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Gulf Saudi

Saudi female microbiology expert earns PhD in coffee plant pathology, paving the way for women in agriculture

Maha Al Subaie, coffee enthusiast and scientist, leads Saudi Arabia’s coffee revolution

Maha Al Subaie, a pioneer in her field, embarked on this unique academic path, becoming one of the first Saudi women to make a mark in coffee farming.
Image Credit: Source: Alayam newspaper

Dubai: A Saudi female specialist in microbiology has become the talk of the town after being awarded PhD in plant pathology with a focus on coffee cultivation.

Maha bint Majid Al Subaie’s journey from the laboratory to the coffee fields of Saudi Arabia is breaking new ground and contributing to the development of the coffee sector in the Kingdom.

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Saudi Arabia has a deep-rooted love for coffee cultivation, viewing it as a reflection of the stages of growth and harvest since the emergence of coffee.

Maha Al Subaie, a pioneer in her field, embarked on this unique academic path, becoming one of the first Saudi women to make a mark in coffee farming.


Her journey began with a master’s degree in glycology and culminated in a PhD in plant pathology, specializing in diseases affecting coffee plants grown in the southwestern regions of Saudi Arabia.

During her research, Al Subaie isolated more than 60 fungal strains, which were registered in the gene bank in 2022. Her expertise in identifying plant diseases, along with her certifications in integrated pest management, has made her a valuable asset in the agricultural sector.

Pivotal role in Saudi-French agreement

She has also represented the Saudi Phytosanitary Department at several international organisations, including the World Trade Organisation, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), in Africa and the Middle East and the FAO. In addition, she has played a pivotal role in the Saudi-French agreement on capacity building and development in laboratories, worked with the central laboratory in Riyadh, and collaborated with Italian laboratories on twinning programs.

Maha Al Subaie’s contributions extend to the Saudi Coffee Company, where she played a role in its early stages. Her dedication and passion for agriculture have paved the way for her to become the first Saudi woman to work scientifically in the field.

Al Subaie’s fieldwork began in the Jazan region, where she trained farmers in disease detection and management, and good agricultural practices. Her contributions extend to her role at the National Centre for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification, reflecting her commitment to environmental sustainability.


It’s personal

Her relationship with coffee is not just scientific but also personal. Al Subaie recounted her first visit to coffee fields in early 2021, emphasising her role in enhancing the scientific and research contributions to the Saudi coffee sector. Her travels across various mountainous regions in Saudi Arabia underpin her dedication to advancing coffee cultivation.

Al Subaie’s current projects focus on the development and control of vegetation, employing modern technologies and research collaborations to foresee and shape the future of the sector. Her vision extends beyond agriculture, seeing potential in environmental and agricultural tourism, especially in the Jazan region known for its diverse terrain and agricultural sectors.

Underlining the economic significance of coffee, Al Subaie notes that the Saudi Coffee Company aims to increase production significantly, aligning with the Kingdom’s designation of 2022 as the Year of Saudi Coffee.