Going beyond the limits: future food security
Alternative, non-traditional crops and technologies can play an important role in contributing to future food security in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This was one of the main points made during an open day and round-table discussions attended by H.E. Mariam Bint Mohammed Almheiri, Minister of State for Future Food Security, at International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, the winner of the Best Arab Research Center at the Best Arab Awards in 2017.
During the meeting, H.E. Mariam Bint Mohammed Almheiri said: “The UAE is characterised by its extremely challenging conditions for agriculture, it is a fact that the country’s terrain, topography and climate ranks as among the most difficult in the world for crop growing. Fresh water access is a particular issue here – something that is compounded by the fact that agriculture is the UAE’s most consuming industry, accounting for approximately 72% of the country’s total freshwater consumption. This demand is further impacted by depleting the water resources, which are reducing at a rate of 0.5 cm per year.”
Her Excellency added: “Our freshwater needs are currently being met by energy-intensive desalination methods, which produce 60% of the country’s supplies, but this figure is certain to increase as the country’s population grows. It all adds up to us needing to find new methods of horticulture that are less energy intensive and reduce the stress on our water resources. Fortunately, over the years, the UAE has developed as a hub of innovation and has become renowned as a ‘can do’ country that utilises the latest technology to bring about societal advances. The agricultural sector is no different and we are currently in the process of developing new energy and water-saving solutions that will optimize crop growing, thus strengthening our future food security resilience.”
Over nearly two decades the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBAhttp://www.biosaline.org/) has been identifying, testing and introducing alternative, non-traditional crops and technologies that help to produce more food, save more resources and protect the environment. The center has developed and piloted a wide range of solutions suited to highly saline and arid conditions in different regions around the world.
ICBA has, for example, been leading since 2007 a global program on quinoa to make it a crop of choice in areas affected by salinity, drought and water scarcity. The program is so far under way in Egypt, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Oman, Tajikistan, the UAE, Uzbekistan and Yemen. Today the center has four tested lines that do well under highly dry and saline conditions. Multi-year trials have shown that ICBA’s lines produce, on average, up to 5.41 tonnes of seed per hectare under highly saline, sandy and arid conditions in the UAE.
Read more HERE.