Supporting the traditional Saudi micro-industries
The Taif rose, grown for more than three centuries in the Hijaz mountains in the west of Saudi Arabia, is renowned for its intense fragrance. Its scent is so cherished that it has been used by famous perfume producers. Now Roseyar — one of many micro-industry initiatives led by Aramco — is aiming to bring the Taif rose to a wider audience through body products ranging from shower gel to hand cream.
Along the way, Roseyar is employing local underprivileged women at a purpose-built factory and equipping them with new skills. It is a great example of an approach that, since 2015, has injected a strategic focus into Aramco’s social responsibility programs, which are designed to empower local communities. Roseyar is just one of the company’s micro-industry initiatives.
Others include traditional Saudi artisanal activities such as the production of honey and coffee, a factory to make the traditional men’s robe known as “bisht” and a sewing center operated by hearing-impaired women.
Saudi Arabia’s mountainous southwestern region is the center of its beekeeping industry. In collaboration with the Beekeepers Cooperative Association, Aramco worked to introduce modern beekeeping methods to locals, providing infrastructure and equipment in the areas of Baha, Asir, Madinah, and Taif. We have also partnered with Baha’s Beekeepers’ Cooperation Society to provide training for local apiculturists. By the end of 2022, we had assisted some 1,800 beekeepers, and in 2023 we are supporting an additional 600 beekeepers in Asir.
We approach these projects the same way we approach a commercial venture, with the aim of them becoming more sustainable so they can stand on their own. We conduct feasibility studies; establish partnerships with charities, businesses, and government; and provide resources such as marketing, legal services, and new business development. We also aim to identify an entity that will take over the enterprise in the future and lead it forward.
By supporting traditional micro-industries, Aramco empowers people to shape their economic futures. This spurs diversification, drives sustainable economic growth, and aims to add meaningful jobs to the labor market, while at the same time delivering high-quality products and leveraging each region’s unique natural resources.
In the mountains of Jazan, we provided coffee plantations with seedlings, irrigation, and tools. In partnership with the Environmental Research Center at Jazan University, we have been training farmers and provided support to 1,050 coffee farmers by the end of last year. This helped them increase their income while reducing irrigation water use, boosted coffee production by 80 percent, and elevated the Saudi Khawlani coffee bean from the region to specialty coffee status.
In the spring of 2023, we also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi Coffee Co., a Public Investment Fund company, to further develop the sustainable coffee industry in the Kingdom. The company will continue expanding Aramco’s coffee initiatives in the Jazan and Asir regions and will provide input on best practices for operating the Saudi Coffee Center for local farmers in the Al-Dair governorate.
Today, companies and communities are increasingly focused on establishing mutually beneficial partnerships. At Aramco, this rich and rewarding approach is taking our corporate citizenship program to a new level as we sow the seeds for the thriving micro-industries of the future.
By mobilizing our resources to support micro-industries, Aramco acts as a catalyst for economic growth, serves as a role model for our customers and partners, and continues our long tradition of positively impacting the communities in which we operate.
• Khalid Al-Zamil is vice president of public affairs at Saudi Aramco.