Dr. Samirah Ali Al-Ghamdi, general director at Saudi Health Ministry

Dr. Samirah Ali Al-Ghamdi
Dr. Samirah Ali Al-Ghamdi
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Updated 17 January 2021

Dr. Samirah Ali Al-Ghamdi, general director at Saudi Health Ministry

Dr. Samirah Ali Al-Ghamdi

Dr. Samirah Ali Al-Ghamdi has been appointed as general director of the specialized health centers at the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Over the past three months, she was the acting general director of the health specialized centers at the MoH.

Al-Ghamdi received an MBBCH degree from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah in 2002. Five years later, she passed the Arab board in psychiatry.

In 2009, she obtained a child and adolescent clinical psychiatry fellowship from Queen’s University, Canada, where she also completed a research fellowship in anxiety disorder and cognitive behavioral therapy in children and adolescents at the University of Toronto.

She has also been a representative of the MoH in the permanent committee of the Human Rights Commission since 2018. She has also been a representative of the ministry in the Family Affairs Council since 2020.

Al-Ghamdi, who is a consultant psychiatrist specializing in anxiety disorders in children and a cognitive behavior therapist, has also been the executive director of the National Program of Developmental and Behavioral Disorders at the MoH since 2018, and a program director of the child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship since 2017.

Al-Ghamdi worked as a child and adolescent consultant psychiatrist at Prince Sultan Military and Medical City (PSMMC) from 2012 to 2017.

She was the founder of the rehabilitation program of autism at PSMMC, where she was director between 2012 and 2016. Al-Ghamdi was also the head of the protection center against domestic violence and neglect at PSMMC from 2014 to 2016.

She was the deputy of the protection center against domestic violence and neglect at PSMMC from 2013 to 2014. Al-Ghamdi supervised the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Diploma at King Saud University, College of Medicine, Riyadh, from 2014 to 2015.


Saudi Arabia’s green oil: Ancient meets modern as the ‘smart farmers’ of Jouf reap a rich olive harvest

Saudi Arabia’s green oil: Ancient meets modern as the ‘smart farmers’ of Jouf reap a rich olive harvest
Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s green oil: Ancient meets modern as the ‘smart farmers’ of Jouf reap a rich olive harvest

Saudi Arabia’s green oil: Ancient meets modern as the ‘smart farmers’ of Jouf reap a rich olive harvest
  • Arab News visited the “Million Tree Farm” in Jouf, a land of fertile soil and moderate climate ideal for cultivating this popular drupe

JOUF: Olive oil, the green elixir and a staple in Saudi households, is getting a production boost  as farmers in the northern Jouf region — the “food basket of the Kingdom” — adopt high-tech methods to get the most out of their traditional olive groves.

Olive trees have their roots in the cradle of civilization. Cultivated even before the invention of written language, distinctive tree varieties spread to Iran, Syria and Palestine, and throughout the Mediterranean basin.

With its fertile soil and moderate climate, the Jouf region in the north of the Kingdom has become Saudi Arabia’s biggest producer of olive oil, and is home to vast orchards holding millions of trees.

Throughout history, the humble olive has been associated with prosperity. But olive oil has always been much more than just a delicious part of the daily diet, and is a valuable and intrinsic part of Arab culture and heritage.

 

Arab News traveled north and visited the Busita farm, also known as the “Million Tree Farm,” whose owner, Nasser Al-Hamad, shared his story of swapping a career as an Islamic studies teacher in Riyadh for life in the world of agriculture.

Al-Hamad researched and planned his farming project for years before planting 160,000 olive trees imported from Spain through the Agromillora company.

His efforts have borne fruit and he is now regarded as one of the best farmers in the region.

Throughout history, the humble olive has been associated with prosperity. But olive oil has always been much more than just a delicious part of the daily diet, and is a valuable and intrinsic part of Arab culture and heritage.

“I grew up between farms and in a family full of farmers, so I was already familiar with planting methods for many crops,” he told Arab News.

Al-Hamad decided to grow Spanish olive trees in high-density groves, a more economical and productive model that also delivered high-quality crops and flavor.

“When my family started their farming business in Jouf city, the quality of olive oil caught my attention. We did not depend on the Spanish olive oil for daily use, and it was only used for medical prescriptions. However, I found out that it has a nuttier and richer fruity flavor and a sweeter taste than other types,” he said.

“When you eat it in the early morning, it gives the body a kick-start for the day.”

The journey that led to the Million Tree Farm began with a single step.

Nasser Al-Hamad at his Busita Farm in Al Jouf. (AN photo)

“I started with a small orchard of the available olive trees, then I started my research, including visiting international farms and agricultural experts all over Europe,” Al-Hamad said.

In 2018, 160,000 trees, all of the Arbequina variety, were planted as the first stage of the “Million Tree” project.

“The trees are watered through pressure-regulated irrigation networks for four years, resulting in significant growth, heavy branches to support the fruit and excellent productivity,” he said.

“I have been to China, different countries in Europe, and I have met some of the biggest dealers in the field. It turned out that Busita is the best, in terms of quality, production and cost, thanks to different factors, such as the weather.”

INNUMBERS

160,000 - the number of trees planted in the first stage of the “Million Tree” project

10 kg - every 10 kg of olives yields one liter of high-quality olive oil

He added: “In other countries, rainfall in the harvest season can cause crop damage or increase in moisture level for the fruits, but not here.”

Al-Hamad said that every 10 kg of olives yields one liter of high-quality olive oil.

“This whole orchard is managed by one irrigation pump, and requires only one worker due to the use of modern technology,” he said.

The farm uses a smart irrigation system that distributes water in equal amounts to reduce wastage. (AN photo)

Al-Hamad’s success has prompted him to launch another project, with plans to plant 700,000 trees in the next six months. Three types of Spanish olive tree — Arbequina, or “Queen of Arabia”; Arbosana, which translates as “Arabs of Sinai”; and Olea europaea, the European olive — will be used in the planting.

With a long-term goal in mind, the “smart farmer” is focusing on ways to conserve water, lower costs, and transform the way olive oil is produced in the Kingdom in line with modern business principles.

“As I made a career in the farming industry, I found out that the farming process is easier now. My trip to Spain taught me that farming can also adopt technology that is more feasible than standard methods used in other countries.”

Al-Hamad’s methods result in lower costs, reduced water consumption and minimal use of labor, but the result is a consistent high-quality olive oil.

Olive trees thrive on little water, unlike palm trees, which require intensive watering.

Al-Hamad’s methods result in lower costs, reduced water consumption and minimal use of labor. (AN photo)

Differences in trees sizes can be seen in some orchards due to variations in watering or uneven land.

However, Al-Hamad said: “I use a smart irrigation system that distributes water in equal amounts to reduce wastage. This system allows only two liters of water to be consumed in one hour, no matter the pressure level is. Hence, every tree has a single watering unit to guarantee all trees grow evenly.”

Harvesting olives usually requires a large workforce and is labor intensive. Crop quality can also be affected if olives are left in the sun before being collected.

Harnessing modern techniques, Al-Hamad relies on a mechanical olive harvester — or as he calls it, the “one-man mission machine” — to fulfil his vision.

“Instead of 500 workers harvesting the crop, I bought a high-density olive harvester that ensures gentle handling and seamless transport of the olive to the container and then to the olive press station.”

A high-density olive harvester ensures gentle handling and seamless transport of the olive to the container and then to the olive press station. (AN photo)

The olive harvest starts at the end of September and runs till early January. The harvester combs the olive trees and collects 50 tons of the crop every day.

To allow the harvesting machine to operate between each row, olive trees are trimmed to a standard three-meter width and 1.5-meter height. The crop is then transported through a belt conveyor while dusting and washing are carried out.

Olives are then “cold-pressed” at room temperature to extract the juice, resulting in the so-called olive paste, which is kneaded for 30 minutes until the oil is secreted. The liquid is then separated from the olive mixture, and the extracted juice separated into water and oil.

Pure fresh oil is filtered and stored immediately in cans and bottles ranging from one to 16 liters in volume.

“With persistence, planning and work, nothing is difficult,” Al-Hamad said. “In this project, I made sure to benefit from the climate, land and farming methods, all of which are studied and well planned.”

In 2021, Al-Hamad won the best farmer award in the Jouf region. His “Million Tree” brand, created to highlight the success of his project, also claimed the silver award in the Dubai olive oil competition.

“I pride myself, my family, and my country with this huge accomplishment in producing the finest olive oil in the world,” he said.

“The government’s appreciation for the success of my project encouraged me to think about transforming agriculture into an industry and becoming the most advanced olive oil manufacturer in the world.”


Saudi aid agency continues relief projects in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon

Saudi aid agency continues relief projects in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon
Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi aid agency continues relief projects in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon

Saudi aid agency continues relief projects in Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon

HODEIDAH: In a single week, more than 301,000 liters of clean water were pumped into tanks, and an additional 287,000 liters were provided for domestic use, as part of an ongoing King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center project to supply water and environmental sanitation in Yemen’s Hodeidah governorate.
KSrelief also delivered medical supplies to the Jordanian government to support the health sector in the country and help authorities battle the coronavirus pandemic. They included liquid medical oxygen, oxygen tanks and equipment for intensive care departments.
The aid was officially presented by the Saudi Ambassador to Jordan Naif bin Bandar Al-Sudairi to the Jordanian Minister of Health Firas Ibrahim Al-Hawari.
Al-Sudairi said that the Kingdom and Jordan are bound by strong and distinguished relations that are supported by the leaderships of both countries.
KSrelief said it also continues to distribute bread in northern Lebanon as part of the third phase of the Al-Amal Charity Bakery Project. It has been distributing 20,000 bundles of bread daily to needy Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian families for 12 months. Each family receives two bundles and the project is benefiting 50,000 people.
The project is part of the Kingdom’s efforts, through the work of KSrelief, to improve the living conditions of refugees and provide them with basic food supplies, authorities said.


Who’s Who: Anas Al-Oqalaa, vice governor at Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority

Who’s Who: Anas Al-Oqalaa, vice governor at Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority
Updated 28 October 2021

Who’s Who: Anas Al-Oqalaa, vice governor at Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority

Who’s Who: Anas Al-Oqalaa, vice governor at Saudi Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority

Anas Al-Oqalaa was recently named vice governor of legal and enforcement at the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority.

Al-Oqalaa is a tenacious legal professional with a wealth of expertise acquired through providing legal counsel and management as part of regulatory compliance strategies.

He is also considered a legal expert in drafting legislation specializing in direct and indirect taxes, and capital markets laws. Through tenure, he has acquired an excellent working knowledge of commercial, tax and capital markets laws, and regulations.

Al-Oqalaa has 17 years’ experience in the industry, and has proven leadership skills in building and managing teams for more than 10 years. He possesses a reputation as a leader in his area of specialization.

As an experienced lawyer and legal professional who has worked in the public and private sectors, Al-Oqalaa built robust knowledge in different areas including real estate, economic and financial laws, and regulations.

Al-Oqalaa served in different roles at the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority including deputy governor for legal affairs from October 2018 to October 2021 and general manager of the legal and compliance department from November 2017 to October 2018.

Before that, he served as the general counsel at the National Housing Co. from April 2017 to November 2017, and the general legal counsel and board secretary at the Middle East Financial Investment Co. from September 2015 to April 2017.

He also held different positions at the Capital Market Authority including head of the listed companies violations department from January 2014 to August 2015, head of investment funds and offering violations department from December 2013 to July 2014, and legal counsel from November 2006 to December 2013.

Before that, he worked as a lawyer in local law firms. Al-Oqalaa also leads and is a member of several committees and programs.

He received a master’s degree in corporate and commercial law from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and a bachelor’s degree in law from King Saud University.

Al-Oqalaa also holds several certificates in areas related to law, leadership, investment and accounting.


DiplomaticQuarter: Peruvian envoy praises rich heritage of Riyadh library

DiplomaticQuarter: Peruvian envoy praises rich heritage of Riyadh library
Updated 28 October 2021

DiplomaticQuarter: Peruvian envoy praises rich heritage of Riyadh library

DiplomaticQuarter: Peruvian envoy praises rich heritage of Riyadh library

RIYADH: Ambassador of Peru José Luis Salinas Montes praised the great scientific and cultural patrimony of Riyadh’s King Fahd National Library in a recent visit.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Peruvian Embassy said: “On Oct. 25, Peru’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia delivered to the secretary-general of the King Fahd National Library a set of works representing our culture and discussed the possibilities of cultural cooperation with that institution.
“Our Saudi friends will now be able to learn a little more about Peru and its literary, artistic and intellectual heritage. Culture is the best way to bring peoples closer together and strengthen bonds of friendship,” it added.
The library’s Secretary-General Dr. Mansour A. Al-Zamil, who recently received the Peruvian ambassador and his accompanying delegation, said that the King Fahd National Library is an important destination for ambassadors to learn about the history and culture of Saudi Arabia.
Throughout the tour, the ambassador learned about the library’s goals and cultural and scientific activities. He also visited the exhibition of national documents and paintings by Saudi artists, as well as the public halls, studies department, reference services, and Kingdom Information Center.
At the end of the visit, gifts were exchanged, with Al-Zamil presenting the ambassador with a commemorative shield and some publications.


Saudi medical team takes part in groundbreaking COVID-19 study

Saudi medical team takes part in groundbreaking COVID-19 study
Updated 28 October 2021

Saudi medical team takes part in groundbreaking COVID-19 study

Saudi medical team takes part in groundbreaking COVID-19 study

RIYADH: The findings of an international study on the effectiveness of blood thinners in reducing COVID-19-related deaths have been published in the British Medical Journal, with the King Saud University Medical City Clinical Research Unit playing a key role.
The comparative scientific research, which included King Saud University Medical City, King Faisal Specialist Hospital, studied the effect of blood thinners (heparin drugs) used daily for most patients in hospitals to alleviate dangerous side effects of COVID-19.
In the Kingdom, 148 patients took part in the study, representing one-third of total participants around the world.
Results show that deaths in a high-dose groups were less than those in a preventive dose group. Heparin drugs in the latter group were used as an anticoagulant to decrease harmful blood clotting.
The head of the Saudi research team, Dr. Mosaed bin Hamoud Al-Hamza, vascular surgery consultant at King Saud University Medical City and general supervisor of the study in the Kingdom, said: “The research was based on the findings of survey studies at the beginning of the pandemic, which showed that some infected cases were exposed to arterial and venous clots that lead to severe complications.”
He added that the results of the newest study might lead to a change in treatment protocols for some COVID-19 patients, specifically people hospitalized due to a lack of oxygen.