herbs from Egyptian demeter cultivation - this is how in 1985 the common history of two organic pioneers - Lebensbaum and SEKEM - began.
the close commercial partnership of Lebensbaum and SEKEM. The longterm security in planning resulting from this collaboration has in many cases been the crucial element in making growth and new projects possible that today benefit many through safe jobs and numerous social and ecological projects. New Impetus from International Networks
Helmy Abouleish and Ulrich Walter, CEO of the Ulrich Walter GmbH, with co-workers at SEKEM.
ith the purchase of herbs and spices in 1985 Lebensbaum was not only among the very first buyers of products of the SEKEM farm. It was also the first export partner of the initiative. Since then this GermanEgyptian alliance has steadily flourished for the benefit of each of the two ventures and many people beyond that. Over the past couple of decades it has grown into a viable and very close partnership: today the company from Diepholz (Germany) purchases around 80 different commodities from Egypt and has implemented many pioneering projects together with SEKEM. Harmony of Beliefs and Visions as the Basis In 1985 both Ibrahim Abouleish and Ulrich Walter stood at the very beginning of their careers in a just nascent organic food sector. Revenues from Lebensbaum and SEKEM were
still small. But the ideas of the leaders of the two companies proved to be visionary and relied on many crucial parallels. The two organic pioneers - each in his own way - aimed at combining organic farming, environmental protection and ethical principles into a winning formula. “I was looking for producers of organic raw materials, who shared my ideas. Ibrahim Abouleish and SEKEM proved to be a wonderful fit from the very start”, says Walter, the founder and CEO of Lebensbaum. Ulrich Walter intended to oppose the principle of „growth at any price“. Not the destructive force of egotism, but that of the collaborative creation of shared values should be the focus of a trusting and long-term relationship in trade. In Abouleish he found a partner with whom it seemed possible to realise these goals. Their unison in thinking still is a solid foundation for
Lebensbaum and SEKEM have been intimately integrated into the global complex of organic trade for a long time through the purchase and sale of their products. Both are continuously experiencing new challenges thereby meeting new visionary producers who share their own commercial and ethical goals. Together with other partners they founded the international network IAP (“International Association for Ecology and partnership in trade”) a few years ago. It brings together personalities from the world of sustainable enterprise on multiple continents and all fields of business along the value chain. Participants benefit from the experience of reshaping how business is done in an important area of global trade and the comprehensive discussion of hot issues concerning production and trade of organic products. “In the international context Abou leish never only sees the business. In addition to his work he is also energetically involved in furthering intercultural understanding among nations - between Germany, Austria and Egypt, between Muslims and Christians”, says Ulrich Walter with appreciation. On his initiative Abouleish was awarded with the German Federal Cross of Merit in 2008 for this SEKEM Insight | August 2011 | Page 4
processing: from the whole seeds (eg. caraway) to powder (eg. garlic). The herbs and spices from SEKEM go through several quality checks before they are released for processing, mixing, and packaging. They are widely used in Lebensbaum products, for example so-called “mono teas and spices” as well as in many blends of both. Abouleish and Ulrich Walter at the award ceremony of the German Federal Cross of Merit.
extraordinary commitment. „The visions of Abouleish, his courage and his experiences inspire and encourage many to explore new ways of doing things. Through our long-term cooperation and close friendship I could often witness the positive impact that he has had on others.” High-Quality Collaboration Ensures Economic Growth Those who strive to be at the top of an increasingly competitive market for organic products must offer their customers products of the highest quality. Therefore, quality work for SEKEM and Lebensbaum has for many years been at the forefront of both companies’ common business concern. Today, Lebensbaum primarily contributes its extensive knowledge of the European market and the wishes of customers to the marketing and distribution process of the common products. SEKEM contributes its in-depth expertise in plant growing. Both together collaborate on the choice of the proper seeds and the development of analytical methods providing, for instance, exact results on ingredients and their active components. This allows to precisely examine, evaluate, and optimise the cultivation process and postharvest processing. SEKEM today supplies Lebensbaum with about 80 different raw materials. The collection of goods imported include anise and cumin, garlic, mint, and onions, to name just a few. The raw materials arrive in various different states of milling and further
New Products in 2011 In 2011 the constructive cooperation between Lebensbaum and SEKEM culminated in the joint development of the first range of seasoning mixes. Four individual products forming the series “Oriental Moments” have been introduced this year and are now sold very successfully on the German market. Their quality and authenticity convinced distributors and customers alike. Only recently in a prestigious German magazine testers praised the new products: “Four wonderful seasonings - and even in organic quality with the Demeter seal...”. Additional acclaim was voiced for the quality concept behind the products: “In all spices I was the intensity of the mixture that totally surprised me - and they do not use any flavour enhancers.” There is no better endorsement for the success of the joint activities of SEKEM and Lebensbaum. This is why Lebensbaum would like to continue the collaboration in the spirit of partnership that has coined the cooperation that began as a trade partnership 25 years ago. Lebensbaum believes that such cooperation in harmony with nature and man is and will remain the only truly viable model of business today and in the future. Alexandra Buley-Kandzi Alexandra Kandzi-Buley is in charge of press and public relations at the Ulrich Walter GmbH.
More information: http://www.lebensbaum.de
You can visit SEKEM yourself: www.SEKEM-reisen.de www.aventerra.de
New Sustainability Report Tells of SEKEM Expanding Organic Agriculture in Egypt
EKEM’s Report on Sustainable Development has been published and is available for download www. sekem.com. It highlights milestones of sustainable business practice at the initiative during the year 2010. In that year, SEKEM succeeded in further expanding sustainable agriculture in Egypt by developing desert plots on the Sinai, in Bahareya, and in Minya. These activities go hand in hand with SEKEM’s vision to strengthen its own development through supply security and improved quality. By the end of 2010, SEKEM had cultivated in total 1,628 feddan (684 hectares) of fertile soils of which 86% represent new farmland. SEKEM also looked to strengthen its own organic agricultural practice. A partnership between SEKEM and two Danish companies made it possible to start the “Predators Production Company”, which is producing beneficial microorganisms. Extensive studies of predominant pests on arable land had preceded the joint venture. The microorganisms now produced are used as an efficient alternative to pesticides or other chemical products harmful to plants and humans. SEKEM successfully uses them on the Sinai and Adleya farms on potato and tomato plants that cover around 140 feddan (58 ha). For SEKEM “culture” in “agriculture” refers to a crucial pillar of its vision as it captures the human aspect of work, the social fabric, its values, and the relationship between humans and nature. In 2010 the Art School of the Heliopolis Academy awarded the first diploma in eurythmy to an Egyptian student. Eurythmy plays a significant role in bringing culture into the workplace, specifically in those areas that benefit from a refined sense of the environment, animals, and people. Anne Mordhorst
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Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish Receives B.A.U.M-Environmental Prize Award ceremony will take place on 23 September at the airport Hamburg hosted by Federal Minister for Environment, Dr. Norbert Röttgen, and Hamburg‘s First Mayor, Olaf Scholz.
After the ceremony the recipients will speak about their activities in brief interviews with prominent figures of ethical and sustainable business in Germany such as Dr. Michael Otto, chairman of the Otto Group, Ulrich Walter, the founder and CEO of Lebensbaum/Ulrich Walter GmbH and long-term partner of SEKEM, Jürgen Schmidt, spokesman for the memo board of management.
Award ceremony of the 2010 B.A.U.M.-Prize including Thomas Jorberg of GLS Bank.
r. Ibrahim Abouleish will receive this year’s B.A.U.M.Environmental Prize at a ceremony on 23 September to be held in Hamburg, Germany. With this award the German Association for Sustainable Manage ment (B.A.U.M. e.V.) has been rewarding outstanding commitment of entrepreneurs and their companies to environmental protection and sustainable development since 1993. The prize is awarded in several different categories. Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish will receive the award for his 35 years of pioneering work in promoting sustainable development in Egypt and other countries. As B.A.U.M. explains in its press release: “Since its founding in 1977, the SEKEM initiative Dr. Abouleish has inaugurated has set itself the goal of promoting sustainable development in the Middle East. Today the SEKEM Group comprises several farms in
agricultural production. It takes care of medicinal plant cultivation and processing, the marketing of fresh and dry products, the manufacture of clothing produced from its own organic cotton, and the operation of a chain of natural food stores in Cairo. Various other non-profit organizations and foundations are united under the umbrella of the SEKEM initiative.”
The remaining B.A.U.M. prizes of this year will go to Harry JM Brouwer (Unilever Germany GmbH), Dr. Martin Viessmann (Viessmann Werke GmbH & Co. KG), Ralf Lokay (printing Lokay eK), Joerg Weber (ECOreporter. de), Benjamin Adrion (Viva con Agua de St. Pauli e.V.) and Prof. Dr. Claudia Kemfert (German Institute for Economic Research at the Hertie School of Governance). All winners will be present in person at the ceremony to accept the award.
As in previous years, this year’s awards ceremony will be held on 23 September and be embedded into the framework of the two-day annual B.A.U.M. convention. It will be located in the “Green Capital of Europe 2011”, the city of Hamburg. The convention itself will take place on 22 and 23 September sporting the motto “Respecting Social Responsibilities! Success Factors of Sustainability”. Approximately 300 experts from industry, government, academia, and the media are expected to share experience and expertise in the field of sustainable business. German Federal Minister of the Environment, Dr. Norbert Röttgen, and Hamburg’s First Mayor, Olaf Scholz, will award the prizes on 23 September together with members of the board of management of B.A.U.M. The German Association for Sustainable Management (B.A.U.M. e.V.) has been striving to sensitize businesses, communities, and organizations for the opportunities of precautionary environmental protection and sustainable management for more than 26 years. It also supports them in the implementation of best practice. Source: B.A.U.M.
More information: http://www.baumev.de
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Impressions from SEKEM
hat has the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany to do with SEKEM? A lot! After the Egyptian revolution of last January and Egyptians still coping with its aftermath, the need for discussion is greater than ever before. In cafĂŠs and restaurants people form discussion groups and particularly young Egyptians enjoy joining civic engagement groups to jointly elaborate plans for how the future of Egypt may be shaped through them. Also in SEKEM the need for exchange is great among the staff. For years, the Monday afternoon has been the day and time of mutual exchange between them and with general management. As part of the regular, hour-long event the question of the Egyptian Constitution has been discussed in recent months. On these occasions the German Basic Law in its Arabic version was used as a positive example and a basis for discussion and was later also distributed to all employees. SEKEM Insight | August 2011 | Page 7
News in Brief
Strengthening Women in the Struggle for Energy Security
Lebensbaum Receives Prize in Industry Competition
SEKEM to Take Part in BIO AUSTRIA
70 participants from politics, business and civil society from 13 African countries met recently in the Nigerian capital Abuja to discuss the introduction of renewable energies and the role played by women in the process. The event was hosted by the World Future Council, in which Dr. Ibrahim
The Diepholz-based organic food company and long-term partner of SEKEM, the Ulrich Walter GmbH, in July received a prize in the industry competition „Ideenfeuer 2011“ and came in on 2. place. The award recognizes the outstanding sustainability strategy of the organic specialist for coffee, tea, and spices. The strategy tightly integrates the staff of Lebensbaum and puts them centre stage in the business development process. The fivemember jury composed of experts from independent research and advisory services in the areas of marketing, production and organisational development praised the concept as “exemplary”.
Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish will speak in Vienna on Monday, 26 September, 19h on the topic of sustainable development in Egypt. The lecture is part of the current BIO-AUSTRIA information campaign. BIO AUSTRIA, the Organization of Austrian organic farmers, has invited participants to a reception following the speech in the Oval Hall. SEKEM will also be represented with a booth at the concurrent BIO AUSTRIA Fair.
Abouleish is involved in the field of future economics. The events have the goal of improving the global policy framework for renewable energies. The participants discussed issues of technology, project development and financing opportunities as well as opportunities for Africa to entirely skip oil-based development and move directly to renewable energies. A „solar-powered public viewing“ of the Women‘s Football World Cup match between Germany and Nigeria completed the event. To date, few African women have access to electricity. About 70% of households in the rural areas of Nigeria use firewood for cooking. This practice causes approximately 400,000 deaths every year. Women generally have less access to power, they use energy differently than men and can less affect its production. Here, better access to energy services could dramatically increase the social, economic and political status of women, for example by reducing the time and effort spent on housework. Elizabeth Thabethe, Deputy Economy Minister of South Africa, commented: „Women should lead the energy revolution.“ Source: WFC
“For over 30 years, we have been consistently focusing on organic quality, environmental protection and social responsibility. It pleases me immensely that this sustainable business model has now been honoured with this prize”, said Ulrich Walter, founder of Lebensbaum.
BIO AUSTRIA, the Austrian organization of organic farmers also serves as a network for stakeholders involved in the organic sectors. Through BIO AUSTRIA the organic farmers in Austria have a created a community based on the values of ecology, dignity of animals, research and innovation, fair pricing, and a comprehensive organic food culture. The organisers kindly request participants to register for the lecture at: email@example.com.
! „Ideenfeuer 2011“ honours the most innovative companies in the field of agricultural and food production in the German counties of Lower Saxony and Northrhine-Westphalia and aims to demonstrate that these firms in the northwest of the country are among the best in Europe and worldwide. The competition is supported by the regional governments of Lower Saxony and Northrhine-Westphalia and by leading associations in rural areas.
More information: http://www.mqw.at/de/programm/detail/?event_ id=6502
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 insight@SEKEM.com Pictures: Pages 1, 2, 3: Martina Dinkel; 7: SEKEM No republication without written consent by the publisher.
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