Date palm oases in the United Arab Emirates candidates for Global Agriculture Heritage Systems
16 March 2014, Abu Dhabi – The date palm production system in the United Arab Emirates could become the first Globally Important Agriculture Heritage System (GIAHS) in the Near East countries in 2015, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at the Khalifa International Date Palm Award Ceremony held in Abu Dhabi, during the 5th International Date Palm Conference.
José Graziano da Silva announced that the date palm oases of Liwa and Al Ein in the UAE are currently in the process of being recognized as two of the unique traditional agricultural heritage systems and landscapes worldwide created by generations of farmers using locally adapted management practices and recognized under the GIAHS program.
Date palms, an integral part of desert culture
The Director-General lauded the palm tree as part of the history, tradition and culture of region. “Recovering and valuing local crops such as date palms is an important strategy in the pursuit of food security,” Graziano da Silva added. “Such crops not only provide food and income, but are part of the culture and history of many peoples”.
“In preserving date palms and adapting their production to today’s and tomorrow’s constraints, you are building a sustainable, food secure future without losing your heritage,” the FAO Director-General stressed.
Date palms are vital for the livelihoods of people in the UAE and other countries in the Near East. They provide sustenance, building materials, shade and a source of income.
The Khalifa International Date Palm Award has been set up by the UAE, which is at the forefront of date palm research and technology, as a platform to recognize and reward those individuals and institutions who have significantly contributed to this field around the world.
“Their work helps to keep a culture alive and to adapt date palm production to today’s challenge: producing in a sustainable manner,” the FAO chief said in congratulating the winners, which included a date palm genome project in Saudi Arabia, a model palm production farm in Jordan and a new detection machine for the red palm weevil in Egypt, among others.
He underlined that efforts to preserve and update knowledge on date palms has created “a unique system that combines production and sustainability, safeguards biodiversity, and helps to improve the livelihoods of those who till the land.”
The award is designed to highlight the uniqueness of the date palm as part of the heritage and lives of the people of date-growing countries. It also acknowledges the contribution made by science and modern technology in the propagation, production, protection, processing, packaging and marketing of this unique tree.
In his address to the forum, Graziano da Silva reiterated FAO’s support to the country’s efforts to promote and protect date palms.