UAE & New Zealand to strengthen agricultural research cooperation

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
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New Zealand’s Trade and Export Growth and Agriculture Minister Mr. Damien O’Connor has visited the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai as part of a diplomatic mission to highlight bilateral collaboration in tackling global food security issues through sustainable food systems and agritech innovation.

According to the statement, “The Salt Leachate Measurement’ project, the latest scientific joint venture between New Zealand agricultural research organizations, EAD and ICBA, has brought together some of New Zealand’s top government institutions including Plant and Food Research and Massey University – along with project management by OnlyFromNZ, to help EAD and ICBA investigate more sustainable use of water for crops.”

The project is brokered by New Zealand G2G, a joint venture between the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE).

Mr. O’Connor commented that, “The UAE is increasing investment into its sustainable food ecosystem through the implementation of its National Food Security Strategy and the different initiatives that aim to find solutions to tackle the critical water–food–energy nexus. New Zealand recognizes the UAE’s considerable efforts and will continue to strengthen our bilateral cooperation in this area.”

Dr. Tarifa Alzaabi
Dr. Tarifa Alzaabi
Acting Director General – ICBA

“In collaboration with a wide range of partners, ICBA has carried out research-for-development activities and programs in some 40 countries in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, the South Caucasus, and sub-Saharan Africa. Our partners in the UAE and New Zealand are undertaking important research activities to measure the impact of saline water in agriculture. These efforts support regional food security and offer sustainable solutions to issues like salinity and water scarcity in marginal environments. The scientific achievements from New Zealand and ICBA can also be used globally, as countries across the world tackle water shortages and unsustainable food systems.”

With groundwater supplies in the UAE becoming increasingly scarce and saltier, the four-year project aims to determine the feasibility of using reject brine from small-scale desalination plants on farms and aqua-brine from fish farms, instead of groundwater, to grow salt-tolerant crops and fodders.

As per the statement, the modified devices are now in place on 36 different plots in the UAE and will be used to monitor progress until 2024. The data will then be used to inform decisions about irrigation and environmental management.

The New Zealand–UAE government partnership began in 2013 with the signing of the first environmental MOU between both countries, formalizing a strong and long-term collaboration between New Zealand organizations and ICBA as well as other UAE government entities involved in food security.

Related: UAE and New Zealand agree on 7 tracks to strengthen bilateral economic ties