Dubai: Who is Mariam Saeed Hareb Al Muhairi, the new Minister of State for Food Security?
Engineer Mariam Hareb Al Muhairi served as the assistant undersecretary for Water Resources and Nature Conservation Affairs at the Ministry of Climate Change.
She began her career soon after graduating from one of Europe’s leading engineering universities, with specialisation in Development and Design Engineering. She received her bachelor and master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Rhenish-Westphalian Technical University (RWTH) in Aachen, Germany.
Al Muhairi gained prominence in the field of environmental engineering through her professional experience of over 10 years working with well-known organisations in the UAE and Germany.
She began her professional journey with the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water, where she was appointed an expert to supervise its large projects. She was involved in the Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Centre for Marine Research in Umm Al Quwain, an initiative by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan; the UAE-wide Integrated Waste Management Project to convert waste into energy; and the construction of the ministry’s new building. She also oversaw the establishment and development of the Project Management Office within the ministry’s premises as well as the construction of the Central Laboratories in Sharjah.
Al Muhairi has paid great attention to the issue of groundwater depletion in the UAE, recognising the urgent need to find innovative and sustainable environmental solutions to boost fresh water supply. The young engineer, who was following up on the technology to ‘draw water from humid air’, worked on the technical development in accordance with the country’s climate.
In 2014, she was appointed to the position of director of Education and Awareness Department, where she helped in developing the national strategy on environmental education and awareness.
During Al Muhairi’s appointment at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, she worked towards the development and formulation of general strategic plans for the ministry in line with the UAE National Agenda and the directives of the government.
What is UAE’s Food Security Plan
The UAE, which imports up to 85 per cent of the food it consumes, has long prioritised food security as one of its policies. The country was ranked first in the Arab region, and 23rd globally, on the Economist’s annual Global Food Security Index for 2015, but still had to spend Dh52 billion on food imports in 2015. Because of its arid climate and scarcity of arable land, the UAE relies heavily on imports for its basic commodities and other food.
The Dubai Food Park, the first of its kind in the region, was launched in 2017. The project seeks to enhance Dubai’s position as a leading regional hub for food trade and re-export of foodstuffs. Dubai Food Park has been established to meet the growing demand from the food sector in the UAE and the region and is set to play a vital role in supporting global food security.
The UAE Food Bank was also launched as an integrated humanitarian system. It includes hotels, food factories, farms, hospitality establishments, supermarkets and a huge number of volunteers. It deals professionally with surplus fresh and canned food under the supervision of the authorities concerned and distributes it inside and outside the country in cooperation with a network of local and international humanitarian and charity organisations. The bank is partnering with major hotel chains, supermarkets, food factories and farms and will open its doors to volunteers to contribute to the distribution of food inside and outside the country.
The government provided financial subsidies for every aspect of farming but then introduced new policies focused on making farmers self-reliant.
Government programmes aimed to encourage farmers to be competitive in the market and an agriculture investment fund announced by the Abu Dhabi Farmers Services’ Centre (ADFSC) in 2013 saw an approximate Dh100-million fund to support and finance modern farming techniques.
The fund, which spent nearly Dh20 million per year till this year, was a partnership between the ADFSC and the Food Security Centre-Abu Dhabi.
The fund was a development programme that included a range of services and financing and non-financing facilities to encourage farmers to introduce modern agricultural techniques, reduce the harmful effects on the environment and contribute to the food security system.
The fund has also focused on the hydroponics programme as the first project to enhance food security in the UAE and make the best use of water resources.