In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates is synonymous with trading, tourism and affluence. Even considering the significant economic resources of the seven emirates, food security and nutrition are matters of great concern. With a growing population of 9.7 million people, decisive and comprehensive action is necessary to address issues of hunger in the United Arab Emirates.
Dietary Energy and Undernourishment
The Emirates faces difficulties in its agricultural sector primarily due to geography. In a remarkably arid region where viable farmland is precious, external sources of food have to be considered. The complex interplay of these food source factors means that hunger in the United Arab Emirates is of real concern. Between 2000 and 2008, the prevalence of undernourishment increased from 2.50% to 6% in the population. In response, the government instituted programs such as the Ziraii program to address the rising figures. For every year since 2010, the undernourishment figures have gradually decreased and become more manageable. As of 2017, the statistic had decreased to 2.60%. The trends signal a continued decline, which seems to be due to, in large part, the implementation of a long-term plan.
National Food Security Strategy 2051
In 2018, the Emirati government announced a sweeping new initiative designed to bring hunger in the United Arab Emirates down to zero. The online government portal states that the strategy seeks to “make the UAE the world’s best in the Global Food Security Index by 2051 and among the top 10 countries by 2021.” Sustainability is a key point of focus and tackled in a variety of ways. The Ziraii program invests in farmers in order to encourage growth in the sector and trains them to increase the efficiency of farms overall. The program awards interest-free loans and maximizes technological advances in hydroponics. Damage to the environment as a result of these practices is a priority as well. The strain on natural resources is set to reduce as much as possible, as the agricultural policy elements outline.
Beyond just domestic changes, tackling hunger in the United Arab Emirates has an essential international aspect as well. Investment in “agriculture projects abroad, especially in Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, Pakistan, Romania, Serbia, Namibia, Sudan, and the Americas,” is a major element. Doing so allows for greater control over variations in the food market, which simultaneously secures a higher degree of food security. This is paramount as imports from foreign nations allow the Emirates to ensure that sufficient food is available.
A Boost from Entrepreneurship
As the U.A.E. continues its mission to conquer hunger, it has partnered with private entrepreneurs focused on the same goals. Abdulaziz Al Mulla is one of these entrepreneurs. He is the founder of Madar Farms, which utilizes transformative vertical farming techniques. Al Mulla quickly transitioned into the sphere while working at a management consulting firm and researching the situation. His work is quickly gaining ground in the market, which backing from the 2051 strategy has cultivated. Others recognizing both the sustainability problems and potential profits have also moved into space. For the United Arab Emirates and its people, a joint government and private sector initiative stand to make a substantive difference.
– Alan Mathew