A few years ago, Helmy Abouleish, the manager of Sekem, visited the Cradle to Cradle Congress in Germany. He was convinced that the path his father had chosen for the project was the right one, and that the development it had undergone since 1977 was ample proof for that.
But Abouleish also acknowledged that in light of the political developments that had taken place in Egypt over the years, people sometimes tended to be preoccupied with things other than organic farming and natural pharmacy. It is therefore all the more astonishing what Sekem has accomplished during these difficult years – it has even established its own university, which is experiencing huge demand. I recently had an opportunity to travel to Egypt to see for myself.
Sekem is a development initiative near Cairo. At its core the farm operates biodynamic agriculture on about 70 hectares of land. However, over the past 40 years it has developed into a multi-faceted agro-industrial group of companies with various NGOs. To this day, Sekem remains a social enterprise – so it has never lost its connection with its roots. The project stands for quality jobs, family as well as employee cohesion and the education of children.
POPULAR WITH YOUNG PEOPLE
Initially, I was a little worried because the political upheaval of the past years − which had gone hand in hand with a massive devaluation of Egypt’s currency – had been compounded by the personal fate of the Abouleish family, which had founded Sekem. Ibrahim Abouleish, initiator, head and the good soul of the project, died in 2017. His son Helmy continues Sekem, and he does so in his father’s spirit. In 2018, he became President of Demeter International. Meanwhile, many young people head to Sekem to live, work and contribute ideas. Holistic thinking and the concept of an cycle-based economy are finding followers among the young generation − and that’s a good thing.
The Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development, which belongs to Sekem, has developed particularly well – the fact that it is so attractive to young people is a hopeful sign. It’s a pity that the institutions has been limited in terms of space by the construction of roads on all sides of the campus. Education is a valuable commodity in a country with such a young population. Every year, around 800,000 young people graduate from school and seek apprenticeships or opportunities for higher education. Heliopolis graduates are bound to have good chances on the job market later.
In all, there were plenty of reasons to celebrate, and we did just that − together with the Sekem workers we held a Spring Festival, complete with dancing, singing and presentations.