Source: Sekem Group
The first conference on community based solutions for sustainable development in Africa has recently been organized in Egypt by Sekem and the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). Carried out on the exemplary community grounds of the Sekem farm, located at the symbolic fringe of the fertile Nile delta and arid Egyptian desert, the event aimed at strengthening the North African ecovillage movement and at the enforcement of the idea of ecologically sound community design for sustainable living in Africa. In the view of Sekem such practice, which incorporates organic agriculture and integrated economy, represents a key issue on the way to more sustainable livelihoods.
From 18 to November 2011 more than sixty representatives of various African organizations and institutions gathered in the conference room of the Sekem Guest House to discuss ways of “Empowering Communities for Sustainable Development in Northern Africa”. The topics of the workshops ranged from a discussion of the structure of the GEN Africa network, which currently expands considerably, to a tour and examination of the subsurface irrigation practices at Sekem (pictures).
The attendees' initial impressions of the conference were overwhelmingly positive, with a general feeling that the conference represented a milestone in advancing the idea of ecovillage design in Africa. Bianca Fliss, organiser of the event for Sekem, praised the seminal function of the event: “For the first time, a representative number of African leaders in developing sustainable lifestyles came together here at Sekem, a place that could not be more fitting for the development of these ideas. If we can sustain the momentum of this event, the ecovillage movement can – with the help of Sekem and GEN – do much good for livelihoods of all Africans.”
GEN and Sekem had cooperated to bring to Egypt a wide spectrum of organisations and activists. Most conference attendees came from the targeted Northern African countries of Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Egypt plus representatives arriving from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa. The event was sponsored by the German Foreign Office as part of a larger funded project to launch sustainability initiatives in Northern Africa with GEN being the primary actor and Sekem its local partner. GEN is a constantly expanding network of sustainable communities and initiatives, bridging all cultures, countries, and continents, and promotes the building of community and solidarity as core to the transition to resilience.
The Sekem-Group of companies is a part of the SEKEM Initiative founded in 1977 by Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish to strengthen sustainable development in Egypt by producing, processing, and marketing organic and bio-dynamic foodstuffs, textiles, and phyto-pharmaceuticals in Egypt, the Arab World, and on international markets. Sekem has been widely praised as an “Egyptian organic pioneer” and has received the 2003 Right Livelihood Award (“Alternative Nobel Prize”) as a "Business Model for the 21st Century” and an “economy of love”. With part of their profits the Sekem companies co-finance the social and cultural activities of the Sekem Development Foundation that runs, among others, several schools, a medical centre, an academy of applied sciences, and other institutions in Egypt.