Social responsibility forum fosters partnerships for positive impact

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: The Azka Farmers Market, held recently at Hayy Jameel in collaboration between Azka Foods and Art Jameel, connected the wider Jeddah community with local vendors and farmers dedicated to sustainability and ethical food practices.

The event held May 24 and 25 provided visitors with the opportunity to enjoy farm-fresh produce, eco-friendly products, and specialized programs showcasing the region’s agricultural diversity.

The market featured a diverse array of farmers and producers from around the Kingdom including Aysh Academy, Abazeer, Naqwat Al-Nanaa Farm, Ghiras Alsahra, Manahil Al-Magrabi, Alnahal Aljwal, Zaki Salem Farms, Al-Sadan Farm, Bee Ways, Honest, Wild Figra Honey, Nada Soap, Ebrahim Store for Dates, Baha Honey, Ali Aref Farm, and Shamsa.

Ahmad Zaki Kamel, the founder of Azka Foods and, said they started the market with just six vendors, which grew to 12, and then 18 by the third time they held the event. Now, for their sixth market and fourth collaboration with Hayy Jameel, they have 55 farm vendors, producers and chefs.

While their first four markets focused on producers mainly around Jeddah Madinah, Makkah and Taif, they have now included all 13 regions of Saudi Arabia, offering a much larger selection of produce and products.

Speaking about their vision, Kamel told Arab News: “The reason we founded Azka was to achieve an ethical food system and self-sufficiency, and we are getting closer to that goal. The market provides an opportunity to connect the community with these incredible producers from across Saudi Arabia.”

He added: “Bringing them together on one platform is crucial because many of these producers face significant challenges in marketing their high-quality produce.

“While some have their own sales channels, having a unified platform allows them to support each other. This is one of the main benefits of the Azka Basket platform — it acts as a continuous farmers’ market.”

For those looking to support local farmers and seeking fresh produce, the Azka Basket website is one way to stay connected with the producers and receive deliveries twice a week.

Participant Sami Magrabi, co-founder of Manahil Al-Magrabi, said: “Our business, started by my father 40 years ago, specializes in producing organic honey to the highest production standards. We use mobile apiaries during the season to produce most of our honey.”

He added: “Since each type of flower or tree blooms at a specific time of the year, we move our bees to these locations when they are in bloom, as it’s not fair to keep the bees stationary. Although we are based in Riyadh and operate on a smaller scale there, this event allows us to operate on a larger scale.”

Magrabi said the market is “a great opportunity to connect with others and showcase our products to a wider audience.”

Sumaia Showail, founder of Aysh Academy, who has been involved with the market since its inception, sources fresh vegetables, fruits and beans directly from local farms to create menus.

“We love being part of the market and are thrilled to see so many people interested in and supportive of the organic food industry and food culture. It’s also a great opportunity for vendors to gain exposure and connect with the community,” she added.

Another vendor, Fatima Nawawi, founder of Shamsa products, said: “Our specialty lies in creating natural skin products with the vision of raising community awareness about the benefits of using natural ingredients. The main ingredient in our products is (camel hump tallow) … it is the purest form of fat.”

Nawawi said the market has allowed them to showcase their brand. “Azka Farm has a wonderful team that work alongside with each brand and they are doing amazing job by raising awareness in keeping all the farms and business owners aligned together and build a healthy community.”

Nawawi also delivered a talk during which she elaborated on her journey to establish Shamsa.

Eiman Elnaiem, the public programs manager at Hayy Jameel, said: “This iteration brings a variety of outstanding seasonal, organic produce, from coffee grounds made from date pits and herb-infused waters to different grains, legumes and honey of all kinds and flavors. I’m always impressed and delighted to see the market grow, reflecting the rich agricultural heritage and biodiversity of Saudi Arabia.”

She said Art Jameel “not only supports passionate entrepreneurs, chefs, farms and producers but gives them a platform to actively promote sustainability, well-being and ethics in the way we look at, produce and consume food and products around us.”

The market included talks, workshops and film screenings aimed at connecting members of the community. There were also discussions on organic composting, recycling, date processing, and beekeeping.

In a discussion led by Fahad Alysi from Wadi Nawal Farm in Taif, there was a focus on organic farming methods and the benefits of organic waste utilization.

In addition to a “Get to Know Your Farmer” question-and-answer session, visitors were able to explore the agricultural heritage and significance of dates through insights shared by representatives from Ebrahim Store for Dates in Najran.

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