An Integrated Desert Farming Innovation Platform To Transform Food, Nutrition, and Water Security under Climate Change
Held during the 7th International Date Palm Conference (14-16 March 2022)
Location: Emirates Palace Hotel, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Countries in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) with dry, fragile, desert ecosystems are uniquely vulnerable to the climate crisis. Increasing temperatures and growing water scarcity threaten to devastate the region's critical agricultural sectors – and undermine the social cohesion of farming communities who depend on them. Regional governments, researchers, and donors will soon meet to discuss ways to address these challenges by establishing the world's first Integrated Desert Farming Innovation platform – a new research hub dedicated to collaboration in scientific innovation and the development of climate-adapted food systems resilient in the face of 21st-century challenges.
On March 14-15, 2022, the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation (KIADPAI), in cooperation with CGIAR, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and ministers and representatives from over 15 WANA countries and their research institutions, will attend a closed side vent to discuss the Integrated Desert Farming Innovation Platform for transforming Food, Nutrition, and Water Security under Climate Change.
The closed side event – taking place under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, during the Seventh International Date Palm Conference (14-16 March 2022) – will announce through the Abu Dhabi Integrated Desert Farming Systems (IDFS) Declaration, the establishment of an IDFS Platform. The platform act as a hub for a regional effort to provide fresh, bold, demand-driven innovation and cutting-edge technology to achieve food and environmental security in the face of interconnected and complex challenges, above all, the climate crisis
Desert lands cover approximately 70% of the total land area of WANA, a region highly vulnerable to intensifying heat, pests, and plant diseases due to climate change and man-made, population-related impacts such as desertification, biodiversity erosion, land degradation, the overuse of water, and emissions from agriculture itself. These impacts further marginalize the region's smallholder farmers, who already endure poor soil, water salinity, low precipitation, limited arable land, and inadequate access to input and output markets and agriculture services.
Despite these challenges, significant renewable and non-renewable natural resources exist, along with rich biodiversity and climate-adapted plant germplasm, and an abundance of hardy plants and animals accustomed to harsh, dry, hot conditions such as unique food and fodder crops, camels, and small ruminants (goats and sheep).
The IDFS platform will boost a new phase of international and regional collaboration, sharing knowledge and assets to accelerate agricultural innovations along field-to-fork value chains. IDFS builds on established foundations such as improved water management, the development of climate-smart crops,
integrated crop/livestock systems, and efforts to reduce desertification while boosting pillar industries such as date palm production.
It will also fast-track technology innovation breakthroughs in water and soil productivity and accelerate the adoption of innovative information technology, artificial intelligence, integrated pest management, and digital extension services.
IDFS also builds on established foundations such as improved water management, the development of climate-smart crops, integrated crop/livestock systems, and efforts to reduce desertification while boosting pillar industries such as date palm production. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) funded Date palm project managed by ICARDA also acts as a strong framework on which to build the IDFS platform
Date palm production offers food security, household nutrition, and employment for thousands of smallholder family farmers in dry regions. Yet climate change, pests, and fragile value chains significantly limit the sector’s development. The IDFS platform builds on date palm’s strong foundation to deliver immediate innovation momentum in improved water use, scale-up of proven pest control and pollination innovations, improvement of genetic resources, and more competitive markets and agribusinesses.
CGIAR, the world's largest publicly funded agricultural research network, will present its new portfolio of global innovations and streamlined working model during the event. The involvement of ICARDA, a CGIAR agricultural research center based in CWANA, and twice the winner of the Khalifa Award for innovation in date palm, will ensure the platform can leverage the research, networks, and trust the center has built up over the past four decades.
Once ratified, the IDFS Declaration will accelerate the adoption of climate-adapted technologies, pioneering innovations, and knowledge to bring about sustainability in desert farming. Innovations will reach farming communities through the IDFS platform, which will provide demand-driven innovation and technology to boost partner countries' agricultural economies.
The closed side event is hosted by KIADPAI with the support of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zaid, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and the guidance of His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, and Chairman of the Award's Board of Trustees. On the kind invitation of Her Excellency Maryam Bint Mohammed Saeed Harib Al Meheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, the event will be held on Monday and Tuesday, the 14th and 15th March 2022. Around 15 Ministers of Agriculture in West Asia and North Africa are expected to attend, along with Directors of Regional and International Organizations and delegations from regional National Agricultural Research Systems.
The side event will be opened and hosted by H.E. Dr. Abdelouahhab Zaid, Secretary-General for the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation, Mr. Aly Abousabaa, CGIAR Regional Director of CWANA and Director General of ICARDA, and Kundhavi Kadiresan, Managing Director, Global Engagement & Innovation, CGIAR.