DUBAI ï¿½ An agricultural movement with 7,500 farmers is throbbing in the heart of the Western Region, away from the buzz of cosmopolitan Abu Dhabi. Reforms are giving a new thrust to the sector, making it more attractive for Emirati youth who are joining in large numbers.
This is part of the strategic directives of the government in line with its vision for 2030 and the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) is leading the movement for food security. The authority hopes to complete the implementation of reforms across the emirate in three to four years. The target is to double the market share of local crops from the current 12.5 per cent to 25 per cent.
Mohammed Jalal Al Reyaysa, Director of Public Relations and Communication, ADFA, says, ï¿½The plan is to do all that is needed to bring agricultural practices in the emirate on a par with the best in the world through comprehensive public-private partnership and consolidation of the efforts of the various government bodies.ï¿½
A new service centre for farmers was opened recently, which is an autonomous body independent of the ADFCA. It will take up activities and offer services to farmers in the Western Region of Al Gharbia. Farmers in other areas are expected to join by the beginning of next year.
The region, for the record, comprises a massive 83 per cent of Abu Dhabiï¿½s land mass and generates about 34 per cent of its GDP.
The government is encouraging the growth of a sustainable and self-reliant agricultural sector in the area with inputs from foreign farming firms to further its development plans.
ï¿½A consulting company, GRM, has been hired as a strategy developer to start setting up the first phase of a farmersï¿½ service centre as well as to help us with agriculture-related legislation,ï¿½ says Al Reyaysa.
The authority has also enlisted the services of FiBL, a leading organisation in farming, to advise it on promoting organic agriculture and thereby expand organic arable land in the emirate. ï¿½We are working with different organisations, including international bodies like Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Bank.ï¿½
Environment-friendly agriculture suitable for semi-arid desert areas is the focus of this initiative. At the Liwa Agricultural Exhibition held recently, two agreements for greenhouses over an area of 39,000/600 square metres were signed between three local companies. This has the potential to transform agrarian practices in the region. Courses for farmers are being planned by the new farmersï¿½ centre to increase production and improve the quality of produce.
It does not stop here. The centre will also develop distinctive trademarks for agricultural products from the Capitalï¿½s region. About 80 per cent of the high-quality produce from Al Gharbia will be marketed through a chain.
ï¿½Customers will recognise food from the region as being of higher quality and freshness than imported food following introduction of the internationally accepted system of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP),ï¿½ according to the official.
The authority, however, declined to give figures, but says there is no budgetary constraint for the agricultural sector. The emirateï¿½s leadership considers farming vital to national economic development and to cultural heritage of the country. ï¿½ï¿½The support of the government to the farming sector will never stop,ï¿½ï¿½ he states.
Diversification of crops is on the cards, from the traditional dates and other fruits and vegetables using new technology. ï¿½ï¿½We are using technology and new farming techniques to try and cultivate crops that have been found resistant here. We are close to succeeding in cultivating even those vegetables and fruits that were thought impossible to cultivate here before.ï¿½
But no movement is complete if it cannot attract the youth. Young, highly educated Emiratis from the region, even graduates from leading institutions from the West are turning to agriculture in hordes.
The signs bode well for a greener landscape in the UAE, with Emirati youth leading the charge to make the desert bloom. ï¿½ firstname.lastname@example.org