FUJAIRAH // A lack of water to irrigate crops, few skilled agricultural engineers and veterinarians, and strict rules governing which marine species can be sold at market are among the main problems affecting farmers and fishermen in the eastern region.
Emirati owners of some of the 6,600 farms along the east coast, as well as fishing boat captains, outlined the issues they faced trying to make a living from the land and the sea during a meeting with the UAE’s new Minister of Climate Change and Environment.
The farmers travelled from Kalba, Al Dhaid, Dibba, Siji, Masafi and Fujairah to meet Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi and tell him how a lack of water resources and expertise was affecting their livelihoods.
“We need more dams to cover our need for water,” said Saeed Al Dahmani, a farmer from Siji. “We can’t afford to buy a Dh300,000 desalination device, we need dams.”
Mr Al Dahmani said that the lack of water and palm weevil investations affected their crops and he called on the minister to find a solution.
Mohammad Al Darmaki, from Kalba, recalled that in the 1970s the Government played a major role in helping farmers to get the most out of their land and supplied agricultural engineers and vets. But these days, he said, there was only one of each to cover the eastern region.
“No labs, vets or engineers,” Mr Al Dahmani said. “If we have a problem with the animals we send the blood samples to Sharjah and get the results within 15 days. This process takes too long, and if the animals are really sick they die before we receive the results.”
Dr Al Zeyoudi told the farmers there were plans to build 80 dams across the country, adding that all of the farmers’ concerns would be discussed with the relevant authorities. The minister also heard from fishermen who expressed concerns about laws and regulations that govern their industry, including the types of equipment they are allowed to use and species of fish they are allowed to bring back to the market.
“The new law banning the fishing of al safi and al shari fish from March to the end of April will affect our profit because these are the most demanded fish in the market,” said a boat captain from Fujairah.
“We demand the ministry of the environment and water reconsider the regulations and do a full study to take fishermen’s advice before announcing any rules. Our area is different to the other emirates. We fish in the ocean.”
Salem Obaid, another fisherman from Fujairah, said it took too long to issue licences and asked that the ministry review the requirements for assigning a co-captain.
“For me, I have a government job besides being a sailor, and I can’t assign a co-captain because I’m under 60 years old.”
Dr Al Zeyoudi said officials at the ministry would look at the issue of processing licences and would review the regulations surrounding catches.