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Nr. 111 - November 2011


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

Editorial Dear Readers, SEKEM reclaims large desert areas by applying technologies from biodynamic agriculture. Large quantities of compost are required to accomplish this task and they are produced directly in SEKEM’s own facilities. Exclusively from organic waste SEKEM produces approximately 85.000 tons of the natural fertilizer annually that, by the way, also serve to avoid some 100.000 tons of CO2equivalent greenhouse gases TÜV certified. To establish production facilities of this scale and in accordance with high quality requirements, SEKEM has been working together with its partner SEKEM Soil & More for several years. This company, whose employees in part have many years of experience working in and with SEKEM in Egypt, advises SEKEM not only on any matters related to production and the running of the compost plants. It is also committed to assist countries in the developing world in the installation of composting facilities that bringing small farmers into wage and bread while they serve to protect the climate. How SEKEM and Soil & More work together is explained in our feature article this month.

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



Demeter Products

Using Compost to Improve Soils

The Benefits of Eurythmy in SEKEM

SEKEM Seasoning Nominated

Employing Compost to Further Sustainable Agriculture in Egypt Together with Soil & More SEKEM has revolutionized the composting industry in Egypt over the past years. In our series of partner portraits we explain how the co-operation with the Dutch company works and to what ends.

With Soil & More SEKEM has built large-scale composting facilities in Egypt. Their products also benefit conventional producers.


n times of dwindling resources, steady growth of the world’s population, prolonged loss of fertile farmland and worsening climate change, it is essential to rethink the foundations of a viable and sustainable agriculture. Modern intensive agriculture of the industrial age is directly or indirectly responsible for many of the current global challenges. It swallows, for example, about 70% of the world‘s available freshwater and contributes to greenhouse gas production mainly

through the production and application of mineral fertilizers that it necessarily depends on. Thus, it significantly contributes to climate change. The increasing use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides also results in a dramatic deterioration of soil fertility. Humanity, while still growing, continues to loose several thousand hectares of fertile land every day. The promotion and maintenance of healthy and fertile soil has long since become a global challenge. SEKEM Insight | November 2011 | Page 1


But the care and development of sustainable agriculture is only one of the goals of the long-term cooperation of SEKEM and the company Soil & More International. Soil & More is an international company headquartered in the Netherlands, which focuses on the development and operation of composting facilities and emission reduction projects as well as services centring around the issue of promoting sustainability and best practice among farmers and suppliers.


Much valuable biomass is wasted in many developing countries thus polluting the environment and contributing to global warming.

Biomass an Untapped Treasure in Developing Countries The idea for Soil & More originally came from the desire to support farmers desiring to learn how to improve or restore the structure and fertility of their soils. As part of their work, the founders quickly learned that in many developing countries priceless biomass is not fed back into the agricultural cycle, but is in fact rotting or is burned resulting in a significant and negative impact on the environment. To solve this problem while providing growers with a sustainable alternative to expensive and environmentally harmful fertilizers, Soil & More began with the development of a process that converts the unused biomass in nutrient-rich compost and thus closes the recycling cycle. SEKEM is supported by Soil & More not only in compost production but also in the reduction of emissions and in the preparation of their own CO2 and water balances. Agricultural scientists and experts communicate their professional knowledge in soil science to local workers in compost production in specialised training courses and continually work for the optimization of the production process. In 2007 and 2008 SEKEM and Soil & More began to operate two

composting plants on an industrial scale, one near the original SEKEM farm grounds and one near Alexandria. On these two installations covering 30 acres of surface area the two companies produce about 85.000 tonnes of purely organically manufactured compost every year. Sophisticated Technology to Save Precious Soil As part of the composting process organic wastes such as straw, chicken and cattle manure, crop residues and water hyacinths are collected from the region and stacked in several layers forming a large heap of compost. For optimum composting conditions, the exact order in which the raw materials are stacked is particularly important.

Land Development and Climate Change Besides its employment in demeter-based agriculture, the compost SEKEM produces is especially needed for the development of desert soils. In only the last 24 months a total of 3.000 new acres of desert land have been developed through irrigation and the regular use of compost. Additionally, the compost produced by Soil & More and SEKEM also directly contributes to climate protection. For example, it helps to avoid the methane emissions that usually result from the conventional disposal of biomass. This contribution to reducing the greenhouse effect is compensated with tradable

During the process of controlled microbial composting CO2 levels and core temperature are regularly measured. If necessary, the compost pile is turned and watered. In about 8 weeks, the biomass is transformed into a nutrient-rich compost ready to use, which supplies farms large and small all over Egypt with a substitute to chemical fertilizers and many pesticides. Farmers benefit from an improved soil structure and a resulting lower water consumption, reduced dependence on mineral fertilizers, increased carbon sequestration capacity of the ground as well as a greater variety of microorganisms in the topsoil. Additionally, compost is also popular in conventional agriculture. As the soils in the desert around the original SEKEM farm are slightly alkaline, exhibit very low carbon levels and suffer from salinisation the long-term regular use of compost can counteract these characteristics and lead to a lasting change in the composition of the soil, the buildup of a sustained layer of humus, and thus a substantial increase in the proportion of organic substances in ground.

Green “waste� - water hyacinths here - is collected and processed into compost by SEKEM.

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The transformation of barren desert into fertile farmland soils in a purely natural way, without application of chemical fertilizers, clearly demonstrated the potential that lies in the use of compost in developing countries.

emission permits. Thus, each year in accordance with the climate policies issued by the United Nations, about

improving food security, and the maintenance of the countryside. The production of compost by SEKEM and Soil & More makes an important contribution to this development - not only on its own premises, but also with conventional agricultural producers in the country.

100.000 tons of greenhouse gases are avoided. This amount is certified by Germany’s respected technical surveillance service TĂœV-Nord which also credits the equivalent of this figure in the form of officially tradeable carbon emission certificates.

Quantifying Sustainability

Why? Composting in sustainable agriculture with its many positive effects on agricultural soils has an excellent potential to meet many great challenges of our time. SEKEM is a prime example of how this can be achieved successfully. Done properly and applied in the long term, compost does not only promise better food supply and a more gentle approach to using scarce resources like water. It also offers countless farmers in disadvantaged rural areas a more secure livelihood. What was previously discarded as waste is now converted into a valuable raw material, which contributes to creating dependable income,

Besides the construction of composting facilities, the transfer of knowledge is a particular concern of SEKEM and Soil & More. The improvement of agricultural labour practices and the provision of best practice methods to small-holder farmers in developing countries and emerging markets is therefore also the aim of the two organisations’ North-South partnership for development. In the fields of soil fertility, biomass, carbon and water management, the partners offer advisory services to other Egyptian stakeholders and they also assist in the creation of CO2 and water balances. To make sustainability more measurable is another core goal of the cooperation between Soil & More You can visit SEKEM yourself:

and SEKEM that is directly targeting corporate clients. Together they are working to produce better sustainability indicators in the areas of water, energy, animal and plant environment etc. The development of indicators is crucial in allowing private sector companies to understand the impact, benefits, and the costs of their commitment. Such metrics are an important prerequisite for the long-term success of the environmental protection measures of private-sector actors. Future Prospects For Soil & More, it is of great importance to have found a reliable partner in SEKEM who is following the same holistic goals. The example of the SEKEM Initiative is a particularly enlightening one when looking at the positive consequences regional action can have on the global level, and how economic activity can be directly linked to social progress. In the future, both partners plan to also export the knowledge of Soil & More and SEKEM to beneficiaries outside of the initiative. Miriam Bogatzki Miriam Bogatzki is responsible for Press and Public Relations at Soil & More.


More information:

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The Benefits of Eurythmy in SEKEM Eurythmy is an integral part of the artistic work at SEKEM. But its use exceeds the usual forms of its application. In Egypt, social eurythmy has proven itself even in the business context.

of social eurythmy allowing the practicing individual to directly experience social relationships and their own creativity in dealing with them not on an intellectual, but a direct, physical level. In a way, such practice serves to relate to each other the universe and the soul, of which the aforementioned lyrical piece speaks, by connecting the I and the world through art. Eurythmy is a pedagogical design element in SEKEM in almost all social environments and for all applications, from kindergarten to school, to apprenticeship, to life and work in teacher training. Kindergarten SEKEM Eurythmy Ensemble is dedicated not only to artistic, but also the educational and socially formative aspects of eurythmy.


lyrical quote from Rudolf Steiner stands at the ideational centre of the well-known daily and weekly circles that regularly bring together all staff at SEKEM. It is spoken by all co-workers and expresses a central concern of SEKEM that also plays a seminal role in the diversity of artistic work within the initiative: To admire beauty / heed the truth / worship the noble / decide the good / it leadeth man / to his goals in life / achieving the right through his actions / to peace through his emotions / to the light through his mind / and teaches him trust / in the path that is divine / in everything there is / the universe - the depths of the soul. The short piece serves as a leitmotif also for the eurythmy ensemble’s concerns in personality and communitybuilding through the art of eurythmy.

In SEKEM, the socially and individually formative function of the art stands in the foreground. This is because confidence in self-responsible action and sensitivity to others and the social sphere may well be experienced and enriched through the specific art of movement eurythmy provides. Eurythmy contributes to the harmonisation of ones perception of the self and the outside world and has a healing effect on the mental, emotional and physical constitution of the individual. Eurythmy captures an entire person’s abilities for movement, inside (mental) and outside (physical): his will through targeted, focused motions, his emotions through new and profound experiences of ones own spiritual dimension, and his mind through a repeated exercise of creative thought. The soul and the world are brought into a healthy relationship to each other through the application

Eurythmy-based games of movement, rhythmic plays in the circle of children, the stimulation of the imagination through stories and fairy tales, poems and songs open up the small child‘s world of learning and prepare it for the intellectual formation of the later school years. For life is movement, especially in childhood. Those who become flexible, or “moveable” both inwardly and outwardly, will find themselves well-prepared for a busy life in adulthood. Just as the child tirelessly plays with joy and enthusiasm, so it may later work as an adult. School From first to last grade eurythmy helps to bring the spiritual in a harmonious relationship with the physical growth of the adolescent. Dentition and puberty are not only physiologically challenging phases in any child’s development. Eurythmy helps dealing with them through artistic work that promotes emotional development and contributes to a closer union of the SEKEM Insight | November 2011 | Page 4


soul and the body. Eurythmy has been accompanying the curriculum of the SEKEM School in many ways for years and is adapted to fit the needs of each child’s individual age. Apprenticeship The process of artistic work clearly sets out a particular path for the practicing individual: from the decision to keep to a schedule of practice and persist in following it to the achievement of artistic mastery and completion of a work piece. Training in eurythmy serves to assist this process and thereby enables the apprentice to better respond to the needs of his or her future professional life. It encompasses (self-imposed) discipline, an independently designed process of work, and, at its end, the product, which must satisfy the customer.

Professional Eurythmy Training „Learning by doing - doing while learning“ has always been a guiding pedagogical principle at SEKEM. All eurythmy students in SEKEM are not „only“ students, but, depending on their skill level, also eurythmy teachers in all areas in which eurythmy is applied. They are confronted with the reality of teaching from the beginning. The skills learned and the experience gathered in their own study can be directly applied and turns into a „mirror“ of one‘s own authentic engagement with the basic elements of art. The close proximity of work, education and community life in SEKEM has many times proven helpful in this.

In SEKEM eurythmy is also applied in the workplace.

The SEKEM Idea in the Arts

It is furthermore important that the trainees do come in contact with an artistic activity in the first place. Most students come to SEKEM from state schools and have been accustomed to curricula that provide for only limited exposure to artistic activities. For them the artistic process of creative self-realisation turns into a crucial and formative element for an individual’s personality. It is amazing to witness how these young people visibly grow over time in their personal artistic capacities. The characteristic forces of religious reverence so prevalent in Egypt as they remain deeply rooted in the social fabric provide a very good basis eurythmy training. Eurythmy in Work Life

at machines or work fatigue harden the body and make relaxation at regular intervals a necessity. Work on a computer can paralyse both in a literal and a metaphorical sense; physical refreshment as well as mentally stimulating movement is then a welcome and balancing diversion. Beyond

individual training, joint exercises can help promote team spirit and refine social awareness. Practicing sophisticated motion tasks encourage the individual to better understand complicated procedures of individual and social development. Mentally hygienic exercises help every co-worker to

Eurythmy is of crucial importance in early childhood education.

In daily work life eurythmy has a variety of tasks, depending on the precise work area to which it is applied. For example, eurythmy can skilfully compensate for one-sided movements (e.g. in a factory) through greater awareness of one’s physical composure. Monotonous movements

cope better with his workload, to overcome fatigue in the workplace, and to promote a greater quality of life.

SEKEM strives to integrate earth, man and the environment in a sustainable fashion. Eurythmy is contributing to this vision by preparing the emotional and physical basis for the integral development of individuals and the social groups within which they live and work. Just as the farmer cultivates the natural world, eurythmy fosters the mental and physical constitution of man in a living environment. It also strengthens the individual’s abilities to contribute to cultural development outside of SEKEM at a later date, a capacity that - especially in these times of social upheaval - seems to be of particular importance. Here SEKEM is convinced that eu­ r yth­ my can make a significant contribution. It cultivates the inner equilibrium of the individual as well as of the community, because it promotes a psychologically and spiritually sensitive attitude of man to the world. And it positively influences the atmosphere of the place where it is cultivated. Martina Dinkel, Christoph Graf Christoph Graf and Martina Dinkel are in charge of the activities of SEKEM’s eurythmy ensemble.

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Impressions from SEKEM


n 17 November 2011 the “dove of peace” that, in the 150th year of the birthday of Rudolf Steiner, is being awarded to pioneers of peace building and conflict resolution worldwide, was passed to Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish. The artist Richard Hillinger has devoted one of his bronze doves to the project. Since the 10th December 2008, the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 30 more doves “fly” as messengers of peace through the world. The project is being documented at and is being supported by 30 German museums, the German Bundestag and the Federal Chancellery. The initiative’s intention also includes the creation of a “GLOBAL ICON”, an “evocative image database”, the varied interconnections of which shall mirror the dynamics of cultural syncretism and encourage real-life interventions. „7 billion people are living in this world. I wish for all of them to have their own dove of peace”, said Dr. Abouleish at the handover.

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News in Brief

Lebensbaum Promotes Climate Protection

Tajine Arabica Nominated for Demeter Product of the Year

WFC Annual Meeting with Helmy Abouleish

Organic pioneer Lebensbaum in November 2011 became the first “godfather” to a peat bog in the Diepholz area (Northern Germany). With this new form of sponsorship the producer of organic coffee, tea and spices has begun supporting a very special, local climate and environmental protection project. The bog is located in close proximity to the corporate facilities and forms part of a group of 14 other moors in a 24.000 hectare area, of which about 7.300 acres have been rehabilitated.

The collaboration product of SEKEM and the German organic food producer Lebensbaum, the spice blend Tajine Arabica, has recently been nominated for the award “Demeter Product of the Year”.

On 4 to 6 November the World Future Council’s (WFC) council members from around the world came together for the fifth Annual General Meeting in Hamburg. Helmy Abouleish participated for SEKEM. In topic-specific workshops council members, consultants and staff discussed the work priorities for the coming year and approved the work program for 2012.

Tajine Arabica is the first Demeterquality seasoning offering not only a high level of holistically motivated production quality, but also an authentic Arabian cooking experience. The product came to market in 2011 and also represents the successful global cooperation of the two Demeter partners. Even the packaging - an attractive, round metal box - reflects the holistic quality of this versatile product, which is also offered at a very affordable price.

The restoration of many more peat bog areas is an important contribution to climate protection as drained bogs give off large amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment. In the case of the Diepholz moors this amounts to 900.000 tonnes a year. The revival of the lowland bog is very time-consuming and money-intensive. Lebensbaum has committed itself to support this work over the next three years with a total amount of 70.000 euros. „However, we do not only wish to contribute money here. We are also committed to support this project under our auspices and in the long term thus bringing an innovative concept of environmental protection to fruition,“ says Walter Ulrich, founder and CEO of Lebensbaum. Source: Lebensbaum


More information:

Dr. Michael Otto, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Otto GmbH & Co KG and the World Future Council Honorary Council Member, said: „In the councils of the World Future Council I meet fascinating people who are committed to the success of their vision of a more sustainable future. I am pleased that the Council meeting will again be held in Hamburg, a city quickly becoming the gateway to a brighter future of the world.” Source: WFC

The seasoning, the recipe of which is based on traditional Arabic cuisine, is easy to handle and delivers an authentic flavour. No artificial flavourings, no flavour enhancers, and no other additives are used in the blend. With cumin, onion, garlic, coriander and black cumin Tajine Arabica contains a mix of typical oriental spices that have been grown in Egypt for a long time on a large scale and are still being used in the local cuisine. The carefully blended formulation provides dishes with a typically Middle Eastern taste experience without covering the unique character of other ingredients.

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: Pages 1,2,3: Soil & More; 4,5: SEKEM; 6: Anne Mordhorst; 7: WFC No republication without written consent by the publisher.

Source: Lebensbaum

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SEKEM Insight 11.11 EN  

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