Since the establishment of healthy ecosystems is seen by SEKEM as a way to reduce the climate issue, biodiverse ecosystems play a crucial role in controlling the earth’s climate. Therefore, SEKEM is creating a scorecard that does not only consider the issue of the number of species in order to assess the effect of SEKEM’s operations on biodiversity, but also we gauging our success by the amount of sustainably managed and reclaimed land, the number of trees planted, the quality of the soil, the amount of water used, the variety of species represented, and the amount of chemical contamination.
Our farm in Wahat Bahariya is a motivating illustration of how the desert can be turned into green, productive land. Wahat Farm, where land cultivation and biodiversity preservation were balanced, became a haven for numerous birds and insects.
Along with the primary agricultural activity at the Greening the Desert project in Wahat, SEKEM offers an additional environmental service by issuing carbon credits. In order to expand the scope of carbon credits beyond simple emission reduction, SEKEM intends to articulate and include biodiversity’s co benefits into the Economy of Love carbon credit program. This can make it easier to interact with ethical businesses that aim to improve the fertility of the soil, increase wildlife habitat, and diversify the desert landscape in addition to offsetting their emissions.
Commonland visits El-Wahat
In order to implement the 4 Returns Framework, a useful sustainable development tool for system change that connects ecology, community values, culture, and long-term economic sustainability and enables all stakeholders to contribute their vision of a resilient landscape, on the ground, our friends from Commonland visited SEKEM Desert Farm in Wahat in June. The original idea was to implement this structure on the scale of the entire Wahat Bahreya, but Willem Ferwerda (founder and CEO of Commonland) decided to provide SEKEM with the opportunity to do so. At the Social Innovative Forum, which will be held in Wahat in October, all stakeholders, including representatives from the government, business, and local communities, could come together and co-create a perfect vision for Wahat. This ambitious and, needless to say, difficult idea is planned to be discussed in detail at that event.
There is quite some construction going on in the desert in Wahat! After the so-called “mountain house” was completely finished and furnished at the end of last year, various construction works are currently underway to create more space for living and working on the Wahat Farm. Three small houses, located next to pivots have been upgraded with more space as well as water and electricity for living. The new cafeteria, also built of rammed earth, is already in place and the morning circle now takes place in front of it every day. Many of the staff must have been very cold during the ceremony this winter, because the cold season was and is particularly hard this time: Hoarfrost, hail and lots of rain were recorded in the western desert.
This year there was frost in the desert.
In the meantime, also the drying area for herbs offers more space now; its size has been doubled from approx. 8,000 square metres to approx. 16,000 square metres. In addition, a wall was built to protect the drying area from road dust. Among other things, hibiscus flowers are dried there – the last harvest on the former desert land was very good. Hibiscus tea hot or cold, called Karkadé in Egypt, is a very famous drink. In addition to hibiscus, chamomile, peppermint, thyme, marjoram, and lemongrass are also handled in the drying houses.
Recently the Wahat community started to bake their own bread.
Growth did also take place in the solar power plants and among the trees: six new photovoltaic plants have been put into operation and the “Western Forest” did increase by 40,000 new trees. Besides, the composting site was put into operation last August and has already produced 4000 tons of compost, which is used for winter cultivation. Another 3000 tons are currently in the making.
A recreation area has been established including a cineama for the co-worker.
A special valuable new feature for the people is a recreation area, where they can rest, relax and exchange ideas or even watch a film on the screen. Cinema feeling in the middle of the desert! And another highlight for the Wahat community was the installation of an oven on the farm – now they can bake their own bread!
There is probably no other place in Egypt where so much is developing in such a short time as in Wahat! Not only the fields are growing more and more, but also the community is expanding and consequently the premises are growing as well. Even the bee colonies are to grow soon, as a test phase has shown that the first colonies brought to Wahat have done well under the climatic conditions here.
Cotton, peanuts, jojoba and dates have already been harvested this late summer and fall. The hibiscus, which is currently being harvested, grew excellently – its capsules are picked on the mother farm near Cairo, as there are not yet enough workers for this in Wahat. The basil as well as the lemongrass could already be cut a few times. A big help for the lemongrass harvest was the new “full harvest machine” that had just arrived.
In the past, it often happened that the biodynamic products grew very well, but the machines were too weak for the large areas. Therefore, the community is very thankful for the new equipment from Germany, thanks to which the agricultural power could be increased enormously. Among the new acquisitions is also a machine for chamomile harvesting. Throughout November, chamomile was sown on virtually every available spot: four pivots now irrigate about 200 feddan of chamomile.
To the west of the farm, a “forest strip” is being created, for which some 35,000-40,000 trees have already been planted. They grow very well and serve as protection against pesticide drift and against wind.
A fascinating project is also the first house made of rammed earth in Wahat, which was completed some time ago – it is made exclusively of sustainable materials, is perched on a mountain near the farm, and does not need an external power source thanks to solar panels. The innovative design ensures that the house is cooled in summer and heated in winter. The three bedrooms, eat-in kitchen, and meeting room are now being tested in living. The view is as impressive as the building itself.
Two more buildings are now being constructed in the same style in a semicircle, because with so much growth there is naturally an enormous amount of work to be done, so more and more employees are coming to Wahat. One building will house a large new cafeteria, a meeting room and a laboratory. The second building, which will be built back-to-back behind the other, will serve as a staff house. In addition, a mosque will find its place here. Thus, a large area for living, eating and living will be created. In the future, the morning circle will also take place in front of this new complex. The old building complex will remain as living space for families and interns. The first walls have already been built, but are still being covered to protect them from drying out too quickly under the desert sun.
On our desert farm in Wahat El-Bahareyya, we are currently reclaiming several hundreds of hectares of desert land through sustainable agriculture and supported by a crowdfunding campaign. Here is the latest update.
We have successfully installed 6 pivot-watering systems in total. Now, we are proud to announce that these pivots are fully driven by renewable energy. In addition, four old wells are now running on Photovoltaic energy.
Our long-term target is to increase capacity to 2 Megawatts of power provided by renewable energy, after achieving 1 Megawatt in May 2021.
The cultural heart of Wahat Farm
As SEKEM is convinced that one’s potential evolves with the inclusion of arts and culture, we are glad to announce that the opening of the Amphitheater Ibrahim Abouleish was in May. This theater plays an important part in the cultural life at the SEKEM-Wahat farm. The performances include traditional music and storytelling from the local area of the Bahareya oasis as well as contributions from guest artists coming from Cairo or other parts of Egypt. On the stage, also our community members do various shows and explore their artistic side.
Thanks to our valuable supporters, we were able to install the 3rd pivot watering system of the second phase, to reclaim additional 21 hectares of Egyptian desert land. So far we have a variety of crops: Chamomile, Cotton, Lemongrass, Marjoram and Garlic. And there is even more to come!
The Desert community is getting bigger.. And younger!
SEKEM Wahat is now home to 2 new families. Walid Gaber, an engineer, and Mohamed Hassan, a chef; both brought their families to build the SEKEM Wahat community.
6 beautiful children are now living happily in SEKEM Wahat. Additionally, 3 of SEKEM School’ talented teachers have also settled in to help establish SEKEM Wahat School and teach their new pupils.
Community-Based learning (CBL)
The desert has become full of life! Recently around 80 students from Heliopolis University joined SEKEM Wahat to implement community-based learning.Organic agriculture students planted 400 trees of Jojoba, 500 Casuarina trees, and 100 Mango trees. The Physical Therapy students screened the 80 co-workers and introduced to them good body postures to improve the health and well being of the workers.
Thanks to the great support of many people from all over the globe, we were able to install two more pivots and reclaimed additional 42 hectares of desert land. The newly restored land is already used to cultivate lemongrass, marjoram,spearmint, and peanuts. The first harvest is coming soon – so stay tuned.
We still have 188,000 Euro to raise,1 more pivot to install, and 21 hectare of desert land to reclaim.
Looking after the people – Daniela our new community member
Since the digging of the first well at the SEKEM-Wahat farm, looking after the people and their wellbeing was a top priority. So with the first worker on sight, we thought of how to provide essential healthcare. We sought out doctors and nurses from the surrounding areas for regular checks. Now we are happy to have our full time resident Daniela, who is overseeing the establishment of SEKEM-Wahat basic medical center. Daniela is not only offering essential medical care to the workers, but also promoting a healthy nutrition concept and taking care of an integral health approach.
Let the youth plan our future
We are currently in the process of establishment our onsite “Desert Research Center” in SEKEM-Wahat. With such a vibrant learning center, we are not only a “demonstration site” for ecological and biodiversity activities but we are also engaging students from our partner, the Heliopolis University of Sustainable Development, in real community based learning activities. They have the chance now to be involved in organic agriculture, sustainable energy or medicinal plants research and field study.
Meanwhile, blooming Chamomile covers the field of our second Pivot as far as eyes can see. The chamomile is ready for its first harvest and soon, the first products grown on former desert soil of our second Pivot, will be ready for shipping.
Since we already reached a fair amount of our funding goal, we were able to set up the basic structure of the first two pivots of our second phase. These pivots will be used to cultivate peanuts and spearmint each covering 50 feddan (21 hectares).
The Future of Greening The Desert – 100% of our funding goal achieved
Today we can celebrate, we collected 400.000 Euros for the greening of 630.000 square meters of desert soil – and we are going on, another 2300 acres of desert land are waiting to be reclaimed.
We Thanks all of our contributors to make this possible. With this project we want to set a concrete example of how many opportunities we have today to make a change in the world. 10 Months ago we started our campaign for the reclamation of 63 hectares of desert land and this unbelievable goal became reality. We funded 400.000 Euros and with this money we installed three solar-powered pivots, that will cultivate 63 ha of land with biodynamic principles. But your contribution is serving much more than just sustainable agriculture!
Wahat is still in its early days, different people are joining the journey of creating this young community. And we already started to think about how the future could look like. We want to establish an open, intentional community, where people come together to work with a shared vision of a brighter future.
The vision for our farm in Wahat is shared with the vision that guided SEKEM through the past 42 years and shaped it into what it became today.
Supporting Climate mitigation.
Creating jobs and Providing education for the community and the surroundings
Creating sustainable community where cultures can gather and create a fertile ground for exchange
All that is part of our project.
Thank you again for joining us in this journey of not only greening the desert , but also opening up a door for the creation of such a community.
In the beginning of the year we had the unbelievable goal, to raise 400.000 Euros to fund the reclaiming of 630.000 square meters of desert land.
Now, 9 months later it doesn’t look so unbelievable anymore!
How far are we?
Meanwhile the second pivot is running and irrigates the next 21 hectares of sandy desert soil – the first chamomile sprouts already.
Due to more than 1.000 tons of compost, that we spread on our new field, the sand turns slowly brown.
The compost offers our still very tender plants what they need to thrive in this harsh environment.
In total we have already greened 42 hectares of desertland in this year alone.
What is still missing
We are 16 percent away from financing three solar-powered pivots. 16 percent of 400.000 Euros! So far, the third pivot is not yet connected and is waiting to finally become active. With the missing 67,000 Euros, the solar-power-supply for the third pivot will be funded and it can start working as
In summary, we will plant peppermint and peanuts on our 1st pivot, chamomile on the 2nd Pivot and spearmint and 50.000 trees on the 3rd pivot. Then the trio will be complete and able to grow in an annual rate.
Next year we will start with the third pivot and thus with our forest in the desert.
Once we accomplished that – 630.000 square meters of desert land will have transformed into fertile farmland.
Now, a few months after the launch of our campaign, we have closed the last link in the chain and the construction of our solar system is complete. With that being done, our first system is finished as planned. 50 feddan of former egyptian desert are now irrigated using solar energy! On this occasion we want to take you on a small journey and show you how it all actually looks like on site and how our system works.
In the meantime, we have already started the construction work on our second pivot. From October onwards, we will be able to take up our work on the second 50 feddan of desert land, where, in a short while, soothing chamomile will start blooming.
But our agricultural project is only part of the whole. The core of our project is about sustainable community development and individual potential unfolding. Meanwhile, our core program has started on our farm in Wahat. SEKEM’s art educators visit our farm repeatedly and offer painting classes, eurythmy as well as several other art courses and educational activities for our employees. At the same time, we are creating new living space on our farm – so that even more enthusiastic people are able to join our community project.
Become part of the project and green the desert with us!