Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia
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Gebran Al-Maliki, owner of a cocoa plantation, says introducing cocoa will help reshape the agriculture sector. (Photos/Supplied)
Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia
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Photo/Supplied
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Updated 01 December 2020

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia

Experimental cocoa bean harvest: A sweet opportunity for Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia provides an environment conducive to the shrub’s growth, says expert

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.”

FASTFACTS

• 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.

• 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.

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.

 


Rawasheen exhibition preserves decorative architecture of Jeddah

Rawasheen exhibition preserves decorative architecture of Jeddah
In the display, titled ‘Rawasheen,’ (plural for rowshan), Saudi artist and trainer Ibtihal Bajnaid gathered some of the country’s most prominent and up-and-coming artists under the auspices of the city of Jeddah. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 7 min 14 sec ago

Rawasheen exhibition preserves decorative architecture of Jeddah

Rawasheen exhibition preserves decorative architecture of Jeddah
  • With 70 artworks on display, the aim was to preserve and even revive Jeddah’s creative architecture legacy

JEDDAH: In an ode to the rowshan, one of the most distinctive Hijazi architectural features, 43 Saudi female artists combined forces in an exhibition in Jeddah’s Fine Art Center. The rowshan is an elaborately patterned wooden window frame on the outside of the old buildings that served to air their interior.

In the display, titled “Rawasheen,” (plural for rowshan), Saudi artist and trainer Ibtihal Bajnaid gathered some of the country’s most prominent and up-and-coming artists under the auspices of the city of Jeddah.
The artists looked to capture the beauty of the rowshan, which was a prominent feature of old buildings in Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah. The use of the rawasheen has died out, and they are found only in a few offices, homes and old buildings in Hijaz today.


With 70 artworks on display, the aim was to preserve and even revive Jeddah’s creative architecture legacy.
Bajnaid has researched the art of the rowshan for years. Looking to revive the architectural feature, she dedicated her first exhibition to its beauty.
She told Arab News: “The rawasheen of Jeddah is only the start. We are planning to cover all historic architecture and traditional legacies of the Kingdom.”
The artworks of the gallery — some of them abstract art inspired by the essence of the old town today — were mostly inspired by photos of the rawasheen by famous photographers.
Najla Abdulshakour, an artist who is the media coordinator of the gallery, said the gallery works as “a documentation for the cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia and its ancient civilization, specifically the famous architectural art of historic Jeddah.”

FASTFACT

The youngest participant was Rital Albigami, a nine-year-old with a powerful presence among her older peers in the gallery with her beautiful oil painting of one of Jeddah’s most prominent buildings, Naseef House.

The display that ran over the weekend brought together families, art enthusiasts and prominent artists. Hisham bin Jabi, a Saudi art veteran said: “I am really delighted to see this amount of enthusiasm toward art and heritage among the young artists. There is shade, light, and depth, I am truly amazed by the fine level of the artwork.”
Bajnaid was the driving force in training rising Saudi artists of different ages and her efforts proved very fruitful.
The youngest participant was Rital Albigami, a nine-year-old with a powerful presence among her older peers in the gallery with her beautiful oil painting of one of Jeddah’s most prominent buildings, Naseef House.
She expressed her excitement about art: “I love painting so much. This gallery is a big opportunity for me and I am so happy to be among the participants. My dream is to become the biggest and greatest artist in Saudi Arabia.”

The rawasheen of Jeddah is only the start. We are planning to cover all historic architecture and traditional legacies of the Kingdom.

Ibtihal Bajnaid, Saudi artist and trainer

Her mother said: “Rital is a very creative, talented kid and she’s a fast self-learner. She started to draw cartoon characters through tutorials on YouTube when she was seven. She then became interested in portrait and oil paintings, I tried to enrol her in portrait art courses, but she wasn’t accepted due to her age. Luckily, she met Ibtihal, who welcomed her in her classes and provided her with the support that led her to participate today in a real art gallery with adult artists for the first time even at this very young age.”
Afrah Ahmad, one of the participants from Riyadh, said: “I loved the subject so much, it has to do with the heritage of my country. My painting is built upon the one-point perspective, where you can see everything from one direction.”
Inspired by a 150-year-old building, Khadija Abu Al-Husain, from Makkah, tried to reflect the more vibrant tone of the building to pick up its decorative exterior, as many changes have been applied to the building over the years. Today the building has been turned into an antique art gallery and oriental music cafe.
“The original photo was in black and white so I used aquatic colors to reflect on the style of old Jeddah architecture,” she said.
Eighteen-year-old Jana Gandeel created models of the two most popular rawasheen in Jeddah using various materials such as the very thin Wawa wood, popsicle sticks, wooden dowels, and barbeque sticks, with some carving and other tools.
“I want my artwork and name to be known in the art industry, I want to know all the big artists and hopefully one day I will be one of them,” she said.