By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: A tropical forest can be found in the center of Kuwait at Shamiya Nature Reserve Youth Center, with thousands of different types of trees, orchids, flowers and spice plants. The idea of the reserve sprouted in 2014, and the dream was to see residential areas full of trees, says Noha Al-Kharafi, one of the founders of the reserve.
Speaking exclusively to Kuwait Times, Al-Kharafi remembers that the idea was initially rejected by the residents of the area despite support from several ministers and the capital governor. "Our passion for the project was stronger. So, in 2016, we started work on Shamiya Reserve with personal funding and donations from residents in the area to plant trees."
The idea took shape when three women - the founders of the reserve: Al-Kharafi, Adiba Al-Fahad and Mazna Al-Mutairi, decided to act on a suggestion put forth by their friend Salwa Al-Ghanem, who lived next to the youth center, to use the deserted and empty space for a productive initiative.
"We were given land without any financial resources to achieve our goal. We strived hard to achieve what we have today and our efforts coupled with the efforts of more than 40 volunteers contributed to what we have today," she explains.
Al-Kharafi explains that the reserve aims to create an agricultural ecological model for residential areas and hopes to promote the benefits of working in such community initiatives among the youth. She outlines the efforts taken by volunteers in the team, who belonged to different age groups in preparing the reserve and planting it. She revealed that the reserve is the first stage of the project and plans are underway to expand the initiative to include larger areas.
"There is an upcoming project ready to be launched, where we have a vision of a similar reserve spread over 3,000 square meters, but we need a sponsor. We have a clear vision and great ideas waiting to be implemented. Our team wants to beautify Kuwait with Kuwaiti cadres," she asserted.
Meanwhile, another founder, Adiba Al-Fahad, said that the idea of Shamiya Youth Reserve is the result of understanding and cooperation between volunteers who were passionate about agriculture and in working with various institutions of the state, stressing that the team's most important goals include spreading awareness of the importance of hydroponics and other clean crops. "We want to help Kuwait combat climate change and reduce carbon emissions. When we become conscious societies, this will positively effect climate reform," she added.
"Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi adopted our idea before he became a minister, and young and old civil society members invested in this place. We have machines and equipment to take advantage of organic waste from the gardens, especially large branches. Machines are used to reduce carbon footprint but we are trying as much as possible to attract young people into the clean economy. We seek to reduce electricity and water consumption in several ways and educate the community about it."
Architect Ahmed Al-Saffar, one of the volunteers, said: "My participation in the Shamiya Nature Reserve is voluntary, because it represents the perfect model of community work and activates the roots of the society's role in cooperation with its top branches and government agencies. The reserve enhances cooperation and participatory work with civil society institutions and voluntary groups and teams," he said.
Noha Al-Kharafi also called on the government to consider developing the passion of Kuwaiti children in whatever field they are interested in, hoping that the government changes the method of teaching and education for the advancement of the country.