While yesterday we were able to take a look at SEKEM’s educational activities, today we explored SEKEM’s business operations: its agricultural work, as well as its production of food, beverages and clothing.
After trying a typical Egyptian bean dish for breakfast, we drove to the ‘Aleya’ farm, one of four farms owned by SEKEM. All the land, now fertile, was once desert land, reclaimed through irrigation and the use of compost.
Compost: the ‘black gold’
Our next stop was a set of compost piles, which had a lot more to it than we had imagined. Compost is a key aspect of biodynamic farming, to the extent that it is referred to as ‘black gold’. It enriches the soil, and when used to grow crops, less CO2 is emitted and less water is required. In biodynamic farming, several biodynamic compost and field preparation stages are involved. One of the steps in field preparation involves filling a cow’s horn with manure and leaving it buried in the ground for one season. The substance is then mixed with water and sprayed onto the fields, which enhances production, as SEKEM’s tests prove.
We were guided through this intriguing process by Angela Hofmann, who started working for SEKEM 35 years ago. At the time, she paid a visit to what back then was little more than desert land and a vision. She stayed for one week and then decided to dedicate her life to the work. During this trip we are meeting several people with similar stories, individuals who have worked for SEKEM for many years.
From plant to package
At the SEKEM company Lotus we witnessed the processing of biodynamic herbs, spices and seeds. Among other things, anise seed is processed here, which is mainly used for tea for the local market. Anice seed tea is incredibly popular in Egypt. Later in the afternoon we visited ISIS Organic, where we saw the same seeds being packaged into teabags and boxes, ready to be distributed.
Finally, we gained insights into the production of organic clothing and toys at NatureTex, responsible for a production line which is Fairtrade and GOTS certified. There are many stages involved in the processing of cotton and SEKEM monitors each step. The workers at the facilities here are responsible for cutting, printing, sowing, stuffing and packaging.
It was inspiring to see how SEKEM has been able to set up successful, sophisticated businesses in very challenging circumstances, while maintaining high social and environmental standards.
This is the third in a series of blogs covering a partner visit to SEKEM in Egypt. Partner visits provide people within the Oikocredit network the opportunity to visit and learn more about one of our partners across the globe. Those participating in the visit will keep you updated on their findings through this blog.
Edwin, great to hear these great achievements with help of Oikocredit!
Have a good trip there!
Hi Edwin, it looks like the group is having a good trip. With your IT background, I will be interested in what you learn about Sekem's current capacities and areas for improvement in how they can use technology for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Good job, Edwin and colleagues! It looks like Oikocredit and partners are making a valuable contribution and really making a difference in this part of the world.
We are certainly enjoying this opportunity and are learning a lot about SEKEM and about Egypt in general. Thanks for your comment, I will think about this and get back to you!