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Director General  José Graziano da Silva

Celebrating Sheikh Zayed’s pioneering vision of sustainable agriculture

Graziano da Silva reaffirms support for UAE date palm production, developing agriculture in a harsh climate

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva meeting with Than Al Zeyoudi, Minister for Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates

9 May 2018, Rome - FAO Director-General Jose’ Graziano da Silva today praised the visionary leadership support for sustainable agriculture  of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emerites, whose work laid the foundation for his country’s efforts to cope with the challenges of producing food in an often harsh desert climate possessing limited soil and water resourcesl..

In 1946, the UAE’s founding father launched an innovative project develop a water resources management system that combined traditional underground canal systems of irrigation with modern technology. The project boosted productivity in existing agricultural lands and permitted the introduction of new varieties of crops in farmlands.

“Sheikh Zayed was a visionary leader and a pioneer of sustainable agriculture long before the term became commonly used,” Graziano da Silva said today at an event to celebrate the UAE’s Year of Zayed. Year 2018 marks 100 years since the birth of the late Sheikh, who passed away in 2004.

His efforts helped to transform large tracts of the desert into fertile agricultural land, particularly well suited for the production of date palm, a symbol of life in the Near East and North Africa Region.

In 2015, the Emirates’ date palm oases were recognized by FAO as agricultural world heritage sites for their contribution to “dynamic conservation” of culture and biodiversity.

FAO-UAE’s fruitful collaboration

Speaking at the event today, FAO’s Director-General reaffirmed his organization’s support for date palm production in the Near East region, including efforts to tackle the threat of Red Palm Weevil and to improve the date palm value chain.

He also stressed the importance of a new action plan to stop the spread of the Red Palm Weevil endorsed at a high-level meeting held at FAO last year. “This terrible pest has spread around the region, and it now affects around 40 palm species in many countries, causing significant socio-economic and environmental impacts,” he said.

Last year’s conference also approved the establishment of a global platform to facilitate the exchange of knowledge, information and expertise for dealing with the destructive beetle. The Conference also approved the creation of a trust fund, which has since been established, to raise funds to increase technical assistance and research.

Last March, Graziano da Silva attended the 10th Session of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation (KIADPAI) and the 6th International Date Palm Conference in the UAE, where he urged greater regional and international cooperation to promote knowledge sharing and in mobilizing funding to support date palm development.

Advancing agriculture despite a harsh climate

FAO and the UAE have also formulated a Food Diversification Policy for the period up to 2030, consisting of 25 specific policy areas and a concrete implementation strategy which Graziano da Silva described as a “ground-breaking”. “It aims to develop agriculture in a harsh climate, while conserving the natural resources available, particularly water. It places strong emphasis on food and nutrition security, trade and also food loss and waste,” he said.

Today, the FAO Director-General and the UAE’s Minister for Climate Change and Environment, Than Al Zeyoudi, signed a letter of intent for the development of a Fisheries Research and Management Programme for the country.

Watch Minister Al Zeyoudi's remarks: