2nd Prize Winner of the Arab Youth Green Voices Challenge
By Abdul Malek Nemry, Yemen
Everyone thought Hind’s passion for farming during her family’s displacement to a village was temporary. People believed she was merely “releasing stress and distracting herself from war”. Even Hind herself thought it would eventually come to an end. However, she ended up holding onto her passion and giving up a lot for it, including teaching at a university.
32-year-old Hind Fouad and her family had to start a life from scratch in a mountainous village in Saber, South of Yemen’s Taiz. Leaving their house behind, they had to leave the city when battles kept approaching them.
The beauty of the Jabal Sabir (Sabir Mountain) stems not only from its women’s sun-kissed features and attractive eyelashes but also from its breathtaking view over the city. What attracted Hind the most was the greenery and the prevalence of home farming.
“In the beginning, I was overtaken by the greenery. Passing by houses, I envied every house owner who had plants in their yard.”
With the season approaching, Hind’s father showed increased interest in farming his long-neglected land. Since he had no sons, “he encouraged me and my sisters to help him at the farm. We were not used to such work, and after a long time of neglect, the land’s condition tired us out. However, the harvest overweighed all the exhaustion.”
In addition to what Hind planted of “flowers and ornamental plants that were available to me”, the family harvested vegetables, legumes, and some fruits. “We were planting before the rain but had to stop in winter.”
Hind’s love for farming extended beyond seasons: “I had very small space to plant in, around 2 meters square. I used to ask people for seeds and plants. I watered them from our home’s water supply.
Similarly to other villages, the water supply for farming was not fairly distributed: “as you know, in villages, they focus on planting qat. Most of the water supply goes to qat and we get whatever is left for our plants.”
A green imprint
Hind was born in Taiz. She studied there and graduated on top of her class to become a teaching assistant at the clinical laboratories department: “education was my whole life, there was no time or space for anything else.” This is what made her family believe her interest in farming was “due to the stress of the war and that I was only releasing stress. I almost believed that and thought it will come to an end at some point.”
Despite the war being the main reason Hind stopped teaching at the university, she “still has not taught in over two years, mainly because I want to dedicate my time to my project and leave a green imprint all over Taiz.”
“Farming culture is stereotypically limited to the elderly, but I want all groups to join in on it. If we encourage home farming, we will save money and reap health benefits. Taiz’s streets lack trees to beautify the city and purify its polluted air.”
Hind’s story is prominent within the Yemini women’s contributions to climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all.
Get ready along the way
The family’s backyard was arid until Hind decided to turn it into a garden: “this was during the second or third year of my living in the village. In the beginning, I was only planting flowers and ornamental plants. Later, my family and I planted some fruit trees.”
Seeds were not the only thing growing and flowering in Hind’s life. Her love for trees was simultaneously growing. She ensured to widen her knowledge about plants, their names, the best ways to care for them, and their lifecycles: “I mainly learn from the internet and dealing with farmers and owners of plantations, I sometimes seek the advice of specialists.”
Hind has a rule that says: “start before you are ready, you will get ready along the way”. She followed this rule after “a piece of advice given to me from someone whom I showed my plants and flowers including a sunflower bouquet. He advised me to start my own business as I was producing beautiful plants and was the first to buy my products.”
Since the start, Hind’s biggest supporter was her mother. However, she was not completely on board the idea of Hind turning her passion into a business. Hind says: “She used to tell me it was too much work. I used to tell her to support me and wait to reap the results.”
Hind’s next step was to “create an online presence for the business and I launched my page, Green Land. It took me a lot of consideration to choose the name and be sure it reflects the world I love.”
Hind shares photos from her garden almost daily on social media. She usually captions them with scientific descriptions of the plants to “educate the followers and make it easier for them to choose.” She also uses it to “encourage and follow up with clients and address their enquiries and questions about their plants and ways to treat them.” Hind says: “this is the most important part of my work after delivering orders which requires me to move between the city and my remote village.”
The view of the family and community is in constant improvement. According to Hind: “in the beginning, they were complimenting me. With time, they started ordering my plants and supporting my business as a unique woman-led project.”
Even her father whom she thought would never accept her leaving teaching at the university for farming or as people say, “selling trees”. He did not object and his faith in her increased after her “inspiring” participation at TEDxTaiz. Additionally, her sister “was and still is the biggest supporter and believer”.
There is no doubt that Hind Fouad will succeed at normalizing the culture of farming among everyone. She says: “we will expand and leave our prints everywhere. Plants will become essential for every home and workplace.” She recently designed indoor gardens for cafés and organizations in Taiz city.