Food security is a pressing concern in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the nation has implemented comprehensive strategies and initiatives to ensure self-sufficiency in food production while promoting sustainable practices. Agriculture plays a vital role in achieving this goal, with a rich history dating back to the nation's founding. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, one of the UAE's founding fathers, prioritised agriculture as a cornerstone of the nation's development.
This article explores the significance of home gardening in the UAE and the government programs aimed at supporting and enhancing this practice.
National and Local Efforts for Food Security
Efforts to bolster food security in the UAE extend beyond agriculture and encompass community-based projects like home gardening. These initiatives are considered long-term endeavours that contribute to achieving self-sufficiency in food production while fostering sustainability in various aspects – economically, socially, and ecologically.
The "Impact" pillar of the recently launched "National Sustainability Campaign" aligns with these community gardening projects and aims to promote community engagement, environmentally friendly behaviour, and public awareness of sustainability challenges. This pillar highlights the achievements of UAE sustainability programs in diverse fields.
To support these initiatives, the UAE has established government organisations and a favourable legal and regulatory framework that promotes sustainable agriculture and food security. The National Food Security Strategy 2051, for instance, seeks to rapidly attain food self-sufficiency, close the food gap, protect land, and optimize water use, particularly groundwater. The formation of the Emirates Council for Food Security complements these efforts.
Legal Support for Home and Community Gardening
In July 2018, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum issued a community agricultural decision that provides a legal foundation for home and community gardening.
This decision encourages the utilization of residential areas, rooftops, and educational institutions for agricultural purposes. It also emphasises water conservation, seed distribution, marketing, and regulation.
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment plays a pivotal role in promoting agriculture under this decision, including community farming and planting in various settings, from homes and residential complexes to government buildings and educational institutions.
Innovative Solutions for Community Gardening
The UAE has embraced cutting-edge smart technologies to enhance community gardening projects. The "Bustani" exhibition, hosted at the Sustainable Villa in Masdar City showcases over 15 creative approaches to recycling, water management, and food production. These include the use of smart technology in chicken farming and precisely watered, chemical-free home vegetable gardening.
Additionally, the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park collaborates with international research institutes to develop innovative techniques for solar-powered water desalination and agricultural production, contributing to an integrated sustainability system.
International Recognition and Appreciation
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has commended the UAE's global efforts to support community agriculture.
The FAO recognized the UAE's "Grow Your Food" campaign, which encourages families and schools to grow climate-compatible fruits and vegetables at home. Such creative and inspiring projects motivate people to participate in food production while adhering to sustainability and environmental conservation principles.
Empowering Women Through Gardening
Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, often referred to as the "Mother of the Nation," and Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), has initiated the "My Self-Sufficient Farming" program. This project aims to increase green spaces in homes and instil agricultural values in women and their families, thus contributing to food security strategies by equipping women with innovative agricultural skills.
A Guide to Successful Gardening
The Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority has published a community gardening handbook that provides detailed guidelines for cultivating fruit trees and vegetables in residential gardens, classrooms, and building rooftops. It covers everything from choosing the right location to managing pests and harvesting.
Supporting Food Security and Sustainability
The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority has taken an active role in promoting productive home gardens by providing participants in home garden competitions with approved and successful fruit varieties. This aligns with their strategy to achieve food security and sustain agricultural practices.
The UAE's commitment to food security and sustainability is evident through its multifaceted approach, encompassing community gardening, legal support, innovative technologies, and international recognition. These initiatives are not only addressing immediate food security concerns but also contributing to a more sustainable and self-sufficient future for the nation.
Source: By WAM