Following the recent news that the United Arab Emirates is slowly embracing organic farming, are more signs that the Gulf States are slowly recognising the importance of food sustainability. Qatar has announced plans to establish 1,400 farms to improve its food production and also train more people to work in the agricultural sector to improve productivity.
The announcement was made by the chairman of the Qatar National Food Security Program Mohamed Al Attiyah, who also noted that existing farms were working at only 10% of their capacity. Lack of qualified staff as well as limited funding means that the agricultural sector in Qatar is far from performing at its full potential, he added.
The new farms are hoping to help resolve this issue of productivity as they will be using the latest agricultural technology and plans are also afoot to establish educational institutions that would improve the knowledge of those working in the sector.
The work to improve food sustainability is part of a wider government programme which is hoping to create four distinct economies- namely renewable energy, water, agriculture and food. Qatar currently imports 90% of its food and the wider programme wants to change that over the next 10 years. Attiyah told the Peninsular Qatar that with issues such as climate change and water shortages, if the problem of food security is not addressed it could “pose a very serious problem for future development.”
Countries in the Middle East, particularly the Gulf States, have been criticized for their efforts to improve food security by buying up tracts of fertile land in Africa. Over the last couple of years, this worrying trend has seen a rapid increase with the UAE believed to be the third top buyer of global farmland in the world following China and South Korea.
And it’s not only Gulf states that are relying on land in Africa to grow their own food. Egypt has also being buying up land in Sudan to improve its supply of staple foods such as wheat rather than focusing on improving its own farming techniques and supporting local farms.
Let’s hope that Qatar’s plans are followed through and that the country becomes an example of how to become food secure by cultivating land at home.
: Image of farm in Qatar via Marlon Garcia/Flickr.
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