Monday, May 2, 2016

Sustainable food in UAE

In last published post, I discussed what is Sustainable Food in general. But when we talk about sustainable food in UAE, there is quiet big change to make the food here sustainable.

Growing food in UAE through traditional farming has huge challenges. There is no naturally occurring soil in UAE so soil is bought from other countries in Asia. Lot of water is used for farming, the harsh summer increases that demand even more. But as there is no natural source of water in UAE, desalinated water from sea is used for farming. This water treatment uses high energy which makes farming in UAE totally unsustainable and increases pressure on natural resources and cause lot more carbon emission. So it's difficult to call food grown in UAE by traditional farming 'Sustainable Food'.

Will not comment much about organic food, though there are many organic farms in UAE; Organic certification locally is still in infancy and is following other certification bodies in Europe and US, which won't fit well here locally.

To make traditional farming more sustainable in UAE, government can initiate few new systems like,
1. Reusing specific organic waste to create compost and soil as end product and using that soil for farming instead of buying and shipping it from other places.
2. Providing treated grey water for farms for irrigation, so that they won't use desalinated water. This system will need investment but in long run will save more energy and reduce pressure on sewage disposal system too.
3. These above two systems can be implemented in every community instead of citywide and community food gardens can be formed.

Just few of my thoughts about how can we make the food growing in UAE more sustainable.

Buying Sustainable food in UAE

To buy sustainable food in UAE, we need to keep few things in mind. Like buying apples in UAE coming all the way from France would be less sustainable than buying Iranian apples. So I would say buying food from countries closer to UAE, gives us fresher food with less carbon emissions. Other factor is buying seasonal fruits and vegetables. Though we get almost all kind of food in UAE throughout the year, it makes more sense to buy seasonal food, which is preserved lesser and will be more fresh and  will definitely have more nutrition! We need to create demand of sustainable food. For organic food, we need to ask questions, read labels, do our research to find authentic organic food. If you are buying fish, refer this guide to choose wisely the sustainable fish.

Also read post sustainable food, to learn more about what is sustainable food, what exactly is organic food, what are ways to of sustainable food consumption & waste disposal.

Jabel Ali Golf Resort's Bio-Garden

Sustainable Food Growing in UAE

Growing capsicum in aquaponics
Recently I was invited to celebrate Earth Day at Jabel Ali Golf  Resort at their on site bio-garden, as part of their environmental and sustainability efforts. I was remarkably happy to see sustainable food growing, which I have been looking for a long time in UAE. It ticked so many boxes of my idea of 'Sustainable food in UAE'.

Growing lettuce in Aquaponics
Recently many hotels world wide are growing their own food to make hotels more sustainable and self sufficient. It was amazing to see, the same started happening in UAE. JA Golf Resort, already a Green Globe Certified property raise money to fund this Bio-garden by selling cooking oil from kitchen to convert into diesel. Their HSE manager told me that their recycled grey water is used to irrigate golf course. So they need to use desalinated water for irrigation of bio garden. But the best part is, this bio-garden is not just traditional garden, They have installed aquaponics systems through out the garden, which they are going to develop more in future. That makes this garden very sustainable. This is a great solution to growing food in UAE sustainably.

What is Aquaponics

Aquaponics is growing plants by fertilizing them with waste water from fish in a sustainable closed system. The water travel to plants with fish waste in it, which acts as fertilizer. The water gets filtered when it travels through plant and clean water travels back to fish tank. On larger scale it is key solution to mitigating food insecurity, climate change, ground water pollution and  mining.

Aquaponics systems are completely organic and they 4 to 6 times more productive than traditional gardening. Aquaponics systems use 90% less water than conventional gardens. This system has other advantages like less maintenance as no weed, fewer pests and no watering and fertilization needed.So that makes Aquaponics, one the most sustainable farming option in UAE

Aquaponics System at JA Golf Resort

Jabel Ali Golf Resort uses Tilapia Fish in aquaponics system to grow thyme, spring onion, cherry
Fresh Herbs from Bio-Garden
tomatoes, pear tomatoes, rose merry, mint, lettuce, basil and capsicum. The resort's kitchen are generally self sufficient for herbs requirements and use the bio-garden produce in preparing meals for the guests. They also have traditional garden where they grow herbs like basil, lemon trees but the gardener of Bio-garden told us, most of the herbs grown traditionally do not survive summer. Which they need to plant again in winter. Being a family friendly resort, they also arrange Bio-Garden kids day, It's a great way to educate our kids about how food grows and may be even about sustainable food. On the occasion of Earth Day, the guests planted 50 lemon trees. The produce grown in that garden was freshly picked for snacks and drinks prepared for us that day. The smells and taste of fresh herbs and lemons was one thing stayed with me from that evening!

Sustainable food has that power of bringing us not only nutrition but authentic experience of savoring food, empowering workforce in food industry, conserving our resources and well being of everyone; we, our future generations and our planet!
Earth Day celebration by planting lemon tree! Getting dirty is part of gardening!


Faiza N said...

Hello Amruta,

I really wonder how I missed your blog for so long! I am so glad to get connected with like minded people like you! It is wonderful reading about sustainable eating and thanks a tonne for the post!

Amruta Kshemkalyani- Tavkar said...

Hi Faiza,

I am glad you liked the post and found it helpful! Please keep in touch!