Farming in the Middle of the Desert: Gulf Emirate of Qatar Pioneers Farming in a Sea of Sand

In an effort to reduce its dependence on imports of fruit and vegetables, the Gulf emirate of Qatar is pioneering farms in the middle of its vast, barren deserts. Thus far the project has yielded flowers but hopes for the future include full-scale vegetable and fruit production. Hamad Ben Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, has hired Frenchman Jean-Pierre Moreau to help construct Qatar’s revolutionary farming complex and thus far Moreau’s team of 60 is responsible for producing some 4 million flowers a year. Fahad Ben Mohammed al-Attiya, head of the Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP), stated that the primary goal was to lessen dependence on imports and secure Qatari sovereignty:

Our future development is inconceivable if we cannot secure our own food resources. … We are all in favour of international trade, but we also believe in climate change and its consequences for farming. In the future some countries may reduce their exports and we cannot remain so dependent.

Local production of foodstuffs would help avoid the problems of transportation and spoilage, both of which add to the cost of purchasing food for the average Qatari citizen. The effort is hailed by the United Nations for its efforts in combating desertification; however, the methodology currently employed is resource and capital intensive and thus unlikely to be applied elsewhere without proven success first in Qatar.

[The Guardian]