Fearless Gardening in the Desert
by Katrin Scholz-Barth, President, SustainableQATAR
Fall is my personal favorite season in Qatar! Whether staying in Qatar over the summer or arriving during peak heat waves for the start of the new school year, October is often our very first relief from hot temperatures, though high humidity levels may last until the end of the month. Nevertheless, the beginning of October signals the start of the gardening season here in Qatar. Plants come out of their heat-induced summer dormancy, and start to show signs of life. The agreeable temperatures allow us to contemplate outdoor activities like gardening. For the next six months, this is our chance, fellow gardeners, to get work done! Therefore, we picked Fearless Gardening in the Desert as our October theme for the 52 Weekly Challenges to reduce our carbon footprint through personal actions.
How is gardening connected to sustainability, you might ask? Trees and plants breathe in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and exhale oxygen, the air we breath. In scientific terms this is referred to as sequestering carbon dioxide through photosynthesis – the very foundation on which plants exist. However, there are many more exciting opportunities to reduce carbon emission that may be new to most people because we may have never thought about it.
During our four weekly challenges this month we will address healthy soils and compost as a great way to amend soils; appropriate plant and tree selection to maximize clean, fresh air; beneficial bugs & insects to support a healthy ecosystem; and sprucing up our garden furniture with a kitchen-cabinet treatment to keep our homes and garden toxin-free. All of these activities support and connect to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG #3 Good Health and Well being, #11 Healthy Cities and Communities, #13 Climate Action, #14 Life below Water, and #15 Life on Land.
Did you know that organic soil content binds carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to reduce carbon footprint?
Fearless gardening in the desert requires a hardy bunch of people to grow a green oasis from scratch. Who has such a vision? Or determination? Are you an avid gardener? If so, congratulations! If not yet, let’s get to work together. Either way, over the next four weeks we will share tips to complement your skills of gardening by connecting it to easy ways to reduce our carbon footprint through personal actions and explain why it matters.
What makes gardening so special, particularly in the desert? For starters, gardening can be very therapeutic Working with our hands, turning soils, and touching plants is a great combination of a sensory experience and physical exercise that contrasts with many of our daily activities, especially sitting on desks with computers and phones.
Planting a garden offers a certain sense of accomplishment and gives a deeper appreciation for nature’s beauty and bounty in colors, smells, flowers, and edibles. Healthy soils and plants attract wildlife and create an ecosystem. A garden, even a very small garden, or a container garden, can provide all of these benefits on a micro-scale. It is so much more than getting our hands dirty.
Gardening in our front and back yards is one fantastic way of scaling personal climate action from individual urban oasis to regional landscapes. It’s all about experimenting on a small scale to learn what works in our unique local conditions and then transferring this knowledge to bigger projects and places.
Adding to an already impressive array of public green spaces in Doha, such as Aspire Park, Al Bidda Park, and the Park at the Museum of Islamic Art, there are even bigger new places in the making. Doha, Qatar will host the International Garden Exhibition (IGA) under the theme “Green Desert. Better Environment” from October 21, 2021 to March 22, 2022. Does that sound like a contradiction in terms? No, this is actually doable. It requires some fundamental shifts in thinking about traditional landscapes. The focus of the exhibition is very much on sustainability, smart agriculture for food security, and fighting back desertification, the expansion of the desert.
And speaking of impressive ‘gardening’ projects to curb climate change and fight back desertification, “The Great Green Wall” is an ambitious initiative to grow an 8,000-kilometre forest across the entire width of Africa’s Sahel, from Senegal to Eritrea. The project, which started in 2007, aims to combat desertification and the spread of the Sahara Desert to improve the condition of one of the world’s poorest regions. More than a decade into the project, the Great Green Wall is about 15 percent complete. Those involved in the process believe land restoration can help improve food security, provide 20 million jobs and, ultimately, stem migration.
So, inspired by such a mega gardening initiative, let’s use our can-do-attitude to work and make things possible here in Qatar – planting the appropriate trees, caring for all plants with non-potable water sources and enjoying an increasingly green Qatar in the desert, more sustainably.
Al Jazeera, Is damaging the environment a crime against humanity? 18 Sep 2019