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Enhancing food security in the Arab countries

25/11/18

The conference shed a light on the importance of investing in “smart farming.” (Photo: Azaiez Ouled Belgacem/ICARDA)

Al Fujeira, November 14 – More than 20 percent of the Arab population lacks food security due to conflict, poverty, unemployment, and the impact of climate change. As a net importer of food, the Arab region needs a solution to protect ordinary people from food price volatility. 

Against this backdrop, the sixth Arab Conference for Investment in Food Security, held in the United Arab Emirates, shed light on the importance of investing in optimal land usage and water efficiency to enhance crop productivity. 

“ICARDA’s technology packages have allowed significant improvement of the targeted crop production, including wheat, forages, date palm, and protected agriculture through sustainable management of natural resources, especially water,” Aly Abousabaa, ICARDA’s director general, explained to the participants.

Through the Arab Peninsula Regional Program, established in 1988, ICARDA works with Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, and Yemen to enhance food security. ICARDA and its national partners have developed technology packages in rangeland rehabilitation, irrigated forages, on-farm water management, and protected agriculture to increase the welfare of poor farmers in the region and protect the environment. 

The program has had positive impact, including increased water productivity and profitability. This encouraged the governments to facilitate the farmers' adoption of the technologies. For example, the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment covered 50% of growers' cost for establishing hydroponics system. As a result, greenhouses with soilless system have reached more than 1,100 farmers. The ministry has continued this approach together with the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development

Abousabaa met with the Minister of Climate Change and Environment Thani Zayoudi.The ministry hosts Arab Peninsula Regional Program in one of its buildings in Ajman. They discussed financial support for implementing programs, including developing drought-, heat-, and salt-tolerant forage crops. Abousabaa also met with representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council to discuss date palm projects. 

ICARDA’s effort to improve the livelihoods in the region also spans across another ten Arab countries – Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen – where it has worked together with national partners to raise wheat production, helping farmers in both irrigated and rainfed production systems.

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