We started our journey home at the crack of dawn following a fantastic visit to SEKEM. As the farm buildings receded into the darkness, my thoughts turned to the additional baggage we were bringing back with us. It was an amazing week of seeing the unfolding of a vision.
Our seven-day programme covered all aspects of SEKEM's holistic approach to sustainable development and giving back to the community. Its admirable business model has a closed value-chain through its approach to education as a foundation of human development, and its focus on ethical principles in managing its companies.
Dr Ibrahim Abouleish welcoming the Oikocredit group at his house. From left to right: Wilfried Steen (SA board member Lower Saxony-Bremen), Cheryl and James Jackson (SA member Switzerland Romandy), Malu Padilla and Edwin Deventer (Oikocredit staff champions), Dr Ibrahim, Archie Pearson (UK-NSO staff), Michael and Karla Bergman (Oikocredit investors from Germany), and José Augusto Cordón, Guatemala country manager.
We met Dr Ibrahim Abouleish, the visionary behind the SEKEM initiative, and his son Helmy Abouleish, SEKEM's CEO, on two separate occasions. Both men's passion for SEKEM's mission and vision was infectious. When asked if he ever thought of giving up when things did not seem to be working out, Helmy Abouleish quickly replied: "Giving up never occurred to me, in spite of the difficult circumstances and challenges we faced.”
So what’s in the baggage we’re taking back?
For Michael Bergmann, "SEKEM is a tiny flower in the desert.”
"SEKEM seems like an oasis in the Egyptian political, social and economic reality…. it is like a beacon of a new time," adds Wilfried Steen. Dr. Ibrahim and his partners have a strong vision on sustainability and a realistic approach to entrepreneurship.
"It is incredible to see what SEKEM has built up…its positive impact on its environment - socially and economically. SEKEM encourages individual responsibility and development while maintaining a strong sense of community," according to Edwin Deventer.
José Augusto Cordón couldn’t agree more: “It’s impressive: a vision of a man changes everything by implementing sustainability, both for the land and the community."
"SEKEM places an emphasis on the holistic nature of cultural inclusion. The only way it can grow is if all parts grow together,” added Archie Pearson. He admires SEKEM's comprehensive gender strategy in a historically male-dominated society.
For Cheryl and James Jackson the SEKEM visit was a realization of "Our relationship to earth and our responsibility to care for it. It is an example of the power of an idea, optimism, energy, perseverance and entrepreneurship."
Work in progress
"Our success as Oikocredit is measured when our partners do exemplary good work on sustainable development; SEKEM is an excellent partner to invest in,” Wilfried Steen concludes.
We saw how SEKEM’s vision of a sustainable society is put into practice. It takes a visionary and a community to carry it forward; holistic sustainable development requires societal transformation.
We hope another Oikocredit group will visit SEKEM again and be inspired by its progress in realizing its vision.
Included in the programme was a visit to Egypt’s ancient treasures. Oikocredit group at the pyramids of Giza.
This is the final blog 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.