Sowing the seeds in the UAE for a future of food security

The Emirates is taking big steps to tackle global food challenges

The Middle East is on the front lines of a global fight to secure a sustainable future for the world's agricultural output. AFP
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With global food prices skyrocketing and millions of people going to bed hungry every night, we all have a responsibility to build more resilient, sustainable food systems. The Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week at Expo 2020 Dubai left decision makers with plenty to chew on. While progress in many areas was made, the challenge is clear: collectively, all nations need to enhance food security to ensure a booming population – set to hit 10 billion by 2050 – has continuous access to safe, sufficient, nutritious and affordable food. Now is the time to sow the seeds of change.

Rising food demand requires a complete rethink of agricultural production. We need to develop and implement robust new policies and innovation-driven methods to boost sustainable agriculture, enhance resilience in the face of a changing climate, and reverse biodiversity loss caused by unsustainable practices.

Enhancing food security in a way that avoids putting undue pressure on our natural resources and supports our fight against climate change is one of the areas where we can excel. The UAE’s efforts are governed by the National Food Security Strategy 2051, which aspires to position our nation at the top of the Global Food Security Index.

To translate it into reality, we have established the Emirates Food Security Council to unite public and private sector entities towards a common goal – ensuring that all citizens and residents have access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food at affordable prices at all times.

Based on our forward-looking vision for the next 50 years, we are proactively adopting strategies to strengthen our already-world-class logistics infrastructure in preparation for potential crises. We rely on building strong partnerships to attract investments in agricultural R&D and support climate action.

To this end, we formed the Supreme Committee for Global Economic Partnerships that intends to step up economic cooperation with eight influential foreign markets as part of the Projects of the 50.

The UAE recently announced the creation of the Emirates Food Security Council. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
We are proactively adopting strategies to strengthen logistics infrastructure in preparation for potential crises

In this context, we recently witnessed the inception of a partnership with India aimed at establishing a food security corridor between our two countries. The move will reinforce the UAE’s position as a gateway for trade between international markets and contribute to the recovery of the global economy amid a stubborn pandemic.

Our approach to the food sector is intrinsically linked to the nation’s economic diversification and sustainable development agenda. As we set our eyes on the next 50 years of growth and human development, we are working to enhance our competitiveness in global markets, facilitate global trade and attract foreign direct investment. Farming is where our commitment to building a knowledge economy comes to life. Through R&D and digitalisation of supply chains, we work to mitigate the impacts of climate change with an innovation-led food security strategy.

The legacy of the UAE’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed, who championed living in harmony with nature, has contributed to the country’s affinity for sustainable agriculture. Our geographic location as a desert nation has driven our desire to develop and deploy modern technologies to tackle climate change and food insecurity. Our commitment to innovation has already yielded immense results, and that’s why consumers today can find leafy greens and vegetables grown in vertical farms proudly labelled “Made in UAE”.

To fast-track the implementation of our innovation-driven food security strategy, we have launched the Food Tech Valley in Dubai, a first-of-its kind AgTech city that intends to serve as a testbed for pioneering agricultural solutions.

In line with its deeply entrenched philosophy of forging productive partnerships for the benefit of humankind, the UAE is keen to join forces with the rest of the world to build a food-secure future for all. Last year, we teamed up with the US to launch the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), a global initiative that seeks to stimulate and accelerate investment in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation between 2021 and 2025.

AIM for Climate has garnered a strong coalition of support that currently comprises over 140 government and non-government partners, and continues to grow. At its launch at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (Cop26) in Glasgow, it announced an “early harvest” of $4 billion in increased investments. The Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week at Expo 2020 Dubai provided a stage for the first ministerial meeting of the initiative, where the partners decided to double the investment commitment target to $8bn by Cop27 this November.

We can only harness the full potential of innovation to tackle global challenges if we work together to achieve our common goals. Our current efforts herald a new era of collaboration that will enable us to make great strides in enhancing food security, advancing sustainable development, and combating climate change. The Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Week was an opportunity to sow the seeds of change for climate-resilient, innovation-driven food security.

Published: March 03, 2022, 4:00 AM