The SEKEM Friends Association Austria is again supporting a better climate in Egypt by planting trees in the desert. Friedl and Hermann Becke share their experiences.
Visiting the SEKEM Farm near Minya, reminded us of the early pioneer times of SEKEM. Over there, we wanted to put a sign and actively lend a hand. And what could be more symbolic than to plant a tree?
Minya is located in the fertile Nile Valley, on the border between Lower and Upper Egypt. It is impressive: as soon as you leave the green Nile Valley, you directly find yourself in the desert and thereby in absolute loneliness. Fossil river valleys are running through rocky hills. Near the town of Minya, SEKEM bought an 18 kilometer-long desert valley several years ago to build another farm. Today, the first fields are located in the desert Valley like a green ribbon.
Wind protection for the farm
Before reclaiming desert land it is important to plant rows of trees. Sand storms are not uncommon and trees are able to protect the plants. The perfect variety are Casuarinas as they are growing very well in saline soil. Under the leadership of the local farm manager and Angela Hofmann, agricultural coordinator of SEKEM, we planted two rows of Casuarinas trees between a chamomile- and a sunflower-field. Putting the seedlings went very well and quickly. We didn’t even had to add compost as a thin humus layer was already formed by the chamomile- and sunflower-fields. We could hardly imagine that “our” tree will grow nearly two meters in a year.
Creating something sustainable together
Then something amazing happened: During the whole trip we were accompanied by armed policemen – Egypt is taking care of the few tourists that are still in the country by providing security guards to each bigger group of foreigners travelling through the desert. In the beginning they gave the impression that it is strange to them to see people from Europe planting trees in the desert. With time, the men became more relaxed and watched us carefully.
Just before our departure, the head of our security team decided that he wants to plant a tree as well. Others followed his example enthusiastically. After all the police officers planted their trees, they told us that every Muslim should plant a tree that benefits other people.
Hence, planting trees in the desert did not only support the environment but also contributed to the understanding of cultures.
Friedl and Hermann Becke