By Maram Alabbasi
Pakistani couple Sara and Riaz now live in Canada. They recently decided that instead of a registry, they would request donations from their guests to plant fruit saplings in Yemen.
In collaboration with the Foundation for Endangered Wildlife (FEW) and on behalf of Save Yemen’s Flora & Fauna (SYFF), the ‘Plant it Project’ has emerged. This initiative is very unique because it is funded by donations, such as the one made by Sara and Riaz.
“They love Yemen very much and decided that that was what they wanted their wedding present to be,” said SYFF member Noha Radami.
The proposed area for the project is Wadi Sharis, Hajjah. Hajjah is inhabited by the rare Arabian leopard. The project initially aimed to plant fruit in Sana’a schools. “The plan has been changed because we thought it was wrong to plant fruit in Sana’a, where there is no awareness. The fruit wouldn’t last,” Radami said Assistant Professor of Biology and the Associate Director of Foundation of Endangered Wildlife (FEW) Mohammed Aldoais chose this area because it contains many leopards and he hopes it will become a reserve such Bora’a and Haof. “We want this area to become a nature reserve because there are leopards there, and leopards are a threatened species,” Radami said. There are an estimated 200 Arabian leopards in the world. 50 of the 200 are believed to be in Yemen. They exist in Amran too. “Amran is a tribal are and it would be difficult to control things there,” said Radami. “They won’t let us put up cameras for fear of some scandal being recorded.” 70 percent of the donations will go directly towards plants, trees, and transportation. The remaining 30 percent will go to volunteers. There are currently 16 volunteers.
On Thursday April 25th, the volunteers went to Hajjah, where they will stay for 24 hours. Avocados and figs will be planted in the villages. “We are not afraid of the people in Hajjah,” said Radami. Because Sara and Riaz care about the environment and care about Yemen, they sacrificed their wedding gifts in order to care for the environment and to promote sustainability and coexistence between humans and nature.
Their project is known as the Fruiting Tree Initiative (FTI). They said they hoped that such initiatives could further protection efforts for the Arabian leopards and other endangered animals while generating fruit to feed the area’s inhabitants for generations to come. “We want to educate people and raise awareness of the importance of nature, animals and the environment,” Radami stated. “Raimah used to be so green, but no longer. Qat has drained the area of its resources.” Nature gives us much, she said. “The trees are always givers, they don’t take anything from you, at the same time trees give you air, fruits and good looking places,” expresses Radami.
Radami believes education is the most important tool in the fight for the environment. “Teachers and schools have to educate students and raise awareness by arranging trips to these areas. Students must participate in nature related activities,” she said. Education would also lead people to treat animals better, he believes. “Animals in Yemen are not taken care of well enough. I see children kick and torture dogs and cats because no one has taught those kids that it is forbidden to mistreat animals.”