Green businesses and communities need to partner to protect the environment

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Green businesses and communities need to partner to protect the environment

We can empower local communities by raising awareness, building capacity, and providing essential knowledge and resources.  (spa)
We can empower local communities by raising awareness, building capacity, and providing essential knowledge and resources. (spa)

There are limits to what experts and advanced technology can do to protect the environment. Effective management of natural habitats depends on the involvement of the people who live and work in them.

Communities understand local environmental issues from first-hand experience. They are personally affected. They are the ones who have skin in the game.

The company I work for, Red Sea Global, is building luxury resorts on Saudi Arabia’s west coast, helping to put the kingdom on the world tourism map.

Once completed, our flagship destinations, the Red Sea and AMAALA, will be powered exclusively by renewable energy, with around 760,000 solar panels already installed.

We aim to achieve a net protection impact of 30 percent at our sites by 2040. We’re doing coral gardening to replenish coral reefs, and we’re planting mangrove tree seedlings, one of nature’s best carbon sinks, to support our planned 50 million-year-old mangrove tree seedlings by 2040. More than 1 million of the books have been planted. 2030.

Preserving and nurturing the environment requires more than just following rules and regulations. We must involve our neighbors, farmers, fishermen, and townspeople.

Our approach must go beyond mere community engagement. We have to empower them. By helping them find their voices and express their wants and concerns, we can build essential partnerships to protect and improve the environment, while improving people’s lives. You can also try.

It is essential to empower local communities and enable them to become true partners in restoring natural habitats.

Raed Albacito

At Red Sea Global, we elevate this concept to a core principle that guides everything we do. In other words, we aim to serve both people and the planet. This is an ambitious goal, but we know we can’t achieve it alone. That’s why we advocate a collective approach and building strong partnerships.

Our collaboration ranges from grassroots to strategic, involving the private sector, government agencies such as the Saudi National Center for Environmental Compliance, and a wide range of civil society and non-profit organizations.

Empowering local communities means raising their awareness, building their capacity, and connecting them with essential knowledge and resources. A great example of such empowerment is Tamara, a farmers’ cooperative co-founded by Red Sea Global.

In 2021, we approached some of the region’s more than 2,000 farmers to supply fresh vegetables and fruit for our future hotels. These farmers spoke of the many challenges they faced, from too expensive fertilizers and a lack of technical expertise to limited transportation that made it difficult to sell their produce.

So we stepped in and helped establish Tamara in 2022. Local farms now deliver high-quality cucumbers, tomatoes and other vegetables directly to Red Sea destinations. The carbon footprint this produce leaves as it travels from farm to fork is much smaller than if it had to be trucked north from its supply hub of Jeddah.

Tamara also employs agricultural engineers who advise farmers on production to higher and more sustainable standards. In the future, this should help local farms use water, chemicals and fertilizers more wisely.

Our partnership with local farmers through Tamara was successful because we listened to the local community. We worked with them to solve challenges and reduce their impact on the environment.

A very different example of strengthening local power was Red Sea Global’s project to restore traditional sailing ships in the town of Umluj in January. Our aim was to help restore and preserve the community’s rich maritime heritage.

The month-long event was curated by local fishermen and their families. We have ensured that our boat restorers follow best environmental practices. Private partners also supplied environmentally friendly paints for the restoration.

Another effort to empower communities is a mobile phone app we designed for people living near Red Sea destinations. This is an open, two-way communication channel that allows our community to share their feedback, suggestions, and complaints directly with us. The app is called Jewar, which roughly translates to “good neighbor.” Although Jewar is still in beta, he has already been downloaded by nearly 17,000 people.

We used this app to inform the Umluj community about the yacht restoration project. It can also be used to announce environmental campaigns, such as the litter pick-up campaign we conducted in December.

Examples as diverse as farmers’ cooperatives, yacht restoration, and mobile phone apps show that the only limit to community involvement is imagination.

But to really excel and succeed, you have to go beyond the basics. It is essential to empower local communities and enable them to become true partners in restoring natural habitats.

Like any successful partnership, grassroots efforts to protect the environment grow from trust and respect. Our experience at Red Sea Global has taught us to act with humility and listen to our communities. If more people could do that, we would all be better off, and our environment.

Raed Al-Basheet is the Group Chief Environmental and Sustainability Officer at Red Sea Global, the developer of The Red Sea and AMAALA, two tourism projects on Saudi Arabia’s northwest coast.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News.

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