Abu Dhabi: Locally grown organic products will be sold and promoted within and outside the UAE by the special needs community in Abu Dhabi, according to a memorandum of understanding signed today (Monday) between Lulu Hypermarket and Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs (ZHO).

The agreement was signed by Mohammad Fadil Al Hameli, deputy chairman and secretary general of ZHO, and Yousuf Ali, managing director of Lulu Group International at a signing ceremony held in the capital.

The agreement came about to integrate people with special needs into productive and social life by rehabilitating them and exploiting their potential and capacities at Zayed Agricultural Centre for Development and Rehabilitation located in Bani Yas, Abu Dhabi.

Zayed Agriculture Centre for Development and Rehabilitation, which was founded in 1994, aims to integrate people with special needs into society through several agriculturally profitable projects. With the new initiative, people with special needs will develop confidence and no longer face complications through organic farming and gardening methods.

“The UAE has always sought to provide necessary support to citizens regardless of their physical or mental abilities,” said Al Hameli. “In order to create job opportunities for people with special needs, we have enrolled students to teach them agricultural production skills, beekeeping and honey production in addition to fish, animal and poultry breeding.”

“The centre has also encouraged the enrolled students and their families to carry out small agricultural projects that contribute to ensuring a monthly income,” he added.

As per this MoU, Lulu will buy the agricultural produce grown in the farms of the Zayed Centre for Development and Rehabilitation and promote it through their vast network of stores across the UAE. The main vegetables are cucumber, capsicum, eggplant, cabbage, lettuce and turnip.

“As part of our corporate social responsibility initiative, we have always done our best to support many socially relevant community activities. This particular initiative is very significant to us as it has multiple benefits.

“Through this agreement not only we will be promoting the local agricultural sector and supporting the special needs community, but also cut down carbon emission due to reduction in transportation of locally grown vegetables,” Yousuf Ali told Gulf News.

According to the initial plan, Lulu will buy around 35,000kg of vegetables to sell through their different stores in UAE. Lulu will also conduct special promotions and festivals to popularise these products among residents here at very competitive and affordable prices, which will result in better demand and sale.

“We are also planning to send our experts to ZHO farms to train the members there in the latest packing techniques so that these products can be marketed better and enjoy better shelf life compared to imported products,” Yousuf Ali said.

Around 75 people with special needs are working at the Centre for Development and Rehabilitation in addition to six disabled females, who are currently working on packing, canning and manufacturing cheese.

“This project is one of the most promising projects of the future in producing vegetables and fish and it is the biggest around the world. Zayed Argiculture Centre currently owns a 34-hectare farm which generates hygienic organic products and we are looking to increase it in the near future,” Engineer Mohammad Saif Al Arifi, director of ZHO, told Gulf News.