The United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait are in the midst of a massive project to re-landscape their deserts and transform them into fertile farmland, providing food security for their future. The countries are utilizing a mixture of microbes and soil — called mycorrhiza — that allows plants to absorb more nutrients than they can alone. By researching areas that have significant amounts of water and soil fertility and harnessing mycorrhiza they have already been able to convert 4,000 square meters of “hyper-saline waste-land” into a vegetable and grain producing farm.
Abu Dhabi has just conducted a soil survey to locate the areas of their country where soil could sustain plant life. Given the correct treatment and financial investment they believe that they can find enough arable land to increase their domestic food production up to 70% higher than current levels — they’ve already found 200,000 hectares that could be used for agriculture. The Persian Gulf states won’t be able to find enough land to support 100% of their food needs but they believe it is a better choice than their current tactic of buying arable land in faraway places to produce food.
The studies conducted don’t seem to incorporate the environmental impact of farming in their desert ecosystems, nor do they mention much of where their water will come from. We’re guessing that providing irrigation to the UAE and surrounding nations could prove a difficult task. As we sometimes forget here in the US, a lot of our southwestern farmland is naturally desert and irrigation in that region is slowly draining the Colorado River. Though we love us some food security, we’re hoping the Gulf nations are doing the right surveys to account for water security as well.