With ‘climate change’, ‘global warming’, ‘the greenhouse effect’, ‘sustainability’, ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ fast becoming the buzzwords of this century, it’s time to understand the dynamics behind these words and do something for our very own mother earth and for ourselves so we can lead a healthy, happy life. What we need is more of natural/organic food products, and a lot less of those foods out there in the market that are, oh so, tempting, but full of preservatives and all things not really nice!
One of the best ways to do this is to eat more organic foods and adopt a healthy lifestyle.
Unfortunately, for many years, organic products were imported into Qatar - because the country’s land was thought to be infertile - and were almost untouchable because of their exorbitant prices.
Not anymore though!
Since the blockade that saw Qatar’s neighbours - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt – distance itself from the country starting from 5 June 2017, a large number of products that Qatar relied on heavily from these countries has stopped.
This did not stop Qatar though!
Two years on from the start of the blockade against Qatar, the country is on its way to becoming self-sufficient in dairy, fresh produce and does organic farming to provide those that live in Qatar fresh locally produced foods that are readily available in the market at low prices - than those that are imported - so everyone can enjoy them and benefit from their healthy attributes.
As a result, local food products are becoming increasingly popular nowadays
This has all happened on a land that was once thought absolutely unsuitable for farming!
Till quite recently, it was thought that Qatar’s environment was not at all favourable for plantation and organic farming due to its harsh temperature during the summer months, desalinated chlorine water, poor annual rainfall and arid soil that all add up to quite the challenge of turning a desert area into a green oasis!
Qatar’s government has been working hard to overcome the challenges that come with making the country’s environment conducive for farming by using sustainable, high-efficiency production techniques and practical agricultural methods that are best-suited for the harsh Qatari climate, especially since organic farming uses 30% less energy and less water than conventional farming, as well as yielding healthier produce and not contributing to groundwater pollution.
The Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) is supporting local farms by helping them set up greenhouse farms which will reduce the carbon footprint, protect the crops from adverse weather conditions and crop pests like insects, birds and rodents, so certain vegetables and fruits will be available all the year around. The number of greenhouses in Qatar have increased 10%: from 471 during the 2016/2017 season to 919 in the 2017/2018 season, and new licenses have been issued to create four new state-of-the-art greenhouse farming projects that will have the capacity to produce 80,000 tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables a year, with a production rate of 20,000 tonnes per year per project.
MME is also putting into place water-efficient smart farming technologies so local farms can make the quality and quantity of their vegetables better by using soil-less farming techniques which will conserve water and technologies that enhance productivity. This will help to conserve approximately 70% of irrigation water, reduce plant pests without having to use pesticides, and help boost production and quality.
Lands have been set apart in Qatar for building large farms to increase the efficiency in the production of organic foods.
Farms in Qatar are being provided subsidies for water and electricity so they can boost their organic food production
According to a recent report by the Middle East Credit Rating Agency’s (MERatings) Qatar Food and Beverages Sector Analysis 2019, the demand for chemical-free and organically grown food products is continuously rising in Qatar. The trend is most popular among young, urban and higher income bracket families who focus on healthy living, and are increasingly becoming concerned with global warming, climate change, carbon footprints and the need for a sustainable environment where future generations can flourish, rather than perish!
As a result, the need for more Qatar-based farms and organic farming is on the rise. At the moment, there are almost 1,300 farms in Qatar, but most of these are not commercial businesses. However, farms like Baladna, AGRICO, Global Farm for Agricultural Supplies, Al Sulaiteen Industrial Complex (SAIC) and a few others, are responsible for the bulk of the organic produce that you can find in Qatar’s supermarket chains like Al Meera, Lulu Hypermarket, and Carrefour.
Torba Market founder and social entrepreneur Fatma Al Khater who won the ‘Entrepreneurship Award’ of the Qatari Businesswomen Association’s (QBWA) first ever TAKREEM Awards this year, recently spoke with The Peninsula, and this is what she had to say:
“There’s a definite niche for the organic market to grow here…People are looking for a connection for food in Qatar. They want to know how they can get local produce and they want to eat something that’s fresh. They’re becoming more conscious of their selection of local as opposed to international food. The number of organic farms in the country has been increasing and we definitely need more, because we see organic farming as the way to go...We have a lot of amazing farms in Doha that sell a range of different vegetables and fruits. And, we always encourage them to participate with us. They have stalls for free to sell and promote their farms. Those farms participating with us have premium vegetables grown between organic and chemical-free practice. So, they’re the best quality in the market”.
Based in the Education City, the Torba Market is a grass roots initiative where local fruit and vegetable growers and home businesses trade their organically-grown food and less-processed food products, and market has grown from promoting eight farms since it started in 2017 to 15 farms in 2019.
Qatar aims to become self-sufficient in organic vegetables within the next three years. Currently, Qatar’s organic farming provides the local market with approximately 80% of its produce in some seasons, but with the passage of time, this percentage will be fixed for all seasons, and will ultimately, lead to 100% self-sufficiency.
Qatar has a number of organic vegetable farms and seasonal markets in Qatar and more are coming up in the near future, as Qatar expands it's organic crop production. For details on these organic vegetable farms and markets, click on the following link: https://www.iloveqatar.net/guide/living/organic-vegetable-farms-and-markets-in-qatar
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