"The earth houses much goodness and it is our job to harness this goodness for the betterment of our community.” -Omani Farmer Ahmed al Shariqi

The Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) announced the launch of its new community initiative, Farming for Hospitality, which connects local farmers with hotels in the Jabal al Akhdar region and helps improve their profits by giving them greenhouses and training them in modern agricultural methods.

Farming for Hospitality, initially launched as a pilot programme in May 2014, provides local farmers with modern greenhouses to grow produce which was previously imported from abroad, or from elsewhere in Oman.

The initiative also helps farmers build their existing skills, helping traditional growers adapt to modern methods and learn more agricultural skills. The fresh produce isn’t just for hotels, either – it will also help the local community gain better access to fresh produce.

Local farmer Ahmed al Shariqi said that the initiative is giving him confidence and the means to grow his farming skills.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in ‘Farming for Hospitality’. Before starting this programme, I grew only pomegranates in the small garden of my house, but since the start of the project I have been able to grow a variety of vegetables including tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers through the greenhouse provided to me by Omran.”

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Local resort Alila Jabal Akhdar is now participating in the programme and has signed an agreement to buy a certain portion of the resort’s produce from the farmers participating in the initiative.

Shariqi has commented on his interactions with the resort: “We recently experienced our first yield of vegetables, a portion of which was sold to Alila Jabal Akhdar Resort. Since my first sale the resort has been in continual communication with me to inquire about future harvests and sales. This has given me great confidence as I know there is a constant market for my fresh produce.”

Omran group CEO Wael al Lawati, said: “Viable tourism benefits not only the economy, but also the local communities in which it derives its inspiration and resources. In order to sustain proper tourism development the benefits of the sector must be felt at all levels of society, most importantly at the community level.”

Julian Ayers, Alila Hotels and Resorts Regional Vice President India & Middle East said, “We are delighted to be involved in the ground-breaking ‘Farming for Hospitality’ project. As the nation’s premier sustainable hotel it is our duty to provide a destination that not only offers visitors the highest quality of guest experience, but to conduct our business in a way that benefits the community in which we operate.

Shariqi and other local farmers feel the initiative is giving them hope: ‘‘Farming for Hospitality means a lot to me and my family. It is my ambition to help the project grow further by increasing the volume and variety of produce in the future and become a successful business owner.

The earth houses much goodness and it is our job to harness this goodness for the betterment of our community.”