People in SEKEM: Tarek El Araby

At the beginning, Tarek had a centric ambition for success, pursuing social and academic status in the wish to honor his family; especially his father Dr. Faysal El Araby, his role model. Later in life his motives and vision changed – mainly after he joined SEKEM community. “Dr. Ibrahim gave me the desire to seek a purpose in life, which goes beyond my own success. He set an example of how one man can serve an entire community, and how one dream can cast light on many lives,” Tarek explains.

Back in 2013, after Tarek’s first meeting with SEKEM’s founder, he offered him to join the SEKEM community as Food Safety Consultant at iSiS Organic. He took the role for a year, until he started managing several projects as for instance the BioGuard Project for protecting national economic crops via beneficial microorganisms. Today, Tarek El Araby is the Head of Research and Innovation Department at Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development.

Convenience turning into passion

Tarek El Araby first dreamed about studying business to become a successful entrepreneur. But as his high school grades didn’t allow him to join the business faculty, his father recommended him to start his studies in agriculture. Although he wasn’t passionate about this at all in the beginning, he developed a genuine interest in the field during his student years. As a student, Tarek excelled amongst his peers. He majored in Microbiology and showed entrepreneurial initiatives even in his studying and research techniques. “Today I can say that from one day to the other I really started to love it”, Tarek reveals. And he created the wish to pass on this enthusiasm to other students, as he joined the academic staff. 

Culture at the heart of everything

Tarek El Araby also sought to acquire a diverse cultural experience, which not only helped him establish his wide and powerful network, but also helped shape his academic input. Throughout his 19 years of teaching, Tarek incorporated culture, ethics and esthetics with agriculture. His involvement in an international community in Canada during his PHD studies, combined with his travels in the four corners of Egypt for research of the different soil characteristics, created an amalgam of culture, social work and academia. This background and interest matched perfectly with SEKEM’s vision – and this diversity Tarek couldn’t find in any other place than SEKEM. “I was no stranger to the term sustainable development, which resonated to me in all good deeds. But I wasn’t sure of what it meant or how it could be reached. That was another thing Dr. Ibrahim taught me and which I live by until this day”, the ambitious SEKEM co-worker tells.

The kickoff meeting of project Hydrousa in July 2018 in Athens, one of the major projects Tarek ran with Heliopolis University.

A clear vision for shaping a sustainable future

Throughout his career journey, many factors contributed to a change in Tarek’s principles, although his mission remained the same: creating an impact in social and ecological development. At the beginning, his views led him to believe that change can mainly occur from the top downwards. The higher he climbed the academic and leadership ladder, the more he believed that his influence as an entrepreneur can be more significant without the political influence he once thought is necessary. Now, Tarek El Araby channels his efforts and resources towards two main projects, inspired by Dr.Ibrahim’s triangle model. The projects are: self-sufficient agriculture and a social model integrated in a business model. “One of the first things I learned in SEKEM was his social business model, which he explained simply in the form of a triangle. Its three corners are Research, Education and Culture. This model still guides me through my teaching and projects,” he recalls.

Tarek El Araby is full of passion to help create a more sustainable world – not only for Emma, his three-year-old daughter – by fostering self-sufficient agriculture with a social experience. “I pray to one day leave a similar impact as Dr. Ibrahim did, which reflects change towards sustainable development.”

Nadine Greiss

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