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Water UAE’s biggest challenge, food security minister says

Need calls for out-of-box solutions, like underground desalinated water storage

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News
Mariam Bint Mohammed Saeed ALMheiri, Minister of State for Food Security
Gulf News

Dubai: Water security is the “biggest challenge” in the UAE, which can be met through innovative solutions, the Minister of State for Food Security said during The Food Security Forum in Dubai.

Mariam Al Muhairi said the UAE, like other countries and regions, has “specific needs” in food security that should be fulfilled by using technology that is both adaptive and innovative.

She was speaking during the forum’s ‘Ministerial Session’, held on the sidelines of Gulfood 2018, which concluded on Thursday.

“In the UAE, for example, water is our biggest challenge. Each region has its own set of obstacles to overcome. Research-based innovation is our best bet to address these issues. To take the UAE as an example once again, the completion of the world’s largest (underground) reservoir of high-quality desalinated water in Abu Dhabi perfectly reflects how out-of-the-box thinking leads to surprisingly efficient solutions,” Al Muhairi said.

Another way to promote food security, she said, is to enhance globalisation. The minister said the UAE supports the “fluid movement” of agricultural products to different parts of the world, connecting producers and consumers worldwide.

Food insecurity is a global threat, Al Muhairi warned, that persists “despite all the progress of human society”. It is estimated that the number of undernourished people worldwide rose from 777 million in 2015 to 842 million in 2016 — meaning one in eight people are food insecure, she said.

She called for “international cooperation” between all stakeholders for “a positive change”, saying globalisation is a “highly effective instrument”.

Al Muhairi said the Year of Zayed (2018) “celebrates the legacy of the UAE’s founding father” — Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan — who had “set the foundation for food security long before it became a hot topic that it is today”. She added that “we are proud to follow in his footsteps”.

Also speaking during the session were Aleksandr Tkachyov, Russia’s Minister of Agriculture; Vincent Ssempijja, Uganda’s Minister of Agriculture; and Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, vice-president of the Federation of the UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry and chairman of the Sharjah Chamber.