Abu Dhabi authority sees environment as key to future of farming

ADAFSA working to utilise modern innovation and advanced technology to save energy and promote sustainable consumption of natural resources.
Friday 10/07/2020
An Emirati man checks date palms of Khalas dates. (AFP)

LONDON- The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority’s Director General (ADAFSA), Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri, pledged to increase arable land in order to achieve improved climatic and envrionmental conditions. Sustaining 20,000 farms in Abu Dhabi is one of the most important features of this plan.

The ADAFSA is the local authority tasked with agriculture, biosecurity, food safety and security in Abu Dhabi. Its aims include developing a sustainable food and agricultural sector, protecting animal and plant health, enhancing biosecurity and achieving food security. It is also responsible for plan preparing, implementation activities and programmes in the fields of agriculture, food safety and security.

It is assigned to inspect and control food and agriculture establishments, farms, agricultural inputs, imported and exported food, agricultural items and food produced and circulated within Abu Dhabi in order to ensure access to safe food. Additionally, it supervises the establishment and management of emergency food reserves in cooperation with the competent authorities.

The ADAFSA is currently working to utilise modern innovation and advanced technology to save energy and promote sustainable consumption of natural resources maintaining science-based biological diversity, added Al Ameri.

The Abu Dhabi Agriculture & Food Safety Authority’s Director General, Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri (ADAFSA website)
The Abu Dhabi Agriculture & Food Safety Authority’s Director General, Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri (ADAFSA website)

June 5 marked World Environment Day, when Al Ameri shared his belief that everyone is responsible for preserving the environment and that cooperation is needed between social and governmental entities to help establish an eco-friendly lifestyle, ensure biodiversity and rational consumption of natural resources.

In light of climate change, it was noted that the Authority is eager to help build a better agricultural future. It plans to do so by analysing and studying the relationship between agriculture and climate. The study’s results are also used to further development planning of the agricultural sector and identify which agricultural crops are needed for the market and natural resource management and crop production.

Not only is the authority conducting several initiatives to improve natural resource use while achieving sustainable agricultural development, it also aims to ensure greater cooperation with both regional and international entities in order to benefit from global experiences they can provide.

In cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it is preparing a sustainable agricultural development plan for 2021, aiming at preserving the environment and improving the management of natural resources.

“In cooperation with the Korea Rural Development Administration, KRDA, the ADAFSA is also making research projects with the aim of developing a model of smart greenhouses and cooling systems that can endure the UAE’s environment and which helps reduce water consumption in cooling systems,” Al Ameri stated.“Moreover, both parties are developing techniques for cultivating water-saving crops using hydroponics systems for desert environments. It is an integrated controlled system for growing fruits and vegetables in a desert environment, to make the best use of water and nutrients in these systems.”

The ADAFSA is not solely focused on one project. It is engaged in other environmentally-conscious efforts, such as a project aimed at using reject brine in fish farming and cultivating Salicornia. Salicornia is a succulent, flowering halophyte (salt-tolerant) plant that brings solid economic returns. It is irrigated with high-salinity water that comes from farms’ desalination units. This project is in cooperation with the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development (KFED), the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA).

Al Ameri also presented the ADAFSA’s efforts to maintain natural resources, use pesticides and fertilisers properly, and preserve the environment.

Farms across Abu Dhabi are encouraged to apply Integrated Pest Management Systems (IPM) to reduce excessive pesticide use that can threaten biological balance. This new management system controls pests by studying their life and behaviours, which prevents loss of crops, studies the crop ecosystems to control the pests and diseases and reduces risks towards animal, humans and the environment.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, (ADFCA) is the local authority in charge of agriculture, food safety, food security and biosecurity in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. (WAM)
The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, (ADFCA) is the local authority in charge of agriculture, food safety, food security and biosecurity in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. (WAM)

Another one of the ADAFSA’s strategic projects is IPM for date palm pests, with a view towards realising the governments’ aim of achieving sustainable agricultural development. An alternative to spraying trees with pesticides is to inject palm tree trunk, it proposes.

The authority also conducts a pest survey that covers desert locusts, fruit flies, red palm weevil, borers, black scorch, lesser date moth, dust mine and tomate lead miner. Ultimately, it aims to put together a database detailing the main agricultural pests in the regions, allowing plans to be set to help control and assess the effect of pest control programmes.

The information provided is on seasonal pests, such as desert locusts that originate from neighbouring countries.

Good agricultural practices such as GLOBALG.A.P (GAP) Progammes, which detail standards for production that ensure the safety of environment food and food handlers, are also implemented by the authority. Farmers that effectively preserve nature and wildlife, apply international agricultural standards, reduce harmful impact on their environment, optimise the utilisation of natural resources and limit agricultural chemical use are awarded GAP certificates. There are currently 300 GLOBALG. A.P licensed farms.

ADAFSA has also implemented several training and research projects to educate and build the capacity of farmers on hydroponics technology and practices. They encourage unconventional water resources in order to reduce total dependency on non-renewable groundwater and enhance agricultural sustainability. They aim to provide treated water to around 4,515 farms in Abu Dhabi, in addition to the current 143 Al Nahda farms dependent on this water.

Smart irrigation is formatted following studies revealing that the efficiency of irrigation, with some greenhouse-grown crops saving over 86% of their water compared to traditional irrigation systems.

In order to continue preserving the environment, ADAFSA also pays attention to organic farming systems, with 50 farms awarded organic farming certificates. In this farming system, agricultural production is managed with a method that enhances the ecosystem, including biological diversity.