Ecovillage Conference in Egypt Catalyzes the Movement in Africa
an article by Ethan Hirsch-Tauber, Global Ecovillage Network Europe (excerpts)
On the weekend of 18-22 November, 2011 over sixty Africans from many different countries and backgrounds, gathered at the farm site of SEKEM, a model for sustainable business development located about sixty kilometers from Cairo, Egypt.
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The attendees came to attend a conference put together and run by the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). The Ecovillage Conference, subtitled “Empowering Communities for Sustainable Development in Northern Africa” was sponsored by the German Foreign Ministry as part of a larger funded project to launch sustainability initiatives in Northern Africa.
GEN is a constantly expanding network of sustainable communities and initiatives, bridging all cultures, countries, and continents, which promotes the building of community and solidarity as core to the transition to resilience. Through its efforts in bringing together the conference, GEN organizers reached out to a wide network of organizations already working on social and environmental issues in the region.
Most conference attendees came from the targeted Northern African countries of Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan, Tunisia, and of course Egypt and received full funding to attend, including their flights to Egypt. But some representatives traveled from other parts of Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, and South Africa. Attendees showed quite a wide range of livelihoods as well: from students, architects, and entrepreneurs to educators and directors of NGO’s.
The conference would certainly not been as much of a success without the inspiring backdrop and gracious hosting of SEKEM. The project began in 1977 as Dr. Abouleish’s dream of greening the desert and creating a model for improving the lives of Egyptian people. Due to his tireless efforts over many years, his dream has manifested into a reality. Now, in a lush green setting of date palms and other desert plants, over 1400 Egyptians come here each day to work and attend school.
The project consists of eight separately-operating businesses, ranging from organic farming and livestock rearing, to herbal pharmaceutical processing and textile production. The site also holds a fully-functioning medical center which provides care for all workers. Several schools, including a Kindergarten, Community School, and Vocational Training Center, provide the 600 children and teens who attend with a holistic education based on the Steiner system. A key demonstration of the alternative business model of SEKEM is evident every Thursday afternoon: all employees and students come together in a huge circle at a central location, linking hands in a ceremony of appreciation for their work, and uniting as a community, far more than just a business.
Question(s) related to this article:
Intentional communities, Can we learn an economy of peace through them?
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The next Global Ecovillage Network Conference will take
10. Jul 2012 - 13. Jul 2012 at Eco-Valley Foundation in Hungary. See http://gen-europe.org.