This year, I will celebrate Ramadan with Islamic Relief for the fourth time. Every year, the holy month offers me a new experience.
For me, Ramadan demonstrates one of the core values of Islamic Relief: custodianship (amana in Arabic).
We humans have been given the duty of custodianship over Earth and its resources. The selfless act of sharing what you have with others who are less fortunate so that they can also break their fast, puts into practice our duty of care to fellow human beings.
The fact that we have been entrusted with the planet’s resources means we have a huge responsibility to ensure that we take care of them. As the world grapples with the adverse effects of climate change, with frequent droughts and recurrent floods hitting communities in need particularly hard, we have to do more to safeguard both them and the environment.
The responsibility of custodianship is clearly demonstrated in the projects we undertake as Islamic Relief.
In Kenya, 800 kilometres away from the capital Nairobi, lies Moyale, on the border with Ethiopia. Here a multi-faceted Islamic Relief project is building the resilience of people whose traditional pastoral way of life is being devastated by the impact of the changing climate.
One of the components of this project is beekeeping. We have supported 44 farmers in Dabel with training on beekeeping and provided 50 beehives and beekeeping tools to farmers.
Benefits of conservation
When I visited this project, the most exciting and quite scary part was going to see the apiary containing the beehives. When we opened the beehives, a swarm of angry bees came out, probably annoyed at being disturbed.
They swarmed around my protective suit, trying to find an opening. I’ll never forget the buzzing sound of lots of irritated bees!
Beekeeping projects like this create livelihoods by making the most of the natural environment and resources available.
Some of the farmers who Islamic Relief trained used to engage in illegal felling of trees and charcoal burning – their poverty left them with no other option. But now they are earning an income from beekeeping, they can see the value of trees and environmental conservation.
They are now the most committed custodians of trees and the environment in that area.
Another demonstration of custodianship has been in the use of clean energy in many of our projects.
In Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, there is an increased use of solar energy in pumping water from boreholes and dams. Solar power has replaced diesel or petrol pumps that pollute the air and are costly to maintain.
In South Sudan, when I visited a women’s group supported by Islamic Relief in Terekeka, I spoke with both women and men. They told me how happy they were that they could now afford to irrigate their farms using clean energy that does not harm the environment.
Using water pumped by solar energy, they can grow crops such as tomatoes, okra, onions, pumpkins and groundnuts.
The half-moon terraces that dot hills in the Mahalla Catchment Area of Gedarif State in eastern Sudan are a sight to behold. When I was there in February, I was awestruck at the terraces and trees that have been planted as a way of conserving the environment.
The community here have taken custodianship of their environment, and the once bare hills now have a picturesque green cover.
Examples abound of how the communities we work with have taken custodianship of their environment and are reaping the benefits. As communities take responsibility for the environment around them, we achieve a sustainable way to protect the Earth’s resources for future generations.
Personally, the examples of custodianship I’ve seen in many communities supported by Islamic Relief have motivated me to take on more responsibility myself. I appreciate and applaud the initiatives undertaken by communities, despite the difficult circumstances they are in.
I am proud to have played a small role in custodianship at Islamic Relief by documenting the stories of many people we work with in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.
This Ramadan, let us come together as one in renewing our commitment of being custodians of our planet and its resources.
We need to be transparent and accountable for all that we do in serving the less privileged in society. Together we can support even more communities to overcome the hardships they face, while ensuring that future generations reap the fruits of our efforts.