Category Archives: Food

Big Issue North: Predict & Provide – Food Poverty In The UK

THE BIOSPHERIC PROJECT credit Robert MartinFrom horsemeat in burgers to poverty related hunger, food is in the headlines in the worst possible way. Yet as food prices continue to rise and cities grow, the shortage of affordable and healthy food looks set to worsen. So what can an old mill in Salford do to bring sustainable and wholesome fare to our cities? Arwa Aburawa investigates.

With central government examining the surge of emergency foodbanks and charities warning of an increase in poverty-related hunger, it’s clear food insecurity is on the rise. The horsemeat scandal may have raised a lot of questions about our supermarkets but more daunting questions are now being asked about how we protect the poorest from rising food prices. How can we make healthy food more accessible in the wake of the cuts? And can cities really feed themselves? Manchester International Festival and the Biospheric Foundation in Salford are working together to answer these very questions….

Read on below:

Aquila Magazine: Ancient Innovation For Modern Problems


Here’s a sneak peek of my latest article for Aquila Magazine’s Earth Issue. It’s all about indigenous populations making the most of their ancient traditions to cope with an increasingly unpredictable climate. As well as highlighting the continued importance of ancient water tunnels (called aflaj) in Oman, I spoke to an expert on community adaption in Bangladesh about the floating gardens (called baira) which are providing a lifeline to flooded communities. There’s also a snippet on the amazing work of Hassan Fathy in Egypt…

Aquila Earth Issue

Want to read more? Well all you have to do is download (how eco is that?!) a copy of the latest Aquila Magazine here. It’s only a couple of dollars for a mag jam-packed with goodness. Go on, you know you want to!

SISTERS – The Green Edition: Faith, Families and Features

Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 20.27.29After lots of work and even more enthusiasm (well done Brooke!) the very lovely and very special green issue of SISTERS is out. It’s bursting with green quizzes, features, top tips for your home and also a round up of some great eco-Muslims organisations. I’ve  contributed an article on the issue of population growth and ask the whether large Muslim families are a blessing or a curse. Read on for more and also to download or buy your own copy.

Large Families SISTERS page 1Large families SISTERS page 2

Aquila Style Magazine – Muna AbuSulayman and Andalusia

Aquila Style Nov 2012 - Report Muna (promo)

Here are some sneaky promos for the articles I’ve been writing for the lovely Aquila Style Magazine. I had the chance to interview media powerhouse Muna AbuSulayman about being a Saudi women, employment, the world of TV and lots more. To read the full article and also lots more juicy stuff, go to their November edition which you can download  for just a couple of dollars.

I was also lucky enough to write about my trip to Andalusia back in March and the editors let me use my photos which I think turned out really well (I’m so modest, I know). Seriously have a read and tell me you don’t want to visit – I dare you.

Aquila Style Dec 2012 - Travel Spain (promo)

Green Prophet: How Unsustainable Water Policies Crippled The Assad Regime

I speak to Shahrzad Mohtadi about the devastated drought that crippled Syria’s food centre and shook Assad’s political stability

The link between climate change and political instability may still be ambiguous, but recent research is uncovering a connection between sustainable water and food policies and the survival of governments. Shahrzad Mohtadi found that whilst a prelonged drought in Syria may not have caused the political uprising, the Assad regime’s failure to deal with it effectively certainly did. “Assad promoted water intensive crops such as cotton, while not providing efficient methods of watering such crops. There were many such policies that created a scenario where the drought’s effects were even more devastating than they otherwise would have been,” say Mohtadi.

“So one can’t say climate change will create a domino effect of instability and migration whatsoever – but Syria’s case is a warning that developing nations… should create sustainable agricultural policies.” I spoke with Shahrzad Mohtadi to find out more about the devastating drought in Syria and what other Middle Eastern nations need to do to protect their dwindling water resources – and their political stability.

Continue reading

Green Prophet: It All Grows In Kuwait – Organic Gardening In The Middle East

it-all-grows-gardening-organic-kuwait-alzainah-food-middle-east-greenAlzainah Albabtain, a 22 year old student, is growing her own food in the scorching heat of Kuwait and wants others to give it go too

A green fingered student from Kuwait is taking the blogosphere by storm with her ‘It All Grows’ blog. Filled to the rafters with gorgeous photos of lovely fruit and veg, recipes, and gardening tips, Alzainah wants to prove that “good fruits and vegetables don’t have to travel across the world to make it to your plate.” I caught up with her to find out how she got hooked on gardening and her insider tips for growers in the Middle East. Continue reading

SISTERS: A Clean Plate & A Clean Conscience This Ramadhan

Arwa Aburawa looks at the food we throw away every Ramadhan, and easy ways to stop us from scrapping leftovers into the bin

Let me paint you a picture. It’s Ramadhan time. Somehow, and you’re not sure quite how, the holy month has managed to sneak up on you and catch you completely unprepared. You have meals to cook, people to invite, a spring clean to sort, and you also want to leave plenty of time for going to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers and reading Qur’an. The last thing you need is extra work on your plate. As such, embracing a green and food-waste-reducing iftar is probably unappealing. However, green Muslims, such as Sarrah Abulughod, insist that Ramadhan is the perfect time to look at food waste and ways to do something about it.

“In many Muslim communities, Ramadhan has become a time of great waste, not only of food, but of our natural resources as well,” explains Sarrah. “It is very easy to picture the after-iftar rush to prayer where you pass piles and piles of styrofoam overflowing from the trash bins. This scene is so opposite to what we as Muslims should be reflecting on during this holy month. As a response, a small group of people decided to take a stand, and introduce the concept of Green or Zero-Trash Iftars.”

In Washington DC, one small group of ‘Green Muslims’ has been hosting Eco-Iftars for the last couple of years, and they are keen to get more Muslims thinking carefully about the food wasted during Ramadhan. Indeed, the group’s formation was catalysed by a zero-trash potluck iftar that was held during the Ramadhan of 2007. Sarrah Abulughod, who volunteers with the organisation Green Muslims, explains that the main aim of the Green Iftars is to raise awareness of how much trash we produce and food we waste in a single meal. With this in mind, you can then reflect on how much garbage we produce as a community of Muslims during Ramadhan alone.

Indeed, whilst the statistics on food waste in Ramadhan are hard to come by, the ones available are worrying to say the least. In the United Arab Emirates, it is estimated that food waste peaks in Ramadhan with 500 tonnes of food thrown away every day. In Bahrain, 30 per cent of all food purchased for Ramadan will be thrown away. In fact, it is believed that most households buy 30 to 40 per cent more household products than they need at this time. And yet, there is little effort to stop this waste, despite most Muslims being aware that throwing food away is a sin. It states in the Holy Qur’an:

“Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters.” (al-A’raf:31)”

The Zero-Trash Iftars promoted by Green Muslims are actually relatively easy to implement at home– it’s the larger and more public iftars that are problematic. Even so, Sarrah states that Green Iftars can work on lots of different levels. For example, guests are asked to bring a dish to pass around in a potluck style, but participants can take it to the next level by bringing local or vegetarian food. Everybody is asked to bring their own dishes and cutlery, so that plastic and paper plates and cups are not used and then dumped in landfills. “Depending on your audience, it is often fun to take the idea just one step further to help people understand the idea on a deeper level,” says Sarrah.

“During the meal, we often discuss our impact on this planet and reflect on the many ayat in the Qur’an that speak of Believers as the vicegerents of this Earth.” The end of the iftar is another key part of the process. Unlike most iftars when the trash is the last thought, at a Green Iftar the group measures how much trash they actually produced as they clean up together, and separate the trash from the compostable and recyclable items. “It is often very eye-opening and going through this exercise together as a community is helpful in starting people on better individual habits,” adds Sarrah. Fundraising at the Green Iftars has also enabled the Green Muslims group to purchase their very own set of travelling dishes, cups, and cutlery that can be borrowed out to various groups. The group remarked that the Green Iftar set, which caters for 500 people, will hopefully educate communities about the ease of going green and reducing waste during the month of Ramadhan.

3 Simple and Practical Tips to Cut Food Waste

1. Reduce

Reduce the amount of food you buy in the first place. If you think about it, it is deeply illogical that most Muslim households feel the need to stock up on food during Ramadan– the month of fasting. So, shop as you normally do, and don’t feel the need to buy more for Ramadhan. If in doubt– leave it out (of the shopping basket, that is).

2. Reuse

Food leftovers can be a tricky thing to deal with, as some people refuse to eat even one day-old food. One way to deal with this is to limit the food you cook (be on special guard when cooking

during Ramadhan) and the second is to think about what foods are more likely to be eaten as leftovers. Personally, I find that lasagnes, pastas, soups, and certain curries taste just as lovely the next day. So cook accordingly, and serve up some creative remixes of leftovers at Suhoor when everyone is too sleepy to notice.

3. Recycle

Composting food leftovers can be a tricky process and something you may not be willing to invest in. However, one small trick is to compost small amounts of food in tightly sealed plastic bags, and then use the compost to boost growth of what you have planted in your garden.

Wishing all our readers a Green Ramadhan and ‘Eid Mubarak!

Arwa Aburawa is a freelance journalist based in the UK who writes on the Middle East, the environment, and various social issues. Arwa is also the Eco-Islam Affairs Editor at Green Prophet, the leading news site on environmental issues in the Middle East.

: Top image via Hamed Saber/flickr.

:: This article was originally published in SISTERS Magazine/July 2012.