With over half the area of Saudi Arabia being deserts, the possibility of practising agriculture there is very minimal. But for 15 long years, Hameed A, a farmer from Kerala, has been growing all kinds of vegetables and fruits in the country’s capital! Hard to believe, right?
From tomatoes to papayas, Hameed turned 40 acres of barely fertile land into a flourishing farmland.
“You could say I created a mini Kerala there. The land was so green and flourishing with produce that no one would believe it was in Saudi Arabia,” Hameed tells The Better India (TBI).
Today, the 50-year-old, who returned to his hometown in Palakkad a few years ago, continues to do what he does best, farming, which he claims earns him upto Rs. 5000- 8000 a day!
From Kerala to Saudi Arabia
“I went to the Gulf in my 30s and farming was the last job option I had in mind. I didn’t even know if it was possible. But to my surprise, the Arab in Al Kharj, Riyadh that I was supposed to work under asked me to cultivate vegetables in the 40 acres of land that he had. This was not an easy job, but since I had grown up in a family of farmers, I had an idea of how to go about it. So in just a span of one year, I was able to turn the place around,” explains Hameed.
Growing tomatoes, carrots, green chillies, ladies finger, cucumber, bitter gourd and papayas, Hameed utilised the entire 40-acre to its maximum potential and had almost all the kinds of vegetables that he grew in his hometown.
His employer was so impressed that he leased out 20 acres of land exclusively to Hameed, where he could cultivate and sell his own set of vegetables. Along with 10 other Indian and Palestinian workers, Hameed worked for 15 years, cultivating that land.
Hameed’s work would start early in the morning at six with watering the plants and would finish by around 5 in the evening where he would make sure to pull all the weeds and add manure and other fertilisers to the plants.
“Since it was a huge chunk of land, watering the land was taken care of by sprinklers. They were set up on a 50-metre long pole that would water the plants at a 1 km radius. There was a borewell set up nearby from where we would source the water,” says Hameed.
Although not all kinds of vegetables grew there, Hameed made sure to test out all his options. Every time he would come back to Kerala during the holidays, he would take back all kinds of seeds to see which one would grow in the Arabian soil.
“The Arabs are known for their cultivation of dates, poultry and dairy farming, but growing vegetables is not their forte. But I firmly believed that with the right resources any piece of land can flourish and well, it did!” says Hameed.
Unfortunately, Hameed’s farmland didn’t last for long. In a torrential rain that lasted for almost a week, all the crops and vegetables were destroyed. Dejected at the devastation of the years of labour, Hameed decided to make his journey back home.
Down But Not Out
“That phase of my life was very difficult. I had no idea where to start but I knew it had to be farming. So without thinking twice, I took up the 1 acre of land that I had and started cultivating vegetables, all over again. Besides this, I also took up about 10 acres of land on lease to cultivate paddy. With the help of my wife Zubaida and my four children, Jafar, Mohammed, Nasira and Jasna, the cultivation started gaining momentum,” says Hameed.
Today, Hameed cultivates almost Rs 8,000 worth of produce every single day. Besides the vegetables and the paddy, Hameed has also ventured out into poultry and dairy farming. With 30 chickens and about 6 cows, Hameed gets enough manure for his fields as well.
Although Hameed faced a lot of financial trouble when he returned from Saudi, today, Hameed’s completely organic vegetables have gained a lot of popularity in the markets and are receiving a lot of appreciation from across Kerala at various expos and harvest festivals. Hameed has been recognised by many awards including the award for the best farmer in Palakkad.
“Nature has its way of paying back. I worked for 15 years and now I can proudly say that nature paid me back for what I lost,” Hameed concludes.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)