By Staff writer
Al Ain and Liwa oases join number of ecosystems that are formally recognised by the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation
Two date palm oases have joined joined a list of agricultural heritage sites recognised by the United Nations - the UAE's first entries.
The Al Ain and Liwa oases join a growing number of ecosystems that are formally recognised by the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for their importance as repositories of genetic resources, biodiversity and cultural heritage.
Both are known as marvels of ancient hydrology and their date groves form the centre of date production in the UAE.
“For many Arab countries, Date palms are much more than simply food - they are an integral part of your history and cultural identity,” FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva said on Sunday.
Speaking at the annual Khalifa International Date Palm Award Ceremony in the UAE, da Silva designated both oases as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and praised the Emirates’ active conservation efforts.
“Advancing towards the future while preserving your roots is not always an easy task, but the Emirates have been able to do that with their sustainable date palm production,” he said.
Throughout the UAE, date palm is valued for its nutritional benefits, contributions to ecosystems and role in preserving traditional knowledge.
Today, there are thirteen countries with recognized GIAHS sites around the world that contribute to sustainable food production as “living, evolving systems resulting from the connection of human communities and their territories.
In recent years, the UAE has implemented a conservation programme to revitalise these oases through measures such as protection against urban encroachment, restoration of ancient irrigation systems and re-introduction of traditional agricultural management.
“These efforts preserve knowledge transmitted through generations and ensure that tomorrow, as yesterday, date palms will continue to mean food security for the United Arab Emirates,” Da Silva said.
FAO, which has been supporting date palm research and production worldwide for half a century, is collaborating with the Emirates on two new projects, he added - one relating to pest management, and another to map water use and production.
Water management remains a big challenge for agriculture in water-scarce countries like the Emirates.
Recognising this challenge, da Silva also signed a partnership agreement with the UAE-based International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture to strengthen research co-operation between the two organisations to help member countries boost their agricultural productivity and food security by finding solutions to water scarcity in marginal environments.