In a powerful call to action Abu Dhabi is on course to develop 100 new organic farms as part of a wider commitment to sustainable development. Michael Wale visited the Emirate to find out more

It is surely the dream of every organic farmer and consumer that Governments get behind the movement and makes it happen. And that is precisely what is happening in Abu Dhabi, where the government operated Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Service Centre (ADFSC) is proactively working to expand organic agriculture this Emirate.

In many ways it shouldn’t be a surprise that Abu Dhabi has chosen this path. After all, the course was set by UAE’s foundjng father, Sheikh Zayed, who was personally responsible for leading the Emirate of Abu Dhabi into an environmentally and sustainable agricultural emirate.    .

Recently, the Abu Dhabi Government created a 98 hectare model organic farm located at Al Dhafra in Liwa, as part of a wider initiative to expand sustainable agricultural practices that help preserve natural resources and provide markets with healthy, safe and high quality products.

ADFSC has a mandate to convert 100 conventional farms into certified organic farms over a four-year period. Already 25 farms have signed agreements for the transition from conventional to organic and a further 25 are expected to undergo conversion to organic this year.

Organic farming is challenging in this country, where soil fertility, water availability and temperature create challenges for organic crop productions.

Retailers on board
But go into to a supermarket like Carrefour, Spinneys and Lulu in UAE, and you will see dedicated organic aisles – evidence of local growing consumer demand for organic.

Recognising the very real commercial opportunities of expanding organic production, the ADFSC’s marketing department is direct discussions with leading supermarkets about the future, and developing ways to ensure regular supplies of organic produce. They had already created ‘mini-markets’ for smaller outlets.

Nasser Al Junaibi, acting CEO of the Centre explained that the shift to organic farming had come as part of wider sustainability efforts to conserve water and natural resources as well as to produce clean and chemical-free food, thereby conserving the natural ecological diversity and environmental protection.

He added: “We aim at providing support services to the farm owners to encourage them to switch from traditional farming to organic agriculture through workshops, demos and social media. ADFSC also provides organic seeds and inputs to the converting farms during the first year, along with the technical support on meeting Best Management Practices in Organic farming. We also plan to procure the certified organic produce through our commercial department, through supply agreements.”

In other efforts to maximise commercial opportunities, ADFSC sells the certified organic produce in the branded logo MAZRANA.

Meanwhile, the Al Dhafra farm is an impressive operation in its own right, producing vegetable crops totalling around 30 metric tonnes this year. The farm has also recently introduced some organjc grape varieties, figs, sweet potato, quinoa and date palms.

Another major development on the model farm in the future will be the introduction of, livestock and a free range poultry to ensure that it can work on a fully integrated basis, and allowing nutrient recycling.

Call to action
The ultimate mandate of the Centre is to implement best farming practices, to enable the Emirate to be at the forefront of sustainable practices. As Sheikh Zayed said: “Give me agriculture and I will give you civilization”. It’s a powerful call to action that continues to pay very real dividends for a country, its people…and its environment.