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)
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 authorities: Air navigation in Kingdom is safe from interference from 5G networks

Saudi authorities: Air navigation in Kingdom is safe from interference from 5G networks
Updated 9 sec ago

Saudi authorities: Air navigation in Kingdom is safe from interference from 5G networks

Saudi authorities: Air navigation in Kingdom is safe from interference from 5G networks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s authorities for civil aviation and communications said air navigation in the Kingdom is safe from interference from 5G networks.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation and the Communications and Information Technology Commission issued a joint statement saying that navigation systems in the Kingdom’s airspace and airports are safe from potential interference from 5G mobile networks.

The statement said frequencies used in air transport ensure that air navigation is unaffected and meet requirements to provide high quality navigation services in which the highest levels of air safety are applied.

GACA said it is constantly working on updating and developing air navigation infrastructure and is closely following technical developments, including new standards for the frequencies of the 5G network in order to meet the increasing needs of air traffic and its rapid growth in the region whilst maintaining the highest standards of safety.

The CITC confirmed that the frequency bands of the 5G network in the Kingdom adhere to technical standards compatible with international best practices for more than 40 countries worldwide.

The commission added that it is a national regulator of the frequency spectrum and enables and supports various radio services for national sectors in the field of defense, security, space, aviation, communications, and meteorology.

Some flights to and from the US were canceled on Wednesday over fears the rollout of the high-speed wireless service could interfere with aircraft technology that measures altitude.

International carriers that rely heavily on the wide-body Boeing 777, and other Boeing aircraft, canceled early flights or switched to different planes Wednesday following warnings from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Chicago-based plane maker over possible interference with radio altimeters.

US Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon began 5G service in the US on Wednesday without major disruptions to flights after the launch of the new wireless technology was scaled back.

The firms spent tens of billions of dollars to obtain 5G licenses last year, but aviation industry groups have raised concerns about possible interference with airplanes' radio altimeters, which can operate at the same frequencies and are vital for landing at night or in bad weather.

Both AT&T and Verizon this week agreed to scale back the launch of 5G near airports following an outcry from US airlines, who had warned the roll-out would cause mass disruptions.


Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

Saudi Arabia reports 5,591 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 584,050
  • A total of 8,914 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced two deaths from COVID-19 and 5,591 new infections on Thursday.

Of the new cases, 1,476 were recorded in Riyadh, 551 in Jeddah, 295 in Makkah, 249 in Dammam, 213 in Hofuf, 190 in Madinah, and 115 in Abha. Several other cities recorded less than one hundred new cases each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 584,050 after 5,238 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,914 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 54.5 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Saudi Crown Prince receives Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria

Saudi Crown Prince receives Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi Crown Prince receives Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria

Saudi Crown Prince receives Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has received in Riyadh on Thursday Russia’s Special Envoy for Syria, according to Al-Ekhbariya TV.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed bilateral ties with Russia Envoy Alexander Lavrentiev aspects of bilateral relations between the two friendly countries and the developments in Syria.


Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others

Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others
Updated 20 January 2022

Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others

Saudi authority gives details of corruption cases in progress and rulings issued in others
  • Cases involve crooked land deals, bribery, fake documents, false COVID-19 vaccination certificates and other abuses of power and public office

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, known as Nazaha, on Wednesday gave details of a number of criminal cases it is pursuing in which legal proceedings against the accused are underway.
In one of the cases, a notary was arrested for allegedly receiving SR4,461,500 ($1,189,331) in exchange for illegally transferring ownership of two sections of land as a “gift” to a businessman and the businessman’s sister without the knowledge of their father, who owns the land. The notary’s brother was also arrested.
In another, a retired brigadier general who served in the Border Guards is accused of receiving SR10 million to accept requests for compensation from 15 citizens, who have also been arrested, for large areas of land that were owned illegally.
An engineer working in a senior position in a municipality was arrested over claims that he received SR350,000 from a businessman in exchange for issuing fake approval certificates for his commercial enterprise. The certificates are said to have been worth SR435,000 and the related completion certificates for the disbursement of the financial dues had been signed.
A citizen allegedly received SR12,500 of an agreed SR32,000 payment in return for canceling 16 violations by a company that had been registered at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
Nine employees of the Ministry of Health and six foreign mediators of the deals were arrested over allegations that they accepted money in return for modifying the immunization status of a number of citizens to indicate that they had received a COVID-19 vaccine when they had not.
With the cooperation of the Ministry of Interior, an officer and a resident were arrested for forming a criminal gang through which they identified workers in violation of residency laws, arrested them and then demanded money to release them.
A number of cases referred by Nazaha’s Criminal Investigation and Prosecution Unit to the Criminal Court in Riyadh resulted in convictions and the issuance of preliminary court rulings against the suspects.
In one case, a notary was convicted of bribery for receiving SR15.5 million in exchange for illegally issuing a deed of land ownership. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined SR700,000. The person who paid the bribe was jailed for five years and fined SR500,000. A citizen convicted of delivering the bribe was given a five-year sentence and fined SR500,000.
The secretary-general of a national committee affiliated with the Ministry of Interior was convicted of embezzlement, forgery, use of forged documents and money laundering. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined SR1,020,000. A businessman convicted in connection with the case was jailed for seven years, fined SR500,000, ordered to pay back SR3 million that had been embezzled, and banned from traveling for three years after release from prison.
A former ambassador was convicted of bribery and abuse of office for illegally issuing Hajj and Umrah visas in exchange for payments. He was sentenced to six years in prison and fined SR300,000.
A member of the Public Prosecution was convicted of bribery and abuse of office for requesting SR30,000 from a citizen in exchange for dismissing a pending case. He was jailed for three years and fined SR30,000.
The authority said it will continue to pursue anyone suspected of exploiting public office for personal gain or harming the public interest in any way, and that guilty individuals will be held accountable whenever they are identified, even after retirement, as there is no statute of limitations on such cases and a zero-tolerance policy applies in matters involving corruption.


Minister of Saudi National Guard inaugurates air base in Dirab

Minister of the Saudi National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar inaugurates the National Guard Air Base in Dirab. (SPA)
Minister of the Saudi National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar inaugurates the National Guard Air Base in Dirab. (SPA)
Updated 20 January 2022

Minister of Saudi National Guard inaugurates air base in Dirab

Minister of the Saudi National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar inaugurates the National Guard Air Base in Dirab. (SPA)

RIYADH: Minister of the Saudi National Guard Prince Abdullah bin Bandar on Monday inaugurated the National Guard Air Base in Dirab, south of the capital, Riyadh, the ministry said.
He listened to a briefing about the base, and watched a video presentation of the facilities and training services it offers in support of the National Guard units.
President of the Aviation Authority Maj. Gen. Fahd bin Saedan praised the base, which he said was designed to the highest standard modern facilities.
Maj. Gen. Turki Al-Tasan, the commander of the National Guard Air Base, gave a speech on the aviation base, which he said would serve as “an impregnable shield for the country, with protective hawks in its skies, becoming a military force comparable to nations.”
The minister of National Guard also toured the base’s aviation institute and listened to a briefing about the courses it offers to hone and enhance skills in various military actions.
He then toured the aviation simulators, modern simulators and advanced technologies that are used in training National Guard aviation officers and personnel in various aviation specializations for pilots and technicians.
Prince Abdullah also watched an integrated system of National Guard aircraft and their crews, including pilots and technicians, who performed a military salute to him.