Dubai: Scientists have been able to revive abandoned farms in the Northern Emirates and Western Region through using international farming models and adapting it to the local environment.

“In the Northern Emirates alone, the number of farms has fallen by 30 per cent in the last 10 years. The major challenges we have to address is the water scarcity, water quality and the reduction of area under agriculture, and it has got from better to worse,” said Dr Shoaib Esmail, Halophyte Agronomist, International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA).

When the farms dry out, farm owners are given a subsidy to work on another farm — abandoning the old ones. In order to utilise farms to their maximum potential, scientists at ICBA have taken a different approach to find water and food security, and by adopting new technology and farming methods, local farmers will be able to save water by 20-30 per cent.

These models have also been tested in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Farmer Services Centre on three abandoned farms in the Western regions of Abu Dhabi, including Madinat Zayed, Mezaira’a and Ghayathi.

“Instead of importing foodgrains, local farmers can use a combination of fresh, desalinated and sewage treated water. In this way, the farmers can locally produce their food grains and create a market for their cattle, such as meats and dairy products, instead of focusing only on crops,” he said.

According to the study issued by Dr Esmail, these abandoned farms have become productive in the last 18 months, and been saved by choosing a different crops and an efficient irrigation system.

“Such a concept should be promoted in the UAE, not only through the Ministry of Environment but through all government departments as well. This should also be expand throughout the Gulf. We should all [work] under the umbrella of adaptation if we want to change the consequences and address the issues of climate change,” said 
Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water.

Dr Rachael McDonnell, Water Governance and Policy Scientist at ICBA, further explained that climate change in the UAE have increased temperatures and, which is likely to lead to an increase in demand of water for crops, while the natural groundwater recharge is also reduced.