In late February, I visited Sekem in Egypt to see how Dr Ibrahim Abouleish and his family have transformed the desert using biodynamic farming and much else. He has a fourfold vision of society as a dynamic interaction between culture, social business, societal life and ecology. Each system needs careful cultivation and respect for boundaries, as well as integration, as these four systems interact at every point. At a time when people all over the world are looking for healthy social, economic, ecological and economic forms, Sekem offers a working model-which nevertheless the founders still say is very much in development, as work in progress.
Here is the Sekem motto and vision:
We aim towards living together according to social forms which reflect human dignity and further development, striving towards higher ideals. Our main goal is a developmental impulse for people, society and the earth. Sekem wants to contribute to the comprehensive development of people, society and the earth, inspired by higher ideals. The cooperation of economic, social and cultural activities is stimulated by science, art and religion.
Sekem has set itself the following goals for the economic sphere:
- Healing the earth through biodynamic farming
- Development and production of herbal remedies and any kind of product or service which relates to real consumer requirements and has standards of the highest quality.
- Marketing in associative cooperation between farmers, producers, traders and consumers.
- We aim to advance the individual development of the person through the cultural institutions. Education towards freedom is the goal of Sekem’s educational institutions for children, adolescents and adults. Health care and therapies using natural healing remedies are provided by Sekem. The Sekem Academy for Applied Arts and Sciences researches and teaches solutions to pertinent questions from all areas of life.
- Socially, Sekem furthers a community of people from all over the world who recognize the dignity of the individual, enabling both learning to work and working to learn, and providing equal rights to all.
I have many wonderful memories-attending the beautiful Mosque in the heart of Sekem by the school on Fridays for prayers and realizing that Moslems, like Quakers, pray directly with God-not needing priests as intermediaries. The vivid herb gardens and plant nurseries with experiments; the composting areas; the friendly cotton factory workers at Naturetex, holding hands with 2000 or so other people in the Thursday afternoon closing circles, the vibrant performances of the school children, the beautiful grounds and architecture..and not least the warm welcome, and seeing Dr Abouleish encouraging people in their life paths and tasks….
And Max Abouleish Boas, the sustainability manager, kindly invited me to accompany him with Oscar who was piloting new tree seedling experiment in semi arid lands-to see if trees can grow with very little water-to a new Sekem farm at Al Wahat near the Bahariya Oasis in the western desert. Imagine the desert scenes in the English Patient!
The concept was to feed the trees with a little water through small wicks from three buckets of water only, covered up against the sun, protected from goats, and supported by micro rhizza micro organisms..so that the trees’ tap roots had to go vertically down to reach ground water at 3-16 metres below the surface..as opposed to having to provide surface drip feed irrigation, which uses a lot of water.
So imagine a field of chamomile flowering next to a sand desert-and white, beehive shaped Nubian type farm dwellings round a courtyard, surrounded by trees and date palms.
One question Sekem had was of how to encourage further investment in their new farms such as at Al Wahat in sustainable development and biodynamic farming (www.sekem.com)