The UAE’s geographical location, continuing population growth and lack of arable land exert great pressure on the agricultural sector.
The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development has launched a programme called ‘Ziraai’ to support citizens working in the agricultural sector by providing training and marketing services and giving interest-free loan of up to AED 1 million to each farmer. This programme aims to promote growth in the agricultural sector and help farmers to improve the marketability, profitability and efficiency of their farms through cutting-edge technologies such as hydroponics systems that can reduce water consumption by up to 80 per cent.
In 2014, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment opened the Agricultural Innovation Centre in Sharjah to promote agricultural advancements and maintain sustainability through technological innovations. The centre also promotes exchange of expertise both locally and internationally.
The UAE adopted organic farming to promote healthier production. Ministry Climate Change and Environment has been increasing acreage under organic farming by 5 per cent annually.
Further, Dubai Municipality ran an initiative called ‘Grow Your Food’. The initiative aimed to reduce agriculture imports and build a happy and sustainable city through the promotion of food security.
Abu Dhabi runs a 50-hectare Al Rawafed Agriculture Organic Farm which supplies nearly ten tonnes of fresh produce to supermarkets and restaurants daily. It is one of the biggest local sources of organic products in the country alongside Greenheart Organic Farms and Yas Farm.
Several smart farming ventures have come up in recent years using Dutch hydroponics farming techniques, a process of growing plants in solutions rather than in soil.
The agri-tech start-up, which raised USD 1.1 million (AED 4 million) from Abu Dhabi-based Shorooq Investments aims to cultivate crops in glasshouses to deal with the challenges of year-round production.
At the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority showcased its protected agriculture project, which runs on recycled water treated with UV rays and has its own cooling system, thus not affected by climate change.
The International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (Icba), a non-profit research facility at Dubai’s Zayed University, showcased a New Generation Greenhouse that could triple crop products of fruits and vegetables in the UAE while using 90 per cent less water and 50 per cent less energy.
Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority which is in charge of the agriculture sector in Abu Dhabi, formulated a new agricultural policy based on six policy elements:
In order to achieve these aims, ADFCA launched the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre (ADFSC) in 2009. The centre is in charge of reducing water usage in the agricultural sector, implement innovative methods and boost production.
According to 2015 survey by ADFSC, 16 per cent of all fruits and vegetables are now sourced locally and the market is estimated to have a size of 1.05 million tonnes of AED 2.4 billion value.
For the 2015-2016 season, farmers were expected to supply an estimated 31,050 tonnes of class one produce, which requires 4,635 acres for open field crops and 1,891 acres for greenhouse crops.
In an effort to secure food supplies and safeguard against market fluctuations, the government also has been investing greatly in agriculture projects abroad, especially in Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, Pakistan, Romania, Serbia, Namibia, Sudan and the Americas.
The UAE is making huge efforts to address malnutrition. Under Vision 2021, the Government will intensify its fight against lifestyle diseases, where early intervention to change habits that can dramatically improve citizens’ prospects for quality of life will be adopted.
Safety of food
The UAE food safety law establishes key requirements for an effective system to ensure the protection of public health and consumers. The law imposes strict penalties on those found to be endangering food safety across the UAE.
The law authorises Ministry of Economy to impose fines of up to AED 100,000 for other offences, provided that these offences are regulated by the Cabinet.
Municipalities oversee food safety requirements and ensure that products have correct labels and expiry dates for consumption.
They conduct random inspections across all foodstuff stores and restaurants to ensure the quality of food supplied and to ensure that it is suitable for people to eat.
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In order to ensure healthier upbringing of children, the UAE has announced a three-month paid maternity leave for Federal Government employees, in addition to two hours’ break daily for breastfeeding.
H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE issued Federal Law No. 17 of 2016, amending some articles under Law 11 of 2008, regarding human resources of the federal government.
According to Article 53 of the amended law, confirmed female employees of the Federal Government will be granted a three-month paid maternity leave. They are also entitled to a two-hour break daily to breastfeed their babies for a period of four months from the date of delivery.
In the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the law entitles women to three months of paid maternity leave and gives them two hours of leave a day, for one year starting from the day of birth to take care of their newborns.
In the emirate of Dubai, the Government extended maternity leave for employees of Dubai Government to three months. It also allows new mothers two hours off work per day to breastfeed their babies and paid leave for mothers of children with special needs.
In addition, the emirates of Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah grant their employees three months’ maternity leave.
Sharjah gives two hours’ break for breastfeeding for six months, while Ras Al Khaimah gives two hours’ break for breastfeeding for one whole year.
Year of Giving 2017
Since its establishment, the UAE is known for its humanitarian approach as well as providing aid. The UAE continues to carry forward the humanitarian legacy of its Founding Father the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his notable humanitarian achievements since the establishment of the country.
The declaration of the Year of Giving intends to boost the culture of giving as it represents one of the most important merits of the UAE’s personality and its institutions.
Food Bank initiative
H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai launched the UAE Food Bank as a humanitarian foundation.
The idea behind this step is to distribute food to those in need while eliminating wastage of food. Surplus fresh and dry foods will go to charities that feed the needy in the UAE and abroad. The initiative promotes the UAE’s values of generosity.
Preservation of Grace
Emirates Red Crescent initiated a project called Preservation of Grace. Under this project, unused/discarded items such as food, clothes, furniture and medicine that are in good condition are given to those who need them. This project aims at reducing wastage and re-using and recycling items.
Read more about UAE Charity and humanitarian work in the UAE.
Read more about the sustainable development goal ‘Zero hunger’.