Thu 04-06-2020 16:48 PM
ABU DHABI, 4th June, 2020 (WAM) -- Saeed Al Bahri Salem Al Ameri, Director-General of the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, ADAFSA, affirmed the authority’s commitment to sustaining about 24,000 farms in Abu Dhabi emirate, as well as increasing arable land as one of the most important factors for improved environmental and climatic conditions.
The ADAFSA is doing its best to utilise advanced technology and modern innovations to save water and energy, maintain biological diversity, and promote sustainable consumption of natural resources based on scientific grounds, he added.
On the occasion of the World Environment Day, which is celebrated on 5th June every year, Al Ameri said that preserving the environment is everyone’s responsibility, which requires cooperation among government and entities in society to establish an eco-friendly lifestyle and ensure biodiversity and rational consumption of natural resources.
He noted that the Authority is keen on anticipating the agricultural future in light of climate change by studying and analysing relations between climate and agriculture in the emirate. In addition, the results of this study are being used in planning the development of the agricultural sector, identifying market needs for agricultural crops, and helping decision-makers in understanding what is relevant to production and natural resource management.
In addition to conducting several initiatives to improve the use of natural resources while achieving sustainable agricultural development in Abu Dhabi, Al Ameri added that the Authority intensifies cooperation with regional and international entities to benefit from the global experiences in this regard. It is preparing, in cooperation with the FAO, a sustainable agricultural development plan for 2021, which aims at improving natural resource management and preserving the environment, Al Ameri stated.
"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. 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," he clarified.
Meanwhile, the ADAFSA is also implementing a project aimed at utilising reject brine in fish farming and cultivating Salicornia. It is a salt-tolerant plant with good economic returns, which is irrigated using high-salinity water coming from desalination units existing in farms. The project is being implemented in cooperation with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, ICBA, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD, and Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, KFED.
Al Ameri reviewed the Authority's efforts to preserve the environment, maintain natural resources, and use fertilisers and pesticides properly. Therefore, it encourages farmers to apply the integrated pest management systems, IPM, on all of Abu Dhabi's farms, to preserve the environment by providing alternatives to pest control, reducing excessive use of pesticides that threaten the biological balance, controlling pests using information about their life and behaviour, which helps prevent crop losses, and studying the crop ecosystem to control pests and diseases, which reduces potential risks to human, animal and environment. Al Ameri highlighted the Authority's efforts in raising awareness of farmers about ways to handle and use pesticides safely.
The IPM for date palm pests is one of the Authority's strategic projects, which contributes to attaining Abu Dhabi Government's vision aims at realising sustainable agricultural development and preserving the environment using environmentally-friendly methods to control palm pests. This includes injecting palm tree trunk, as an alternative to spraying trees with pesticides to control red palm weevil.
Furthermore, the Authority conducts an agricultural pest survey covering red palm weevil, borers, dust mite, laser date moth, black scorch, tomato leaf miner (tuta absoluta), fruit fly and desert locusts. This aims at creating a database containing the main agricultural pests in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, which helps in setting plans, developing control strategies, assessing the success of implemented programs in controlling pests, thus improving such programs. The surveys further provide information on seasonal pests, such as desert locusts, coming from neighbouring countries and reproduction areas, which helps prepare for controlling such pests.
Additionally, ADAFSA implements good agricultural practices, GAP, program (GLOBALG. A.P.), which features standards for agricultural production to ensure the safety of food, environment and food handlers. The Authority also awards Abu Dhabi's farmers GAP certificate. It aims to ensure applying the international agricultural standards, reduce the harmful impact on the environment, preserve nature and wildlife, limit the use of agricultural chemicals, and optimise the utilisation of natural resources. Besides, it also developed a new local GAP program (Abu Dhabi GAP), which is currently in the process of being approved. Currently, there are 300 GLOBALG. A.P. licensed farms.
In the same context, the Authority implements several research and training projects to educate and build the capacity of farmers on best practices and technologies for hydroponics. It encourages farmers to use unconventional water resources in agriculture, to enhance agricultural sustainability and reduce total dependence on non-renewable groundwater. It aims at providing treated water to about 4,515 farms in Abu Dhabi Emirate, in addition to 143 farms that currently depend on this water in the Al Nahda area. The use of smart irrigation systems is also promoted, as research studies showed that irrigation efficiency of some crops grown in greenhouses saved water by over 86 percent compared to the traditional irrigation system.
With regard to preserving the environment, ADAFSA pays great attention to the organic farming system, as 50 farms were awarded organic farming certificates. In an organic farming system, agricultural production is managed in a way that enhances the agricultural ecosystem, including biological diversity. Organic agriculture depends on the natural ability of soil, plants and animals, and the use of unprocessed natural materials as inputs in agricultural, to produce high quality and healthy foods.