A Saudi-led initiative aids the study of climate change’s potential impact on food security

Special An Ethiopian pastoralist tends to his herd. (Supplied/ILRI)
An Ethiopian pastoralist tends to his herd. (Supplied/ILRI)
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Updated 31 October 2021

A Saudi-led initiative aids the study of climate change’s potential impact on food security

An Ethiopian pastoralist tends to his herd. (Supplied/ILRI)
  • As world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26, data and technology are being used to prepare for climate shocks 
  • In September Community Jameel announced the creation of the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action

DUBAI: A Saudi-based organization has partnered with leading researchers and humanitarian agencies to harness the power of data and technology in the hope of preventing climate shocks from causing hunger among vulnerable livestock-farming communities.

Community Jameel announced in September the creation of the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action to help tackle the growing threat to such communities from increasingly severe and frequent climate-related disasters.

Its launch coincided with preparations for COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, which begins in Glasgow on Sunday. World leaders will gather in the Scottish city to discuss collective action on carbon emissions, fossil fuels and other efforts to prevent global temperatures rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a target set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

The new venture combines the expertise of five partners, including the University of Edinburgh, the International Livestock Research Institute, Save the Children, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and Community Jameel.

Rising temperatures mean droughts are becoming more frequent, depriving livestock of reliable water sources and turning once lush pasture into desert. By recording changes at a local level, the observatory aims to help communities adapt and adjust before disaster strikes.

“Community Jameel has for a long time been focused on the question of food security and, particularly, how climate change puts pressure on access to safe and plentiful food,” George Richards, Community Jameel’s director, told Arab News. “But we gradually saw an increase in need and pressure on access to food, as a result of increasing pressures from climate change.”

Community Jameel, an international non-governmental organization, was launched to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues using an approach grounded in evidence, science, data and technology. In 2014, it established an institution at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, that focuses on developing new technologies and solutions for clean water and food security.

“We went back to our roots and thought about how we can support researchers and scientists who are using data and science effectively to monitor, forecast and give early warnings about outbreaks of hunger, famine and other drivers of malnutrition, particularly where those are the result of climate change,” Richards said.




Ethiopian pastoralists tends their herd. (Supplied/ILRI)

The observatory partnership combines cutting-edge technology and data surveillance to detect the early-warning signs of severe weather events and systemic climate change with community-driven applications and interventions.

The Jameel Observatory is collaborating with agencies that work with farmers to develop and apply digital and analytical tools that can help farmers shape their own food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

Researchers plan to use community-level data along with satellites, drones, weather data and remote sensing to understand, prepare for and mitigate the likely effects of climate shocks.

The observatory’s first project aims to fill the evidence gaps that currently prevent effective forecast-based action to protect livelihoods and nutrition in parts of East Africa.

As climate change takes center stage at COP26, a sharp focus has been placed on the need to be fully prepared for the vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses triggered by the changing climate.

With drylands accounting for about 40 percent of the world’s land mass, many communities are at risk from fluctuating rainfall, drought, rising temperatures and land degradation.

“In a world increasingly impacted by climate change, forecasting the impact of droughts and severe weather on hunger and malnutrition, and acting early to stop lives from being lost, is of urgent importance,” Joanne Grace, head of hunger and livelihoods at humanitarian organization Save the Children, told Arab News.

“Getting it right would be monumental for the health of children for decades to come. The Jameel Observatory aims to help ensure that acting early to prevent food crises becomes the norm rather than the exception.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, dryland ecosystems are home to about 25 percent of the global population, contain half of the world’s livestock and 27 percent of its forests, while storing 30 percent of soil organic carbon and supplying about 60 percent of food production.

However, climate change is resulting in longer periods of drought and accelerated desertification in drylands. This is affecting biodiversity and vegetation cover, which in turn reduces soil fertility and undermines food, nutrition and human security.

“Climate change can therefore push already fragile ecosystems and local communities beyond coping capacity, resulting in forced displacement, increased migration, and tensions related to natural resource access and use,” the FAO said in a paper launched at the UN Food Systems Summit in New York in September.




A farmers havests leafy vegetables in a field on the mountain range of Jabel Jais, in Ras Al Khaimah, on January 24, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)

The Jameel Observatory examines the relationship between climate change and health to try to mitigate the threat from rising temperatures as a driver of hunger and famine. The organization has partnered with Aeon, a Riyadh-based think tank, to coordinate and convene researchers in Saudi Arabia and internationally to examine this relationship.

“There is a lot of external research about the risks that accelerating climate change will impose, particularly in places that have climates which are naturally hot and humid, including the Gulf,” Richards said.

“What they call the rise of the ‘wet-bulb temperature,’ which is the combined measure of heat and humidity, could make parts of the Gulf uninhabitable in a few years. But there is very little research that is actually done by or with researchers in Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”

That is why the initiative has also brought together researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, MIT, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, and Imperial College in London to untangle the relationship between health and climate change in the GCC area. Their findings are expected in April 2022.

In parallel, Community Jameel will be co-hosting an event in the Saudi Pavilion at COP26 in partnership with Aeon, at which researchers will present some of their interim findings. Along with the Jameel Observatory, it will also welcome representatives of organizations from Nairobi, the UK and the US, in collaboration with Cooking Sections, an arts duo based in London who were nominated for the 2021 Turner Prize.

“Their arts practice is focused on the question of food and sustainability,” Richards said. “So Community Jameel, Cooking Sections and Michelin Star chefs are coming together to co-curate a culinary gastronomic experience to emphasize the importance of sustainable food systems, which is at the core of what the Jameel Observatory is trying to do in terms of leveraging data to make food systems more efficient and mitigate the risks of outbreaks of famine and hunger.”




Rising temperatures mean droughts are becoming more frequent, depriving livestock of reliable water sources and turning once lush pasture into desert. (AFP/File Photo)

Richards also highlighted the opening season of Hayy Jameel, Art Jameel’s new hub in Jeddah that is due to open on Dec. 6, which will have a strong focus on questions relating to food.

“There is something so fundamental to the way that human society tends to construct itself around food, that even the most basic act of community is centered around breaking bread or the joint meal together,” he said.

“And, as we face greater challenges, whether it’s from the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change, there is an ever-greater need for humanity to lock hands and work together to tackle those challenges.

“For us, it’s really in our name. We are all about community and we feel that food is at the heart of that community. So making sure that people everywhere have access to safe and plentiful food is really at our core.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Saudi artist with a disability blows minds with his paintings

Ahmed Hakeem’s paintings were displayed at Markaz Al-Oun Bazaar. (Supplied)
Ahmed Hakeem’s paintings were displayed at Markaz Al-Oun Bazaar. (Supplied)
Updated 07 August 2022

Saudi artist with a disability blows minds with his paintings

Ahmed Hakeem’s paintings were displayed at Markaz Al-Oun Bazaar. (Supplied)
  • Ahmed Hakeem’s love of creativity helps him to forget the difficulties he faces to draw some amazing art pieces
  • Hakeem has not let his disability be an impediment to what he likes doing, which is painting

RIYADH: With joy, Ahmed Hakeem holds his brush, starts picking vibrant colors, and then he paints cubic and abstract shapes on an empty canvas.

Hakeem is a 34-year-old Saudi artist who has a mild intellectual disability. Individuals with mild ID are slower in all areas of conceptual development and social and daily living skills.

But Hakeem’s love of art helps him to forget the difficulties he faces as a person with a disability to draw some amazing art pieces. He has not let his disability be an impediment to what he likes doing, which is painting.

Not only that he is good at painting, but he is also an athlete. He is a good swimmer, he plays basketball, he loves running, he has won bronze and silver medals in sports.

He is also good at ping pong, padel, hiking, and loves animals.

During the pandemic, Hakeem unleashed his creative side and started to learn to paint. He enrolled in classes, and he started drawing abstract and cubic art.

FASTFACTS

• Hakeem is a 34-year- old Saudi artist who has a mild intellectual disability. Individuals with mild ID are slower in all areas of conceptual development and social and daily living skills.

• He has not let his disability be an impediment to what he likes doing, which is painting.

• He is also an athlete. He is a good swimmer, he plays basketball, he loves running, he has won bronze and silver medals in sports.

His paintings were displayed at Markaz Al-Oun Bazaar, which is a help center and non-profit organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities, and he wants to have his own gallery in the future.

Hakeem, who works at Juffali Heavy Equipment as an assistant, also talked about how hard it is for people with disabilities to find a good job.

“You need to know about the challenges that I am having with the community in general. Most people with disabilities are usually unemployed and don’t have access to powerful governmental aid, but their families have to enroll them in special clubs, and this can be financially stressful to the parents, so there is a lack of community and activities for us,” Hakeem told Arab News.

Nour Hakeem, his sister, said: “Because Hakeem looks normal and is not in a wheelchair, many places we go, they see him as a normal person, and every time we go out, I have to have proof that he is mentally challenged, which is very hard.”

“Even though the plane’s tickets are more expensive than the economy ticket and the discount they give us isn’t that much, so basically we book him a normal economy ticket but hopefully with time this is going to change soon because there is more attention by the authorities on people with disabilities,” she said.

According to APD, the official association of people with disabilities, the percentage of people with disabilities in the Kingdom is 7.1 percent, or 1,445,723 people out of a population 32.94 million. The association is set to organize its efforts and build an integrated institutional system to remove barriers to people with disabilities and empower them to live in society without discrimination.

 


King Fahd National Library exhibits rare Qur’ans

King Fahd National Library exhibits rare Qur’ans. (SPA)
King Fahd National Library exhibits rare Qur’ans. (SPA)
Updated 07 August 2022

King Fahd National Library exhibits rare Qur’ans

King Fahd National Library exhibits rare Qur’ans. (SPA)
  • The King Fahd National Library recently added to its collection Chinese books donated by the National Library of China

RIYADH: The King Fahd National Library has opened an exhibition of rare Arabic manuscripts, including medieval copies of the Qur’an, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The library’s Secretary-General Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil launched the opening, which includes books printed prior to the Kingdom’s unification during the reign of King Abdulaziz.
Saleh Al-Aboudi, director of the library’s Anecdotes and Collections Department, gave a presentation explaining the exhibition’s contents, which boasts Qur’ans dating back to the third century AH as well as local manuscripts, miniatures, antiquities, inscriptions, and other Arab and Saudi publications.
The King Fahd National Library recently added to its collection Chinese books donated by the National Library of China.
The books — covering subjects including history, economy, tourism and culture — are distributed in Arabic and English. They include literature related to China, including books on the Chinese language and children’s books, which serve as an opportunity for Saudis to get to know the country and its culture.

 


Makkah governor receives US consul general in Jeddah

Makkah governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal receives US Consul General Faris Asad in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Makkah governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal receives US Consul General Faris Asad in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Updated 07 August 2022

Makkah governor receives US consul general in Jeddah

Makkah governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal receives US Consul General Faris Asad in Jeddah. (Supplied)
  • Faris’ other past assignments include assistant information officer in Amman, Jordan, and public diplomacy officer with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mosul, Iraq

MAKKAH: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal received US Consul General Faris Asad in Jeddah on Sunday.
They discussed topics of common interest. Asad also concurrently serves as the US representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, headquartered in Jeddah. He joined the US Department of State in 2004 as a foreign service officer.
Most recently, Faris served as political chief at the US Embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan from 2018-2020.
Faris’ other past assignments include assistant information officer in Amman, Jordan, and public diplomacy officer with a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mosul, Iraq.

 


 


Saudi aid agency inaugurates 2nd phase of free eye surgery projects in Yemen

KSrelief inaugurates 2nd phase of free eye surgery projects in Yemen. (SPA)
KSrelief inaugurates 2nd phase of free eye surgery projects in Yemen. (SPA)
Updated 07 August 2022

Saudi aid agency inaugurates 2nd phase of free eye surgery projects in Yemen

KSrelief inaugurates 2nd phase of free eye surgery projects in Yemen. (SPA)
  • The Noor Saudi program aims to perform 6,000 specialized eye surgeries over the course of the year

ADEN: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center launched on Friday the second phase of its project to provide free eye surgeries, part of the Noor Saudi program, which will be implemented in the governorates of Aden and Mukalla, Yemen.
Director of the KSrelief office in Aden Saleh Al-Thibani said that the campaign aims to combat blindness and assist patients who cannot afford the costs of treatment.
The Noor Saudi program aims to perform 6,000 specialized eye surgeries over the course of the year, which will be implemented following a series of projects to cover as many patients in need of eye operations as possible.
Each project, Al-Thibani explained, consists of performing 400 operations, in addition to providing necessary medicines and eyeglasses.
Undersecretary of the Yemeni Ministry of Health Dr. Ahmed Al-Kamal expressed appreciation for the center’s continuous support of the Yemeni health sector and its humanitarian work in the country.
KSrelief concluded the volunteer training program in Mukalla on Sunday.  

Around 712 individuals benefitted from the program that focused on providing first aid for bicycle accident victims, common injuries, life  psychological first aid, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation training among others. 

 


2-year afforestation campaign launched in Saudi Arabia’s Asir

Saudi Arabia launches afforestation campaign in Asir. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia launches afforestation campaign in Asir. (SPA)
Updated 07 August 2022

2-year afforestation campaign launched in Saudi Arabia’s Asir

Saudi Arabia launches afforestation campaign in Asir. (SPA)
  • Saudi Arabia launched the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives with the goal of planting 50 billion trees, reducing carbon emissions by more than 10 percent of global contributions

ABHA: The Saudi National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification recently announced the launch of a two-year project aimed at rehabilitating fire-affected sites in the forests of Al-Jarrah Park in the Asir region.

The afforestation plan will see more than 160,000 trees and local plant species planted.

The project aims to boost the vegetation cover inside Al-Jarrah Park. The nature of the soil and geological features of the site will be tested in order to choose the most appropriate plan for rehabilitation.  

The center also aims to combat fire in different regions of the Kingdom and oversee the management of pasture lands, forests and national parks, which will boost sustainable development and enhance the quality of life.

Saudi Arabia launched the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives with the goal of planting 50 billion trees, reducing carbon emissions by more than 10 percent of global contributions.

The initiatives are part of the Kingdom’s endeavors to strengthen regional and international partnerships with a view to overcoming environmental challenges, protecting the planet and combating climate change.