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SEKEM'S IMPACT ON SOCIETY

On the one hand, Sekem managed to inform public decision makers about the advantages of its agricultural approach – with remarkable results. In cotton production Sekem has succeeded not only in reducing synthetic pesticides in its own operations but, more broadly and in co-operation with the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture, in cutting chemical use by more than 90 per cent on Egyptian cotton farms since the 1990. More recently, the leadership of Sekem actively engaged in policy advocacy with the result that sustainable agriculture was integrated into the Egypt National Competitiveness Strategy 2020 that is currently taken forward by UNEP's Green Economy Initiative launched in early 2013. Additionally, Sekem developed together with its partner Soil & More as a first mover the market for compost to the extent that today there are so many firms producing compost on a larger scale that Sekem stopped selling to external customers. This means one product less, for Sekem, but another positive impact on societal transformation towards a more circular economy.

That said, the overall implementation of sustainable agricultural practice in the country remains marginal. From the total cultivated land in Egypt, only 1 per cent is currently cultivated organically. This can be explained by the strong energy subsidies and the lack of an adequate water pricing mechanism that do not incentivize resource efficiency in farming operations. On the contrary, huge amounts of social and environmental externalities and costs are currently outsourced to nature and, as such, to future generations through unsustainable agricultural practices. Other reasons for the slow up-scaling of organic and/or biodynamic agriculture is the lack of capacity among people and the lack of a long-term perspective among farming businesses as well as inadequate financing mechanisms to provide enough "patient" capital, as Oshodi (7) has revealed in his companion book to this one, An Integral Approach to Development Economics: Islamic Finance in an African Context. Here, Islamic finance can play an important role in the future to unlock the existing potential in the market.

Indeed, there are many other fields that need to be further developed and of course, Sekem is not the only enterprise doing so. Yes, Sekem has a great track record of biodynamic agriculture and community development but it has all happened on a relatively small scale and all driven by visionary, through centralized leadership, embodied mainly by one of the authors (Ibrahim Abouleish) and his son Helmy. This cannot be replicated easily and today Sekem is facing greater complexity with its three new large-scale desert farms spread around the country, let alone the remaining question of whether a Sekem- type holistic initiative can be built up somewhere else by someone else.

Heliopolis University Core and Specialisms

Figure 22.3 Heliopolis University Core and Specialisms

As already mentioned there are many more organizations and platforms that are active in the field of sustainable development and Sekem has much room left to intensify the relationship and to create valuable local partnerships that are beneficial for both sides. A lot of new knowledge can and must be created in order to take the particular development approach to a next level. This puts a lot more emphasis on the private and civil sector than Egypt has ever seen before, but right now this type of network organizations and movements is exactly what is needed in order to free the GENE-ius of Egypt. This is where the newly founded Heliopolis University comes in as a powerful catalyst and knowledge creator designed to take a major role in up-scaling Sekem's experience and mobilize more change-makers while still in the process of actualizing this role.

 
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