Riyadh prepares for MENA Climate Week 2023 – a catalyst for sustainable solutions and global action

by MMC
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RIYADH: As the world’s population increases, ensuring a stable supply of food and water has become paramount for a sustainable future.

Saudi Arabia, always at the forefront of change, places this challenger at the center of its sustainable development initiatives.

Driven by government entities and small and medium-sized businesses, the food security landscape in Saudi Arabia is undergoing notable transformations, to which various stakeholders are actively contributing.

“Over the past decade, Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in strengthening its food security,” said Abdulaziz Al-Saud, CEO and co-founder of Barakah, a Saudi company focused on overhauling food security. food security scene, at Arab News.

Al-Saud highlighted the Kingdom’s initiatives to diversify and localize food sources, thereby reducing dependence on imports.

“This involves significant investments in agrotechnology and the acquisition of agricultural land abroad,” he noted, adding: “The adoption of technology has been equally essential to this progress. »

Abdulaziz Al-Saud, CEO and co-founder of Barakah. (Provided)

Al-Saud explained how modern agricultural techniques have been used to improve local production, minimize water waste and increase efficiency in the agricultural sector.

The importance of these efforts was highlighted when the Kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics declared in September that it was self-sufficient in the production of dates, dairy products and eggs.

These figures also reveal that Saudi Arabia produces more than enough of these three food products to meet local demand, meaning it has excess export capacity.

Al-Saud also highlighted the Kingdom’s commitment to addressing global food supply challenges, referring to the Ministry of Environment’s recent launch of a $10 billion action plan.

“The Kingdom has also managed to reduce its water consumption for agricultural purposes by more than 40 percent, thereby addressing one of our main challenges: water scarcity,” he said.

“In 2022 alone, the agricultural sector grew by 7.8 percent compared to the previous year, highlighting the positive impact of our food security strategies,” he added.

Sky Kurtz, CEO and founder of Pure Harvest Smart Farms – a leading agri-tech company based in the UAE – highlighted other Saudi initiatives poised to redefine the future of food security.

“Saudi Arabia has been extremely proactive in advancing food security, with both offensive and defensive policy measures,” Kurtz told Arab News.

“For example, the Kingdom has imposed and increased import duties on various food products in order to protect domestic producers and improve their competitiveness in the local market,” he added.

He also referred to the Saudi Arabia Agricultural Development Fund, which has implemented rigorous initiatives to fuel progress in the sector.

Sky Kurtz, CEO and Founder of Pure Harvest Smart Farms. (Provided)

“When we look at the development and support of the sectors we operate in with Pure Harvest, we have seen significant progress through dedicated initiatives, programs and entities to support industries best equipped to address food safety challenges and dependence on imports into the Kingdom. ” Kurtz added.

As the main driver of economic prosperity, technological solutions have also played an important role in solving food security problems.

Al-Saud explained that Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in precision agriculture, leveraging data analytics, drones and the Internet of Things to monitor crop health, manage irrigation and combat pests. pests.

“This has resulted in improved yields and significant conservation of resources. The Kingdom’s shift towards soilless agricultural techniques like hydroponics and aquaponics enables food growing in controlled environments, significantly saving water and ensuring consistent production regardless of seasonal changes,” Al-Saud added .

Additionally, reducing food waste is essential for a sustainable future.

“Barakah is a great example, with its online marketplace connecting food retailers with excess stocks to consumers in Saudi Arabia, ensuring efficient use of food and promoting its sustainable consumption,” Al-Saud said.

Around 20 percent of food waste occurs in households, making awareness and education campaigns vital, according to Barakah’s Al-Saud.

“The progressive synergy between food systems and technology, exemplified by Saudi Arabia-based companies like Red Sea Farms, Mowareq and Barakah, is paving the way for a more sustainable and secure food future for Saudi Arabia,” he said. he declared.

Kurtz further illustrated the importance of small and medium-sized businesses in meeting the multi-faceted challenge of food security.

“Governments and large companies simply cannot solve all the problems on their own and often lack the agility and flexibility that SMEs bring,” he said.

“As we directly decided to do with our company, SMEs can identify and solve very specific ‘problems’ and create companies to capitalize on these opportunities, including in the area of ​​food safety,” added Kurtz.

Kurtz further noted that SMEs have the capacity to develop solutions critical to transforming the current food system.

“Often backed by risk-seeking capital, willing to take risks and test new and innovative technologies and business models, etc. SMEs are key to improving food security and changing the status quo – they all contribute to and even advance the region’s economic growth and diversification. ambitions to tackle the greatest challenges of our time,” Kurtz said.

Al-Saud stressed that investing in innovation in various sub-sectors is crucial to addressing global challenges.

“By investing in innovation in key areas such as water desalination, efficient irrigation technologies, protected agriculture, hydroponics, plant breeding and soil restoration, Saudi Arabia will provide commercial solutions that can be easily deployed to build resilient agricultural systems in drylands around the world,” he said. added.

According to Al-Saud, the Kingdom’s institutions are acting proactively to exploit these technological advances.

The Saudi Green Initiative plans to plant trees in soil produced by Saudi composting companies such as Edama. This supports the local supply chain and facilitates the construction of monumental projects like King Salman Park in Riyadh.

Additionally, NEOM intends to build the world’s most sustainable food systems using technologies developed at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Al-Saud highlighted the remarkable degree of cross-sector collaboration in the Kingdom, suggesting that this integrated approach may be difficult to replicate on a global scale.

“Looking ahead, Saudi Arabia continues to invest in technology and foster international partnerships to further strengthen its food security framework,” he said.

“This holistic approach encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s journey towards enhanced food security and its continued commitment to meeting the challenges ahead,” Al-Saud added.

As Middle East and North Africa Climate Week takes place in Riyadh from October 8-12, world leaders are converging to deliberate on the region’s active measures and achievements on sustainability.

Workshops, panel discussions and fireside chats will be offered at the summit, covering topics related to climate, food security and beyond.

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