There is a picture on the wall of Christophe Floride’s office showing two women packaging teabags at a rather primitive machine. There are old pictures in many buildings on the SEKEM Farm to keep the connection to the history – but only a few employees of SEKEM were present when those pictures were taken. One of them is Christophe Floride. The trained mechanical engineer came to SEKEM 30 years ago together with his wife Yvonne and two small children. “It has always been a childhood dream to work in a developing country and to do a service to humanity”, says Christophe Floride.
“We realized very quickly that SEKEM isn´t just a stopover, but a life task.”
Actually, the plan was to stay for three years and then to go back to Germany. But that this plan turned into 30 years couldn’t be foreseen at that time. In 1985, when searching for a suitable project, the, back then 26-years-old heard about the SEKEM Initiative. Two months later, the young family was already on a plane from Germany to Egypt. “We arrived here and we realized very quickly that SEKEM isn´t just a stopover, but a life task. We wanted to commit ourselves to the vision of SEKEM and promote the development of consciousness of the people here in Egypt.”
Christophe Floride was supposed to train young people in working with metal. But at this time, SEKEM was still under construction. There were neither schools nor the Vocational Training Center. “When I arrived in SEKEM, I was initially responsible for technology and maintenance of the machinery. However, there were not many technical devices, so I engaged myself quickly to the various construction projects of SEKEM. That was a leap in the dark, but was also a very exciting time”, he recalls.
From mechanical engineer to civil engineer
Starting with the establishment of ATOS Pharma, going to the school houses, until the new Lotus building, Christophe Floride was strongly involved in the planning and implementation and acted as the right hand of Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish. Together with Helmy Abouleish, CEO of the SEKEM Group, he developed processes and positions to distribute tasks and to organize the rapidly growing SEKEM Initiative.
Not only professionally, but also privately the Floride family developed further. The first two children were joined by another two siblings, who visited the SEKEM Kindergarten and later the school. Now they are grown up and living in Germany. “Our children are very happy with the experience that they gained here in SEKEM. We also see that especially the two youngest feel very connected to Egypt and may come back one day”, says Christophe Floride.
Reclamation of desert land
Today, Christophe Floride is the General Manger of Lotus, SEKEMs company for dried herbs and spices that processes the raw materials of SEKEMs contracted farmers. He is also involved to all technical investments undertaken by SEKEM. Recently, he travelled to India to acquire a water filling machinery for ISIS Organic. Until today, people call Christophe Floride when a machine does not work or technical expertise is required. In order to enable co-workers to take over the maintenance of the equipment independently in the future, Christophe Floride gives training session to transfer his knowledge to them. In SEKEMs Board of Directors he is working since July 2012, where he helps to control the fate of the company.
The GM of Lotus is also caring about the future. Especially the increasing pollution of the environment is of high importance for him. “Since I have to deal with herbs and spices in Lotus, it is a great challenge for me to produce unpolluted resources for the local and international market. Therefore, my aim is to promote the desert projects of SEKEM and our contracted farmers to get more arable soil to cultivate.” In Egypt, fertile soil is very rare. Hence, herbs and spices can only be cultivated in a few places. Additionally, these areas become more and more contaminated by incorrect cultivation methods, which causes even more environmental damages.
“There is always a solution for challenges.”
“By reclaiming the desert, we try to combat these problems and strive to create alternatives for SEKEM and for other Egyptian farmers.” This approach fit to Christophe Florides life motto, because “there is always a solution for challenges – you have to tackle them and work with a lot of dedication and commitment for the solution.” The truth of the motto can be seen in the development of SEKEM during the past 39 years.