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New agreement to support protected agriculture in UAE

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) has signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The agreement aims to enhance cooperation to secure adequate infrastructure for new protected agriculture systems and implement projects on modern agricultural innovations and techniques.

This will provide the framework for a joint team of researchers to implement projects for three years at the Agriculture Innovation Centre (AIC), which is established by the MoEW. The team will test the quality of the planted crops and the costs and efficiency of energy and water used in these trials. These projects will provide important knowledge to public and private agencies about the economic feasibility of the best-bet design of new greenhouses.

Speaking at the signing ceremony on December 16, 2015, Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, Director General of ICBA, said: "This agreement is important for ICBA as it supports our program on protected agriculture that we started a few years ago. Our researchers are developing protected agriculture-based solutions that are adapted to desert conditions in the UAE and Gulf Cooperation Council countries. We will have now greater opportunities to achieve more with our international partners and with the support of the Ministry of Environment and Water.”

ICARDA and FAO will be in charge of designing a training program for AIC staff on how to manage research experiments and latest technologies used in protected agriculture. They will also provide one prototype of hydroponic greenhouses alongside a cost-profit estimate of the new generation of greenhouses.

On ICARDA’s role, Abdulaziz Belgacem, the organization’s UAE regional coordinator, said: “We will benefit from the expertise of the international partners and this will add value to the training events we will organize. In addition to ICARDA’s thorough knowledge in the region, ICBA has expertise in the management of soil and water salinity alongside planting salt-tolerant species. FAO has the largest international experience on greenhouses and will be supported by the Ministry which will facilitate our work in the UAE.”

On FAO’s role, Mehdi Idrissi, the organization’s representative to the UAE, said: “We have allocated 337,000 USD to build a new generation of greenhouses and cover a mission of experts. However, the scientific contribution of our partners is the most important here because it will bring together innovative ways to implement project outcomes in the UAE which is the biggest supporter of innovation in the Arab world.”

MoEW will take the lead in coordinating the activities of the involved partners to fully execute the MoU.  It will also supply AIC with necessary technical professionals and will provide infrastructure to the site such as electricity, water, buildings, etc.

Mohammad Mousa Al Amiri, Director of Agricultural Research Directorate at the MoEW, said: “The Ministry embraces innovation in the field of protected agriculture and strives to preserve the scarce water resources in this dry region. Therefore, we have signed this MOU to implement new systems through joint programs with our three international partners and we aim to transfer new information to our farmers.”