H.E. Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri, Director General of Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA), affirmed the authority's commitment to sustaining about 24,000 farms in Abu Dhabi Emirate, as well as increasing arable land as one of the most important factors for improved environmental and climatic conditions. He added ADAFSA is doing its best to utilize advanced technology and modern innovations to save water and energy, maintain biological diversity, and promote sustainable consumption of natural resources based on scientific grounds.
On the occasion of World Environment Day, which is celebrated on 5 June every year, Al Ameri said that preserving the environment is everyone's responsibility, which requires cooperation among government and society entities to establish eco-friendly lifestyle ensures biodiversity and rational consumption of natural resources. He noted that ADAFSA is keen on anticipating the agricultural future in light of climate changes by studying and analyzing relation between climate and agriculture in the emirate. In addition, this study's results are used in planning for the development of the agricultural sector, identifying future market needs for agricultural crops, and helping decision makers in taking decisions of relevancy to production and natural resource management.
In addition to conducting several initiatives to improve the use of natural resources while achieving sustainable agricultural development in Abu Dhabi, Al Ameri added that ADAFSA intensifies cooperation with regional and international entities to benefit from the global experiences in this regard. ADAFSA is preparing, in cooperation with FAO, sustainable agricultural development plan for 2021, which aims at improving natural resource management and preserving the environment, Al Ameri stated.
"In cooperation with Korea Rural Development Administration (KRDA), ADAFSA is also making research projects with the aim of developing a model of smart greenhouses and cooling systems that can endure the UAE's environment, which helps reduce water consumption in cooling systems. Moreover, both parties are developing techniques for cultivating water-saving crops using hydroponics systems for desert environments. It is an integrated controlled systems for growing fruits and vegetables in desert environment, to make the best use of water and nutrients in these controlled systems," he clarified.
Meanwhile, ADAFSA is also implementing a project aims at utilizing reject brine in fish farming and cultivating Salicornia. It is a salt-tolerant plant with good economic returns, which is irrigated using high-salinity water coming from desalination units existing in farms. The project is being implemented in cooperation with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), and Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development (KFED).
Al Ameri reviewed ADAFSA's efforts to preserve the environment, maintain natural resources, and use fertilizers and pesticides properly. Therefore, ADAFSA encourages farmers to apply the integrated pest management systems (IPM) on all Abu Dhabi's farms, to preserve the environment by providing alternatives to pest control, reducing excessive use of pesticides that threaten biological balance, controlling pests using information about their life and behavior, which helps prevent crop losses, and studying crop ecosystem to control pests and diseases, which reduces potential risks to human, animal and environment. Al Ameri highlighted ADAFSA's efforts in raising awareness of farmers about ways to handle and use pesticides safely.
The IPM for date palm pests is one of ADAFSA's strategic projects, which contributes to attaining Abu Dhabi Government's vision aims at realizing sustainable agricultural development and preserving the environment using environmentally-friendly methods to control palm pests. This includes injecting palm tree trunk, as an alternative to spraying trees with pesticides to control red palm weevil.
Furthermore, ADAFSA conducts agricultural pest survey covering red palm weevil, borers, dust mite, laser date moth, black scorch, tomato leaf miner (tuta absoluta), fruit fly and desert locusts. This aims at creating a database containing the main agricultural pests in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which helps in setting plans, developing control strategies, assessing the success of implemented programs in controlling pests, thus improving such programs. The surveys further provide information on seasonal pests, such as desert locusts, coming from neighboring countries and reproduction areas, which helps prepare for controlling such pests.
Additionally, ADAFSA implements good agricultural practices (GAP) program (GLOBALG. A.P.), which features standards for agricultural production to ensure the safety of food, environment and food handlers. ADAFSA also awards Abu Dhabi's farmers GAP certificate. It aims to ensure applying the international agricultural standards, reduce harmful impact on the environment, preserve nature and wildlife, limit the use of agricultural chemicals, and optimize utilization of natural resources. Besides, ADAFSA also developed a new local GAP program (Abu Dhabi GAP), which is currently in the process of being approved. Currently, there are 300 GLOBALG. A.P. licensed farms.
In the same context, ADAFSA implements several research and training projects to educate and build the capacity of farmers on best practices and technologies for hydroponics. The authority encourages farmers to use unconventional water resources in agriculture, to enhance agricultural sustainability and reduce total dependence on non-renewable groundwater. It aims at providing treated water to about 4,515 farms in Abu Dhabi Emirate, in addition to 143 farms that currently depend on this water in the Al Nahda area. ADAFSA also promotes the use of smart irrigation systems, as research studies showed irrigation efficiency of some crops grown in greenhouses has saved water by over 86% compared to the traditional irrigation system.
With regard to preserving the environment, ADAFSA pays great attention to organic farming system, as 50 farms were awarded organic farming certificate. In organic farming system, agricultural production is managed in a way enhances the agricultural ecosystem, including biological diversity. Organic agriculture depends on the natural ability of soil, plants and animals, and the use of unprocessed natural materials as inputs in agricultural, to produce high quality and healthy foods.