It’s strange that a farmer’s market should make news, but when it’s in Qatar, one of the driest and least food secure nations on earth, a farmer’s market is a big deal. So much so that local professional photographer Mohammed Ismail stopped by for a shoot.
Located 30 kilometers outside of the capital Doha, where last year’s COP18 climate meetings were staged, the market is a unique opportunity for consumers to come face to face with the people who do the hard work of putting food on the table and it takes place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7am to 7pm.
Located near the Umm Salah Sports Club on Al Shamah Expressway, the market is not so accessible to Doha, where up to 60 percent of the emirate’s population resides, but it is convenient for the farmers.
Remarkably, 22 farmers are eking out a living in the dry, flatlands of Qatar, which desalinated a staggering 34.7 million cubic meters of water last year, which represents 11.2 percent more than the previous year’s output.
Concerned about the country’s food secure, Qatar launched the Global Dry Land Alliance (GDLA) in 2010 – an umbrella organization that would coalesce the work of 51 countries most vulnerable to food shortages to find solutions to upcoming challenges.
So called land grabs are one solution for Gulf countries, although many critics worry that the people already dependent on land gobbled up in these transactions will be left even more insecure.
Then there are initiatives like the Sahara Forest Project, which is an alternative, closed loop growing system that uses saltwater to grow food. Tentatively successful, SFP recently produced its first batch of cucumbers and other vegetables in a dry expanse of desert.
And then there are what Americans call “mom and pop” farmers. Every day men and women who can literally suck water out of bone dry earth to produce sound looking eggplants, turnips and other nutritious foods.
The farmer’s market bypasses the middleman, allowing supporters to purchase produce sans additional commission or fees. The central market will still carry local produce, but visiting the market provides the privilege of shaking your farmer’s hand. Stop on by if you can.