How can fig jam help fostering sustainable development, for instance? Rapunzel Naturkost, a leading organic food producer in Europe and a long-standing SEKEM partner, funds two of SEKEMs social and environmental activities with its so called Hand in Hand-Fund (HIH) which is managed by the Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. (German Environmental Aid).
For 17 years, Rapunzel imports SEKEMs Biodynamic sesame, processed by one of SEKEMs companies, Lotus. But the relationship between SEKEM and Rapunzel now goes far beyond its commercial transactions; Rapunzel’s HIH program funds two projects at SEKEM.
Self-dependant rural women
Through the HIH program, Rapunzel provided training sessions to 50 rural women of SEKEMs contracted farmers‘ wives and daughters from the Fayoum Oasis and adjacent villages, for instance. The training sessions enabled the women to develop different technical skills of small scale food and cosmetic production based on the surrounding crops available in their rural areas. For instance, they made together fig jam and, different dairy products as well as pickles, concentrated tomatoes and liquid soap.
“Such projects open the door to creating job opportunities,” Naglaa Ahmed, Project Coordinator at SEKEM
“The women were eager to learn and to develop themselves technically,” says Naglaa Ahmed, Project Coordinator at SEKEM. Through the know-how which the women received at the training, they can now create an income and network, but also use the healthy products at home. The training also enhanced their communication and negotiation skills . “Such projects open the door to creating job opportunities to the women in the non-urban areas. Hence, they can assist in increasing their household income without being financially dependent on their husbands,” Naglaa states.
Promising future with trees named by its leaders
HIH not only empowers women, but also the young generation: the students. In this context, SEKEM for Land Reclamation and the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development conducted collaboratively a project of planting 2000 trees funded by Rapunzel’s HIH. SEKEM planted 1900 trees on its farm near to the Minya Governorate in Upper Egypt. The rest one hundred trees were planted around the fence of the Heliopolis University in Cairo. Who planted them? The Heliopolis University students!
The project mainly targeted the Heliopolis University students by introducing them to the current ecological challenges like climate change and desertification. “It resembled an efficient practical part of the sustainable development course, which we offer to the students within the Core Program,” says Mohamed Anwar, the trainer from the Center of Excellence at Heliopolis University. The Sustainable Development course aims at developing the student’s capacity for innovation and social responsibility towards his community. “25 students planted one hundred trees. Each tree is tagged with the name of its sower,” Mohamed Anwar states enthusiastically. Within the coming years, the trees will grow surrounding the Heliopolis University and carrying the names of the promising future leaders – an emphasis to the vision of the sustainable society that SEKEM has been fostering for 40 years.