DUBAI: The UAE Food Security Office and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have taken a significant step forward in joining efforts to strengthen food security in the UAE.
The collaboration with FAO targets transforming the Agriculture sector to achieve the SDGs as well as to enhance food safety in the UAE. The partnership has as main objectives: ensuring that everyone has access to safe,sufficient and nutritious food at all times -especially during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic – and enabling the local and federal governments to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), notably SDG 2 – ‘Zero Hunger.’
The project titled ‘Assessment and strategic analysis of the food control system’ brings FAO technical assistance to assist on assessing and improving the UAE food safety control system and in particular of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, building a baseline using internationally accepted best practices. The project is expected to outline a roadmap for government investments to ensure maintenance and improvements to the food systems over time, thus allowing it to address upcoming and evolving food control challenges.With an estimated cost of around USD 218,000, this initiative is expected to run over 12 months and bring about major improvements.
The second project titled ‘Transforming the food and agriculture sector to achieve the SDGs for enhanced Food Security and Nutrition,’ is expected to run over 2 years and 8 months and is estimated to cost around USD 3.6 million. This project will contribute to strategic FAO goals, including contributing to the eradication of hunger, making agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable, reducing rural poverty, enabling more efficient agricultural and food systems and increasing the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises.
The second project specifically aims at assisting the UAE in achieving the SDGs by strengthening the capacity of its national partners, recommending best practices and technologies for developing sustainable food production, promoting nutrition policies for long-term health, making food systems more effective,and preventing diseases that threaten plant and animal production.It outlines how it will meet these objectives through three specific focal areas: utilising research, technology and innovation, supporting a sustainable and innovative aquaculture sector, and transforming the livestock sector for enriched food security and nutrition. The project addresses (5) improvement areas for promoting the aquaculture sector in the UAE: 1) undertaking a feasibility exercise to enhance the competitiveness of the Recirculating Aquaculture System; 2) implementing a tasting or pilot exercise for enhancing UAE’s local species of brood stock; 3) creating a data base of seafood consumption in the UAE;4) investigating aspects of biosecurity of fish farms; and finally 5) investigating offshore aquaculture systems.
“The two projects that the Food Security Office has signed with the FAO represent an important step forward in boosting food security for the region and enhancing the UAE’s capacity to meet the United Nations’ SDGs. Although as a nation we are currently considered food secure due toour strong political and economic stance, the current COVID-19 pandemic has reiterated the need for us to augment our capacity in the areas of food production so that we can reduce our reliance on these food supply chains, which currently bring in 90 percent of the country’s total food imports,” said Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security.
“Through these two engagements, the FAO will be playing an instrumental role in helping the UAE meet its target of becoming one of the top 10 food-secure countries in the world by 2021 and number one by 2051.By enabling its domestic food production to ramp up through innovative smart agricultural methods and the development of its aquaculture sector, it will also improve our capability to reduce global malnutrition by meeting the UN’s SDGs, especially SDG 2, the eradication of hunger by 2030,”added Her Excellency.
The two outlined projects will be implemented by the FAO’s Subregional Office for the Gulf Cooperation Council States and Yemen,in conjunction with the UAE Food Security Officeamong others.With respect to the second project ‘Transforming the food and agriculture sector to achieve the SDGs for enhanced Food Security and Nutrition,’its implementation will make reference to the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s agreed-upon common food security strategy and its five goals: integration of agricultural investments; food safety and nutrition support systems; sustainable food production supported by technology, research and innovations; reducing food loss and waste and integration of management and communication systems.
“The UAE is clearly committed to ensure food security for all. The National Food Security Strategy of the UAE is internationally recognized as a comprehensive and forward looking approach to engage the public and private sector in achieving food security in a sustainable way. FAO highly appreciates the engagement of Her Excellency Mariam AlMheiri and the Food Security Officein guiding and supporting the development of the FAO Cooperation Programme” said His Excellency Dino Francescutti, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator of the GCC States and Yemen and FAO Representative in the UAE.
“The two projects signed with Her Excellency are major building blocks on this cooperation programme. These projects will contribute through strategic channels to achieve food security, with the current challenges brought by theCOVID-19 emergency. The Director General of FAO recognizes the opportunity given to FAO by the UAE to contribute toward a profound transformation of the food system in the country and in the region” added His Excellency.