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16 March 2014

 Khalifa International Date Palm Award


Your Highness Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, Deputy Chairman of the Executive Committee,

Your Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak  Al Nahayan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, and President of the Board of Trustees of the Khalifa International Date Palm Award,

Dr Jacques Diouf, former Director-General of FAO,

Distinguished Members of the Board of Trustees,

Honorable Ministers,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor to participate in the Fifth International Date Palm Conference and address you on the occasion of the Khalifa International Date Palm Award.

I would like to applaud His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, President of the United Arab Emirates, for the international success that this award has achieved.

The Emirates are at the forefront of regional and international efforts to sustainably produce date palms. This support recognizes the role that this blessed fruit can have in helping to achieve food security in many countries.

And it projects into the future the vision of His Highness the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who said: “Give me agriculture and I’ll secure a civilization for you.”

I am deeply grateful to be part of this effort and honored to have been nominated a member of the Date Palm Board of Trustees.

I must confess that I am not an expert on date palms, but they are not new to me or to FAO.

Date palms are one of the globally recognized symbols of this region.

Since 1965, FAO is proud to be part of the efforts to promote date palms. And you can be certain of our continued support.

There are many areas of action. We need to train more date palm experts, improve our work in combating pests and plant diseases.

We also need to address the fact that there are no marketing standards for dates and that we lack updated information on the needs of the international date market.

We hope that we can respond to these needs by working together.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the winners of this edition of the Khalifa International Date Palm Award.

Their work helps keep a culture alive and adapt date palm production to today´s challenge: produce in a sustainable manner.

The efforts to preserve and update knowledge on date palms have created an unique system that combines production and sustainability, safeguards biodiversity, and helps to improve the livelihoods of those who till the land.

Worldwide, currently there is a group of 25 systems in 12 countries that combine all these characteristics. They are recognized by FAO as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems, GIAHS. Among others, they include areas in the Philippines, Algeria, Chile, China, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Morocco, Peru, Tanzania, and Tunisia.

I am pleased to inform you that the date palm production system in the Emirates is in the process of being recognized as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS). The date palm oases of Liwa and Al Ein could be recognized next year as the first Global Agriculture Heritage Systems in the Near East countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me add that recovering and valuing local crops such as date palms is an important strategy in the pursuit of food security.

Such crops do not only provide food and income, but are part of the culture and history of many peoples.

And this is another value that I want to highlight.

This blessed tree is part of the history, tradition and culture of the Emirates and of other countries in the Near East.

By 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.

This is a combination for which I can only express my deepest admiration and respect.

Thank you for your attention. I hope to join you again soon.