Minister tells Abu Dhabi students of 'critical' need for food security strategy

Mariam Al Mehairi, Minister of State for Food Security, says UAE faces unique challenges

Mariam Al Mehairi, Minister of State for Food Security, addresses students during one of a series of lectures she held at New York University Abu Dhabi. 
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A UAE minister swapped Cabinet debates for the lecture hall to give university students a crucial lesson on the importance of protecting the nation's food supplies.

Mariam Al Mehairi, Minister of State for Food Security, was guest lecturer at New York University Abu Dhabi's three-week long Water-Energy-Food Nexus course.

Ms Al Mehairi delivered four lectures, telling students of the country's need to train food-security experts of tomorrow and ensure a sustainable future for the Emirates.

She said the UAE's climate meant it was critical that strategies were in place to ensure people had access to sufficient food.

"As the effects of climate change and overpopulation become more prominent, sustainability comes to the fore as a major concern for authorities around the world," Ms Al Mehairi said.

"The UAE’s climate makes it exceptionally critical for us to develop holistic and ambitious plans to ensure our food security in the foreseeable future and beyond.

"Student and the youth in general are a fundamental component of all our plans for food security. To ensure better food management and security in the future, we must train the food security experts of tomorrow starting now.

"We must promote a responsible community starting today. Therefore, the Office of Food Security prioritises engaging the youth in all of its activities, programmes and initiatives."

The course explored the crucial links between water, energy and food supplies, highlighting the importance of water in agriculture in particular.

It included lectures by experts in the field and field trips to sites across the UAE.

Carol Brandt, associate vice chancellor for global education at NYU Abu Dhabi, said the education facility's students welcomed the chance to learn from a senior government minister.

"Our students were privileged to have Minister Al Mehairi teach a session of their course, provide them with beautifully curated visits to projects and programmes in the UAE that are leading efforts in sustainable agriculture and biotechnology, and offer them constructive feedback on sustainability projects they presented to her," Ms Brandt said.

"It was a great example of a University-ministry partnership."

Speaking at the second annual Agriscape exhibition in Abu Dhabi  last October, Ms Al Mehairi said the UAE was in the final phase of its national food security plan.

She said there was work to be done if the country was to achieve its aim of breaking into the top 10 in the Global Food Security Index by 2021.

The UAE imports the vast majority of its food and ranks 31 in the global index.