Close Connection Despite Spatial Distance: North African Organic Knowledge Hubs

Although there were hardly any rooms taken in SEKEM’s guest house, the conference halls were full of hustle and bustle for almost two weeks at the beginning of September. The ‘SEKEM Friends Germany’ organized two cross-border workshops in cooperation with the Heliopolis University – online, of course, during Corona times. Every day, about 30 participants came together in front of their screens in Morocco, Tunisia, Germany and Egypt and worked intensively on the foundations for the implementation of Knowledge Hubs for Organic Agriculture in North Africa.

Over 200 multipliers for organic agriculture

Since May 2020, the ‘SEKEM Friends Germany’ have been coordinating the large-scale project to promote the conveying of knowledge about sustainable agriculture in North Africa. The partners in the BMZ-funded project are institutions from the organic sector in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Together, a concept was developed how existing knowledge can be collected, made accessible and disseminated. For this purpose, multipliers are to be identified who then organize activities to impart knowledge, especially in rural areas. During the workshop, the trainers for these multipliers were identified and a curriculum for the planned training sessions was developed jointly. Over 200 multipliers are to carry out these activities in their communities across North Africa.

The Egyptian project co-workers during visiting a potential multiplier. Around 200 multipliers shall be trained in order to disseminate knowledge on Organic agriculture in North Africa.

Team building despite physical distance

“Organizing the workshops across four countries in parallel took a lot of thought and some courage in advance. We always had to adjust to the new regulations in connection with the travel regulations at short notice and finally we had to decide whether we would be able to coordinate the workshops without physical meetings,” reports Markus Arbenz, who heads the project on behalf of the ‘SEKEM Friends Germany’. “It was worth it. In the end, everyone seemed impressed with how well the online collaboration worked.” There were not only joint sessions with presentations from each country, but also several smaller groupworkings. “I am very happy that I was able to get to know my counterparts in Tunisia and Morocco, at least virtually, and proud that we managed to create a feeling of team spirit despite the physical distance,” reports Naglaa Ahmed, who works for SEKEM and Heliopolis University and will guide and coordinate the trainers and multipliers  in Egypt.

The Knowledge Hub for Organic Agriculture is implemented in cooperation with partners in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. Here you can see the partners of the partner institution in Tunisia: CTAB, the Technical Center for Organic Agrikultur of the Tunisian government.

In addition to the theoretical work, it was possible to undertake excursions in Egypt and Tunisia, unfortunately the employees from Morocco were not allowed to meet in person due to the strict Corona restrictions. During the outings, particularly the trainers got a foretaste of the practical work with the multipliers in the villages. “We see the work with the multipliers as the heart of the project,” says Naglaa Ahmed, who already has many years of experience in cooperating with farmers. “After completing the training, I feel well prepared and motivated to look for these important key people and to prepare them for their tasks.”

The project “North African Organic Knowledge Hubs” is one of four similar projects in other regions of Africa, all of which have been commissioned by the German development agency GIZ. The subject matters intersect with various SEKEM goals on the way to achieving the Vision 2057.

Knowledge Hubs for Organic Agriculture in North Africa
SEKEM Friends Germany