Saudi 'well-being lab' launches to raise awareness of positive psychology

The first International Psychology Symposium on Positive Psychology was held at Effat university was held. (AN photo)
Updated 29 March 2018

Saudi 'well-being lab' launches to raise awareness of positive psychology

JEDDAH: The first International Symposium on Positive Psychology (ISPP), organized by the Department of Psychology of Effat University, began on Wednesday.
The two-day event will showcase recent research developments underpinning best practices and innovations in the field of psychology and promote research in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf region and the Middle East-North Africa.
ISPP aims to become an important national and international event. In addition to attracting leading educators and students, the symposium will bring together Saudi and international experts, policymakers and government officials. It includes the presentation of research papers, talks by three keynote speakers and the launch of a positive psychology and well-being research lab.
The event includes sessions on well-being, mindfulness, youth engagement and Islamic influences on positive psychology, as well as providing opportunities for networking.
Keynote speaker Dr. Saddiga Al-Ghalib is the founder and director of the positive psychology and well-being research lab that will be launched on Thursday by Princess Lolowah Al-Faisal.
“We established our first positive psychology and well-being lab to enable us to do research, addressing different aspects, interventions and programs to help increase awareness of positive psychology among the Saudi population,” Al-Ghalib said.
“Our youth are facing a lot of challenges such as depression, anxiety and stress,” she said. “Such events will help many to cope with these challenges. I also believe positive psychology has to do a lot with the values of Islam.”
David Creswell, an associate professor at the psychology department at Carnegie Mellon University in the US, said that positive psychology was becoming a significant area of study. “It is great to see that it is now moving to the Middle East and this will really promote the culture of research in this region,” he said.
Louise Lambert, a registered psychologist at the College of Alberta Psychologists in Canada, is the editor and founder (in 2015) of the Middle East Journal of Positive Psychology, and a keynote speaker at the event. “The field of positive psychology has grown over the years and I’m excited to see how these changes are developing and how they are going to transform Saudi society,” she said.
Zahra Al-Mhana is the founder and CEO of “You Positive,” a Saudi online platform that helps people find counselors and life coaches without revealing their identity: “We want people to become a better version of themselves in their lives and future,” she told Arab News. “Our services are there in a virtual setting for individuals to get in touch with life coaches anonymously to maintain their self image in the community. Some people in our Saudi community do not accept the idea of having a life coach and perceive it as belittling.”

Cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 30 November 2020

Cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

  • The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area

MAKKAH: In an unprecedented experience for the Kingdom, a harvest season of more than 200 cocoa shrubs began this year in Jazan following several years of planting the Filipino seedlings.

The foreign plant is a new experiment for the Kingdom as it plans on testing out the long-term success of planting the favored sweet treat.

Specialists in the region pointed out that the cocoa shrub resembles the famous coffee shrub found in the south region of the Kingdom, where a number of farmers have already begun to evaluate the experience and continue cultivating land to make room for more, while others were not so successful.

The supervisor of the Mountain Areas Development and Reconstruction Authority in Jazan, Eng. Bandar Al-Fifi, said: “The cocoa shrub is a tropical or subtropical shrub and is native to South America and East Asia. It was presented to the Mountain Regions Development and Reconstruction Authority a few years back, specifically to the agricultural research station.”

He added: “The cultivation process was carried out six years ago by bringing seeds and seedlings from the Philippines. The seeds were cultivated and seedlings were distributed to some interested farmers in the region.

“We in the station’s field have cocoa, banana, mango and guava trees, as well as many tropical and subtropical trees. The field is being used as a guarantor of seeds, in addition to conducting tests and real experiments in an area of 200 meters, in particular on 15 cocoa plants and the first cocoa shrub in Saudi Arabia.”

He told Arab News that it was difficult at first to encourage farmers to invest in the plant, as many were hesitant to introduce a plant not indigenous to the region in order to facilitate the establishment of manufacturing factories and grow a local market.

Al-Fifi said that in Ethiopia, companies buy crops from farmers and then start an integrated industrial process of sorting, cleaning, drying and roasting, because to complete the whole process is not economically viable for farmers alone.

“If every farmer owns 30 cocoa shrubs, this will be an additional source of income for their future,” he added.

The Jazan region is known for its lush, green lands and fertile soil that possesses the necessary ingredients to ensure the development of other crops that guarantee continuity and different harvest times for each type of plant harvested in the area. Rainfall is abundant, seasonal fluctuations in rainfall are scarce and humidity is high, ensuring that soil continues to retain the moisture it requires for harvests.

“In addition to the fact that the temperature gap between small and mature shrubs is not big, due to our proximity to the equator, Saudi Arabia is located below the tropical line, which creates environmental conditions that help the shrub grow,” said Al-Fifi.

Gebran Al-Maliki, one of the owners of a cocoa plantation in Jazan, told Arab News: “Adding cocoa to the Kingdom’s agricultural field is one of the innovative things in Saudi Arabia and it began to give good results that would broadly stimulate the development process, provide an agricultural model that can be trusted and improve experience in a country that supports its farmers and provides them with all the required capabilities.”

He received seeds and seedlings by the end of 2016 as an experiment in which everyone was granted support. “Some wanted to give this new experience a try, because it is similar to the coffee plant. It is an ordinary shrub, just like fruit and citrus trees, but it is a drought-tolerant shrub that is watered once a week.”

To successfully cultivate the fruit, Al-Maliki said that shrubs need shade when first planted in the ground as they are “quite finicky,” but that with the proper care and attention, a tree will flower at about three to four years of age and can grow up to two meters in height.

With up to 400 seeds, the product testing began on his farm after just four years.

“You can find 30 to 50 seeds inside a pod, which are later dried under the sun and ground to become a ready-to-use powder. Cocoa powder can be found in chocolate, oils and cosmetics, in addition to several other uses,” Al-Maliki said.

He said that the seed is very bitter and explained that the more bitter, the better the quality. He added that he has four shrubs, and what hindered the spreading process was waiting for the product quality test results, indicating that the fruit was tried and was found very successful.

The agricultural research station for the Development and Reconstruction of Agricultural Areas aim to reach 50 shrubs in the region to provide enough fruit to produce seeds and seedlings for farmers. Al-Fifi said that they aim to reach 400 seedlings per year that will be distributed, on top of seedlings grown by the region’s farmers themselves.