While attending Biofach fair 2020 in Germany, Mohamed Anwer, SEKEM’s export manager, met a Russian team who were interested in SEKEM’s vision. They wanted to convey the vision in Russia and decided to visit Egypt and learn more about SEKEM’s story. The new partners visited the SEKEM main farm and even the SEKEM desert farm in Wahat where they learned on the ground about biodynamic farming. They also met Helmy Abouleish, the president of Demeter International and SEKEM’s CEO, and started a co-operation with SEKEM by launching 10 Demeter certified SEKEM products in Russia. In an interview with the SEKEM News, the team shared their feelings, thoughts and wishes regarding their cooperation with SEKEM and their time in Egypt.
Interview with Lena Jakobi (founder of the retail and online project of organic whole foods and director of the import company), Natalya Zhabitskaya (sales responsible) and Irina Chugunova (marketing product manager).
SN: Why did you then decide to collaborate with SEKEM?
Lena Jakobi: SEKEM’s ability to act in a holistic way is unique. These values are very dear to me. The products are the result of the thoughtful approach in all aspects of human activities. They are vital and meet the highest standard of what nature can offer us.
SN: Which products did you choose and why?
Lena Jakobi: We decided to take not the bulk (what obviously would be commercially more interesting) but SEKEM branded products. By the brand an the name of SEKEM, we can communicate best the values that we share together and talk about biodynamic agriculture.
Firstly, we picked up tea tastes that are unusual for our market and chose equivalents of well established on the Russian market products. For example, anise tea is not common to drink in Russia. There are a lot of dates offered in Russia but we needed different from what is available. We wanted to offer sesame seeds of very good quality. In the upcoming year, the range will grow double.
SN: What did you like about Egypt and SEKEM?
Lena Jakobi: I find it impressive to see, how expansion can go together with the principles of no harming. SEKEM has humble attitude and is welcoming guests warmly. I am still overwhelmed how much attention we got from Mohamed Anwer and the team despite the amount of work they have.
We loved the people, the food, the culture. Besides, we have been thankful for the sun that accompanied us every day. Egyptian sun and SEKEM’s care are still warming us up.
Natalya Zhabitskaya: I have great memories of our stay in SEKEM and Egypt – the desert filled with calmness, eternity, stones and sand, and the unbelievable transformation that SEKEM brought to its land and people. Culture, education and biodiversity, from the outside it looks like a living wonder and inside – philosophy, sustainability, sense of community, commitment and inspiration. The energy of people willing to make a difference and nature grateful for the care and hard work. I also feel blessed for having SEKEM’s products, their vitality and the potential that is ahead of us. We’ve learned a lot and come back with many good thoughts to think about.
Irina Chugunova: I feel that during the 4 days I visited SEKEM I saw and learned so much as in a few weeks! SEKEM seemed like a big family of devoted people, who work hard and are really excited about what they do. And they are also very friendly and hospitable, ready to help and be with you no matter how busy they are.
When we visited the Wahat farm, I could see how biodynamics works in such hard conditions and that was amazing! To see the sand from one side and greenfield from another is something you can encounter once in a lifetime.
Being in Moscow and reading a lot about SEKEM, I knew about the holistic approach of the company. But sometimes words remain words, being not so close to reality. In SEKEM, holism is a way of life and it is so well realized. Every sphere is touched by this wise and thoughtful approach and it makes life so much better. Both for nature and people. I feel there remains a lot to see and experience and I hope to be back someday!
SN: What are your future wishes and plans?
Lena Jakobi: It is an interesting and challenging journey to introduce the Demeter philosophy and at the same time getting awareness for the brand SEKEM. Being part of the process when people start realising that the choices they make create their reality is a very satisfying job.
The plan is to introduce SEKEM not only in major cities but also in the countryside where right now the awareness and understanding is not really existing. That’s the journey. And we are looking forward to it!