A lifer expat mummy in Kuwait blogging on things to do in Kuwait for kids and adults, places to visit, fun and cultural events, general info, shopping bargains and interesting stuff. Email: LWDLIK@gmail.com
What can you do with a few discarded car tires, some rope, seedlings and a small patch of abandoned dirt? More than you would imagine if you are like local entrepreneur and gardening enthusiast Mimi Al-Nisef. Together with a group of like-minded neighbors, Al-Nisef took an abandoned plot of land that was once a small park but that had long fallen into dereliction and disrepair. “It was very dirty, and no one sat there despite the fact that it’s a beautiful park and is very convenient for the residents around it,” said Al-Nisef.
Thanks to a lot of hard work by the volunteers and a generous donation from Kuwait Healthy Living, a non-profit health advocacy organization, the park is now clean and tidy. There are shade trees, benches and a tire swing for the kids. Residents and volunteers have also planted trees, vegetables, herbs and other plants in brightly painted tires and turned what was once an eyesore into a tiny oasis in the middle of Salmiya.
The Secret Garden Project, as it’s known, is among a growing list of local initiatives to help beautify and green Kuwait. Several community activists groups have sprung up in the last few years to encourage collective efforts to clean up Kuwait’s local community parks and public spaces. The MantaqaME (also QortubaME, FaihaME, SurraMe, etc.) projects have seen volunteers repaint, plant and clean up local parks in Kuwaiti neighborhoods.
In Rumaithiya, volunteers cleaned up and repainted the tunnel connecting Jabriya near the New English School to Rumaithiya. Other community groups like Let’s Draw Kuwait, Give Hope, or Save Al- Sawaber focus on garnering community support or involvement for charity, art or to help save historic
Kuwaiti landmarks. The idea for the Secret Garden project grew out of Al-Nisef’s own love of gardening. “Everything grew very slowly and organically. My mother and I started this on our own, and then some neighbors joined us. We got the kids involved too in painting and cleaning up,” Al-Nisef explained. “The park now serves as a weekly picnic destination for the residents of the neighborhood.” Still in its infant stage, the Secret Garden includes a variety of veggies and herbs like tomatoes, kale, lettuce and rocket leaves, with little signs of each plant’s caretaker. An ambitious resident even planted an avocado tree and is taking care of it.
The goals of the project are simple: to start a community garden funded and maintained completely by the residents. “We didn’t want to make this a project that involves people other than the residents. It’s not an exclusionist policy, but we wanted to make sure that the people are actually going to sustain the park and look after the plants.” Growing food is not a main objective, explains Al-Nisef, who also is the founder and organizer of the nomadic weekly pop up farmer’s market, Shakshooka Market. Instead, the aim is to encourage people living in Kuwait to get involved in planting and watering plants. “If something edible grows, then that’s great.
But we care more about how the children are planting seeds and coming back the following week to see that they have sprouted and a plant has started to shoot from the soil,” she explains. Mimi hopes that people will take similar initiatives in their own neighborhoods around Kuwait. “I don’t want to be responsible for secret gardens around Kuwait. I want people to take such initiatives on themselves,” she says. Located off Baghdad Street, the Secret Garden is a community project and open to the residents of neighboring apartment buildings who want to cultivate plants but lack space to do so.