Report: Biodynamic Course at Heliopolis University

Erstellt von Reto Ingold & Peter Kunz | |   News
Peter Kunz and Reto Ingold started the 2-weeks course at the Heliopolis University on the principles of Organic/Biodynamic agriculture which was designed in the Internal Bylaw and Curricula document from 2nd to 12th of December 2018.

Working conditions

The course was continuously supported by Prof. Dr. Yousri Hashem and Angela Hofmann, director of the SEKEM farm. With the engaged help of the team of farm department leaders the course could mainly take place on the Sekem main farm. Students travelled regularly from Heliopolis University to Belbeis with the bus. 7 working days could be spent completely and without interruption with the subject, 4 days took place at the campus of Heliopolis University.

It was a fruitful and interdisciplinary cooperation between international experts, university and farm responsible and local staff to create a space were a holistic teaching approach became reality and was not too much disturbed by ordinary schedule routines of the University.

We were very thankful for this preliminary preparation.

Programme

The program covered first steps to focus the soil-plant-farm unity as a fundamental unit for sustainable farming operations worldwide:

  •  Conditions of Soil creation and agricultural care for soil
  •  Plant development diversity and options for integration in agricultural production
  • Synergies in farm units with ruminants

Link to Programme: Programme Introductory Course 2018 Heliopolis University

Teaching methods

The main goal of the course was to bring theoretical knowledge of the first semester into relation to agricultural practice.

Beside short introductory and descriptive impulses, the students were introduced to “goetheanistic” observing of soil, plant and farm phenomena.

Results were shared and discussed continuously and brought together in deepening rounds.

We were paying very much attention to start on students level, considering their divers knowledge and language skills.

Results

  1. English as the course language, is a high challenge and partly a too high barrier for fast adaptation of knowledge.
  2. The student’s level in agricultural knowledge is really at its basic. Even more than in other educational systems, Egyptian agronomy students are usually not at all familiar with farm life and farm practises. The experts have to take this into account when teaching. There is no common agricultural base on which organic practises could be built on. All steps have to be explained!
  3. It was possible to reach the students and to interest them for the secrets of the soil and the universal power of plants. Majority of them started to connect natural science knowledge and (agri-)cultural experience in one picture. They opened themselves to learn more, to ask questions themselves and to learn how to deduce consequences for a sustainable approach.
  4. A big effort is needed to attain these results with personnel from external, but also from internal. It is time and money consuming to arrange such a well prepared and prudent teaching progress. But the result seems to be worth.
  5. We discovered potential teaching knowledge at local co-workers of Sekem, not in English and not all of academic degree. Stable, compost, seeds etc responsible could contribute, if their parts are accompanied and concerted with the biodynamic curricula.

Conclusions

  1. Regular short Arab sessions from time to time could be supportive for the students to repeat the subjects in their own language. We have to make sure that the Arab translation is close to the course content and does not bypass the curricula. Assistants with good English knowledge could/should take over this task. The presence of Hasan Aboubakher was a big help!
  2. Organic agriculture does not have to be described as an opposite or alternative concept of agriculture. Most of the students are free of prejudices and are interested to deepen their knowledge. It is a chance that students are not taken already by usual conventional schemes.
  3. It seems to make sense to continue with this way of teaching, that starts from the understood, from the felt-well and where the students are ready to do something themselves.
  4. We have to think about synergies and support to reduce input of external personnel on an achievable level. One idea was, to strengthen the contribution of local lecturers. For instance, Angela could be one partner, Hasan Aboubakher too.
  5. Our external teaching could consist also of a train-the-trainer module, where we could concert the work of local co-workers for the biodynamic seminar. This trainer’s module could on one hand reduce our input from external and also support the capacity development of biodynamic staff at Sekem.

Thanks

We would like to thank the great support of Heliopolis University, Prof. Yousri Hashem, Omar Eldahan, and Sekem Helmy Abouleish and Angela Hofmann and the whole team.

Reto Ingold with students at the Introductory Course 2018, Photo: Peter Kunz
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