Real stories inspire — Following in his father's footsteps
- Elements Magazine
Growing up in the verdant hills and mountains of the Al-Dayer district of Jazan, in the far south of Saudi Arabia, Jaber was surrounded by coffee.
The area is home to the Khawlani coffee bean, which provides a sweet taste with a hint of apricots and spices and has been described as one of the Kingdom’s best-kept secrets .
One of Jaber’s proudest memories is helping his father with his coffee harvest and being trusted to transport the beans from the farm to his house.
“It was very tough and challenging, especially at a young age. We didn’t have cars, so we used camels and donkeys for transportation.”
“But I knew that my father wouldn’t have assigned me this job if he didn’t think I was capable of doing it, so it made me feel very trustworthy.”
Become a coffee farmer
Jaber was hooked. His father had opened his eyes to a way of life which was a prized part of the culture and traditions of his area; where years were measured around the growing and harvesting of the coffee beans.
“He encouraged me to believe in this craft—as it is regarded as a great craft—and sowed in me a great love for it,” he says.
Jaber had some land of his own and, at the age of 25, he started planting his own trees, expanding to 70 in total.
But—along with his fellow coffee farmers—he faced several challenges.
There was a lack of water for irrigation. It was often hard to find labor when it was needed. And farmers with a small crop couldn’t find a market for their produce.
Then in 2016, Aramco was part of an initiative to help Jaber and other growers expand their production and businesses. There were land reclamation projects to improve the agricultural terraces on the steep slopes of the hills and mountains in Al-Dayer district. Smart irrigation systems were fitted to make the most of limited water resources. Nutrients and high-quality fertilizers were added to the soil. Farmers were given training in the latest cultivation techniques and provided with tools. Seedlings were provided by the project partner, the Jazan Mountains Development Authority. And experts were brought in to help raise product quality.
“Farmers were facing struggles in my area and Aramco has been a great supporter,” says Jaber. “Their amazing initiative has increased my interest in expanding my craft to eventually have more seedlings and even a mini factory.
“This is the ambition that Aramco has encouraged us to have.”
Aramco has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a center dedicated to coffee development in the Kingdom, the National Coffee Development Center (NCDC). The Center aims to elevate the coffee industry and support local farmers by improving farming methods and techniques, increasing production efficiency and income and lifting local and global awareness on Saudi coffee beans.
Full of beans
The initiative has also offered support to help the farmers sell their beans and market them in both local and international markets.
Jaber has four coffee bean blends under his label of “Your Coffee”, or “Gahwatkom” in Arabic. One of them is his daughter Jawaher’s mix, another is called Sahab, meaning “clouds.”
He sells his products at local stores, but also online which means he is now delivering further afield.
“The furthest places we have delivered to are the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait,” says Jaber.
“I thank God that I proceeded with coffee farming. This initiative has helped me and other farmers alike and I wish them similarly successful journeys in coffee farming.”
The 975 coffee farmers who have benefited from the five-year scheme in this part of Jazan have seen their annual production increase tenfold—from 24 metric tons a year to 276 tons.
They’ve been given a chance of a sustainable income and long-term success.
And Jaber, now in his late forties, isn’t stopping here.
With Aramco’s support, his farm has reached 3,000 trees and he has lofty ambitions.
“I aim to grow my business into a big company, Kingdom-wide, and globally as well,” he says proudly.
This series celebrates some of the stories of people from across the Kingdom whose lives have been transformed by projects that Aramco is proud to support. We brought their stories to life through illustrated tales, including Jaber's story. click here to watch.