For many years, an agricultural training has been offered at SEKEMs Vocational Training Center (VTC). Of course, Biodynamic farming is practiced at SEKEM, but due to state regulations it was difficult to offer neither an appropriate curriculum, nor the study materials existed. The Vriendenkring SEKEM (the Dutch association of SEKEM Friends) is now supporting SEKEM in establishing a true Biodynamic agricultural training at the VTC. Hendrik Jan Bakker from the Dutch SEKEM Friends reports on the process of the new training approach.
When Helmy Abouleish visited the Dutch Biodynamic Vocational Training Centre Warmonderhof in 2015, its lecturer Ruud Hendriks offered to make available Warmonderhof’s curriculum. I translated it into English so that SEKEM could adapt it to local conditions and the Egyptian state regulations. Just when I had finished, we were approached by Marjan Smits, who offered SEKEM to assist in setting up a new curriculum. Marjan studied Biodynamic agriculture at Landwijzer in Belgium and had set up an Organic farm in Italy together with a young couple, who also run an organic restaurant and provide courses in the field of Organic farming, sustainable food produce and healthy cooking. Marjan went to SEKEM for two weeks in December 2016 and spoke with the agricultural teachers to see what was already there and what needed further development.
Marjan: “The teachers really want a good Biodynamic curriculum with study materials, and they also expressed the wish to be further trained, especially in their style of information transfer. SEKEM would like to introduce a more interactive teaching style, encouraging students to participate actively in the theory and practice lessons, and develop responsibility for the land entrusted to them, for example by giving the students responsibility for the school farm.”
In addition to Warmonderhof’s curriculum, those of Kromhoek in Namibia and of Landwijzer were made available. Marjan managed to integrate the three curricula into the Egyptian state program. “The curriculum is made up of modules. For each module, SEKEM‘s audio-visual department will create a professional video that visualises the learning goals, for example making a compost heap or biodynamic preparations”, Marjan explains. “We have chosen to use films because the students of the VTC learn the most from visual presentation and also because it shows an interactive, Socratic style of transfer that is an example for the teachers.” Thanks to a legacy of one of the members of the Dutch SEKEM Friends, this project could also be financially supported.
After temporary approval by the Egyptian ministry of education, the new program could be launched in September 2017. It now includes a total of 27 students, eight of which are in the first year. Among the subjects are soil science, water management, plant physiology, Biodynamic pest control, animal husbandry, and economics. Students follow practical classes for four days a week and the other two days are dedicated to theory, including general subjects like languages, computer skills, art and eurythmy. The school has two permanent teachers, and guest lecturers are hired for various modules. There is still a vacancy for a third permanent teacher. Applicants, also from Europe, who want to stay for a year or a couple of months are more than welcome to apply!
Angela Hofmann, the agricultural coordinator at SEKEM: “With this new program, a new generation of Biodynamic farmers and nature lovers will be educated in Egypt. Thank you all for your help!”
Hendrik Jan Bakker (Dutch SEKEM Friends)