LOCATION AL-GHAT, SAUDI ARABIA
ENVIRONMENT DESERT DATE FARM
CHALLENGES HIGH TEMPERATURES, MINIMAL PRECIPITATION
The rolling dunes, sand for miles, a rare oasis. These are the images many associate with Saudi Arabia.
Harsh as its environment is in many places, Saudi Arabia does have plants and wildlife. In spring the desert blooms, and could support many more trees than exist there today. However, much of the natural flora has been lost to agriculture, industrialization, and the urbanization of this rapidly growing country.
This brings us to Al-Ghat, where we are working with a private date farmer to restore the area’s natural landscape.
Our partner recalls playing amongst the trees of Saudi Arabia as a young boy. “We were always outside, playing in nature with our friends” he says. To bring this nature back, we are working with local partners to plant the Moringa tree (Moringa peregrina).
The Moringa comes from the same family as the Moringa oleifera, which has been designated a “supertree” due to its rich proteins and the medicinal value of natural antibiotics found in its seeds.
The Moringa oleifera is found around the world in salads, lotions, teas, and medicines, and the Moringa peregrina we are planting has the essential nutrients needed for livestock feed that can be used to sustain Saudi Arabia’s camels and cattle.
The first plantings have seen great success, with trees planted in April 2014 now measuring over 2 meters tall with 70% survival rates. After two summers with average temperatures of 40C and less than 100mm of rain per year, these are encouraging numbers. This success lies in forcing the seedling to invest in its root system first before investing in growth above ground. We excavated a small tree and found roots that went over 100cm deep into the soil along with an extensive network of hair roots, which further anchor the tree and serve as the conduit for water and nutrients. The water in those first Cocoons has long since emptied, which means these trees are now growing independently.
These trees will prevent erosion, increase ground water infiltration, and catch sand, but will also provide a pleasant spot for people to gather, share a meal, and rest. As a result, Al-Ghat will continue to be a place where childhood memories are forged and first experiences of flourishing wildlife are enjoyed.
- Moringa tree extracts have nine times the protein of yogurt, ten times the vitamin A of carrots, fifteen times the potassium of bananas, seventeen times the calcium of milk, twelve times the vitamin C of oranges, and twenty-five times the iron of spinach
- The Saudi Arabian desert is only 5,000 years old, whereas the Sahara Desert is believed to be 3-10 million years old
- Tens of thousands of years ago there were lakes, rich vegetation and even water buffalo in the Saudi desert!