by Kevin Stoda, Salalah OMAN
Recently, I have begun an experiment in my neighborhood here in Salalah (Saada Township), Oman.
I planted two types of flowers and watermelons outside of my gate in the open lot next to my abode. As of this month, the watermelons are growing. I planted them there with the hope of encouraging my Omani neighbors to consider doing likewise by cultivating their own garden, flora, and trees. I am certain that this land could one day become an important ecosystem to help combat climate changes and promote a better. I am certain that this land could one day become an important ecosystem to help combat climate changes and promote a better and healthier future and lifestyle for residents here.
Let me first explain that at this very moment we are experiencing a slow soft rain or drizzle ongoing here in Salalah.
You see it is Autumn (or Khareef ) here in the Dhofar region–a time when the monsoon winds of the Indian Ocean covers the valley of Salalah and the Dhofar mountains on and off over a 3 month period–even as the rest of the Arabian Peninsula suffers with heat between 45 to 55 degrees Celcius. (That is 113- to 131 degrees Fahrenheit.)
NOTE: Specifically, today Muscat and other Omani cities, which are located 1000 kilometer to the north of the Salalah, will expect heat of 113 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit for sure. (That is, 45 to 48 degree Fahrenheit. The focus of this writing is, however, not on the weather per se but on the soil and the need to greatly invigorate the agriculture investment in Dhofar region as soon as possible.
Salalah has one of the best soils in the Arabian Peninsula but it has been under utilizing for millennia due to local preferences for livestock, camels, and goats. This questionable preference for livestock has not only led to erosion throughout the region for centuries, but it has led to ignoring the contribution which Salalah could make to fighting the Climate Change the world has been undergoing for decades already.
Several months ago, I was talking to a visiting Arborist here who explained that Salalah and the Dhofar Mountain areas which surround them could play the role of creating micro-climate around increased forestry. I had lived in Salalah nearly six years by the time that I heard this news about the potential for increased vegetation in Salalah and how the entire world could benefit.
Even without increasing the amount of trees or timber in the Salalah, the potential of Salalah area soil to feed Oman has been well-know by the rest of the country for some time. Nearly 5 years ago already, some SQU professors in Muscat noted that Oman’s southern region Dhofar has the potential hub to grow vegetables and fruits–feeding the nation and an even greater region.
Salalah already produces coconut, mango, papaya, frankincense and other native trees but so much more could be done. Meanwhile, “The average temperature range in Salalah is from 22 to 28 degrees Celsius. This means that onions, garlic, tomatoes, watermelons, bananas, cucumbers and chillies can be comfortably grown in this area,” Dr Mumtaz Khan, Associate Professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University, has said.
Dr Khan also pointed out,“The pH of the soil is about 7.8 whereas the crops mentioned above require a pH range of 5.5 to 7. This means the pH value of the soil is not a constraint to the crops identified for cultivation. Any limitations of pH can be managed through better nutrient and fertiliser management.” 
Before our present day growth in Salalah, Al-Baleed was the big city in the area during the Middle Ages (1300-1500AD). At that time, Salalah’s ancient township, Al-Baleed, was on the water-route portion of the Silk trade route. The entire region was greener then and certainly was greener in the millennia prior to that, i.e. when Khor Rori, (4th century BC to the 5th century AD) , too was famous for its trade.
If Salalah would return its soil to greenery–rather than erosive locations caused by over feeding of livestock–, the region and its people would become a global hero in fighting climate change.
The development of agriculture in Oman has to be improved significantly in Oman over the coming years. By planting a garden in public view and in public spaces, I would like to encourage more Dhofari (Salalah area residents) to consider joining me in this humble endeavor. Remember, just start planting and encourage your neighbors to follow suit–and protect the trees and plants from goats, wild donkeys, and camel herds which may walk by.
 Khareef (Arabic: خريف, autumn) is a colloquial Arabic term used in southern Oman, southeastern Yemen, southwestern Saudi Arabia and Sudan for the southeastern monsoon. The monsoon affects Dhofar Governorate and Al Mahrah Governorate from about June to early September. Towns such as Salalah depend upon the khareef for water supply. An annual Khareef festival is held in Salalah to celebrate the monsoon and attracts several tourists. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khareef
 Below are links that discuss the temperatures in the Arabian Peninsula, which surrounds Salalah.
Feb 18, 2016 – The largest continuous sand desert in the world, the Rub’ al Khali covers about a third of the Arabian Peninsula, an area that includes Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates…. High temperatures have been recorded at 133 degrees, and there is no respite for the …
The temperature over Saudi Arabia has increased significantly, and the increase … The Arabian Peninsula’s seasonal climate is studied using observational and …
Arabian Desert: great desert region of extreme southwestern Asia that occupies almost the entireArabian Peninsula. It is the largest desert … Summer heat is intense, reaching temperatures as high as 130 °F (55 °C) in places. In the interior the …
The Arabian Desert is located in Western Asia. It is a vast desert wilderness stretching from Yemen to the Persian Gulf and Oman to Jordan and Iraq. It occupies most of the Arabian Peninsula, with an area of 2,330,000 square …. Record high temperatures are above 50 °C (122 °F) in much of the desert, due in part to very low …
In Saudi Arabia, the climate is generally desert, and is very hot in summer all ….. Most of the Arabian Peninsula is occupied by a plateau, called Najd, whose …
Mar 6, 2012 – The northwestern and southwestern regions of the Arabian Peninsula experiencetemperatures as low as 6–15°C (Figure 6(a)). The southeastern parts, on the other hand experience a relatively higher mean minimum temperature of 21–24°C, which is mainly over the Rub Al-Khali.
Bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south, the small, energy-rich Middle Eastern country of Qatar on theArabian Peninsula jets out like a thumb into the bright blue …
implications on the oblique rifting of the Gulf of Aden
The study substantiates the fact that Salalah’s climate, soil, and land and water availability are conducive for growing fruits and vegetables. This will improve on-farm income and possibly lead to value chain opportunities. The researchers observed that the current land use in these areas is dominated by fodder for animals, and water management practices are highly inefficient.
The crop scientist, who also explored the extent of arable land in the country, said that it has about 2.2 million hectares (mha) of land available for farming which is equivalent to seven per cent of the total area of the country.
However, the actually cropped area in Oman currently is about 62,000 ha or 2.8 per cent of the total arable land. According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) statistics, Oman imported approximately 2.2 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables worth $1.15 billion (Dh4.22 billion) from 2000 to 2007. Onions, oranges, potatoes, garlic and tomatoes are the five leading vegetables and fruits imported to the Sultanate.
Studies show that Omanis prefer producing high value vegetables to cereal crops. Primary crop production in Oman in 2005-2007 was 486,872 metric tonnes of which the share of fruits was 353,072 metric tonnes and that of vegetables was 102,606 metric tonnes.
During the same period, Omani farmers produced only 26,206 metric tonnes of cereals. In addition to vegetables produced locally, Oman imported 148,345 metric tonnes during the same period. This is what prompted the researchers to explore the possibility of increasing vegetable production in the country.
“If Oman chooses to increase vegetable production, then it has to come from a major shift in its current land and water use practices, because almost all of its cultivable lands and available freshwater are fully utilised at present,” Dr Mbaga said.
 A fantastic article on the recent history of agriculture in Oman can be found here: Joseph A. Keckichian‘s (Emerging Environmental Concerns: A Perspective from the Sultanate of Oman, in Challenging Environmental Issues: Middle Eastern Perspective.