This year, the World Day to Combat Desertification had the topic “Land has true value – Invest in it”. It is a raised call from the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to all involved parties, including worldwide decision makers, producers, and consumers, to support sustainable investments in the future of lands. The UNCCD emphasizes through this message that land is a worthy tangible asset beyond just monetary values. By sustainable green lands, job opportunities are created, food security is promoted and thereby peaceful, inclusive societies can develop.
SEKEM is combating desertification for more than 40 years. In 1977, the SEKEM founder Ibrahim Abouleish started to reclaim desert land in Egypt by Biodynamic agricultural methods and thereby laid the foundation for a sustainable community. He was convinced that soil embraces treasures. In spite of many challenges and being called crazy for his vision, Ibrahim Abouleish was able to prove the value of the soil and its biodiversity in the past decades. He thereby became an inspiring leader for many initiatives worldwide.
“SEKEM’s Vision since 1977: Sustainable development towards a future where every human being can unfold his individual potential; where mankind lives together in social forms reflecting human dignity; and where all economic activity is conducted in accordance with ecological and ethical principles.”
Within this year, Egypt’s population is going to surpass 100 million people (more than twice as much as 40 years ago). But still, the desert is occupying more than 95% of the country’s land. The resources are in continuous depletion, while the challenges are growing: desertification, food insecurity, water scarcity, climate change, and many others.
In this context, SEKEM has amplified its 40-year-old vision for the next 40 years. The new vision document had been launched on the occasion of the first anniversary of the founder’s death, on June 15. Driven by the holistic approach that SEKEM fosters, the Egyptian initiative pointed out its goals to be achieved over the coming 10 years and its vision for 2057: “SEKEM is the international Center of Excellence for holistic, sustainable, individual, organizational, societal development and social innovation in Egypt, which is inspiring development organizations worldwide (in all dimensions).”
Within the past 40 years, SEKEM could create 2100 hectares of sustainably cultivated lands all over Egypt in cooperation with its contracted farmers. For this commitment and the holistic approach, SEKEM was awarded the United Nation’s Land for Life Award 2015. The jury emphasized on SEKEM’s commitment to support nature’s and people’s development equally – starting from farmers to consumers. “Not only large organizations but also each one of us is a part of the solution,” says Helmy Abouleish, SEKEM’s CEO. The consumer can influence the market strongly by choosing sustainable consumption. This requires a keen awareness among the society. Hence, awareness raising builds a focal point in the SEKEM vision 2057 for human development.
“Not only large organizations but also each one of us is a part of the solution,” Helmy Abouleish
Besides, SEKEM aims to attain 100% sustainable agriculture on the whole Egyptian land by 2057 (including sustainable water management by rational irrigation techniques, wastewater treatment, and renewable energies) and to create consciousness for desertification through innovating the education system. That may sound “crazy” but is the only way to combat the vast desert areas in Egypt and avoid further soil erosions for future generations.
And the fact that “land has true value and investing in it” worth it, had been already proven by SEKEM for a long time. For more insights on this topic, read the study “Building Sustainable Communities”, in which SEKEM summarizes the results of sustainable investments to environment and people within 30 years.