Abu Dhabi: A new minister in the UAE cabinet has highlighted the role of individual efforts in bolstering food security.
Individuals can make personal efforts to reduce food wastages, in addition to minimising food miles, even growing food for personal consumption at home, said Mariam Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Food Security, at her first public event.
Food miles is a term that refers to the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the consumer.
Emphasising the need to change individual behaviour, she said: “However small, they can affect market behaviour, forcing private businesses to match consumer demands and needs.”
Al Muhairi was addressing a conference at the Federal National Council (FNC) in Abu Dhabi organised by the FNC and International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) on Thursday.
The minister pointed out that governments’ role is shrinking, as the private sector is increasingly active. Influential private businesses such as farming, logistic companies, even retail and F&B (food and beverages) are critical in ensuring food security, she said.
Businesses must be encouraged and incentivised to be more responsible, more efficient and less wasteful, she said.
There is a role for regulation and it is the government’s responsibility to enact laws for food security and water conservation. However, the priority must be to develop responsible behaviour, the minister said.
Commenting on the transformations caused by advanced technologies, Al Muhairi said technologies of fourth industrial revolution are becoming a reality. Advances such as artificial intelligence and hyper connectivity and fully automated industry and transport are no longer a science fiction.
“Today, these technologies are very real and changing how you and I live, work and socialise. Yet we are to meet UN’s Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs],” she said, adding that it has to be ensured that no country is left behind in meeting SDGs.
“I believe the UAE, which embarked on its own transformative journey in sustainable and diversified economy can offer its lessons. I would like to use food security as an example.”
Amidst all the advances in technology, the blunt truth is hunger on the rise, she said. The estimated number of malnourished people across the globe rose from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, she said.
“As our climate changes and the world population grows, we will witness more desertification and more drought in vulnerable parts of the wold and more pressure on our natural resources,” Al Muhairi said.
“In the UAE, we are not strangers to these challenges. Our land is dry, our resources are scant and our seas are overfished. Yet with our investments in agriculture and food processing, we are making great strides in sustainable food industry,” she explained.
The fourth industrial revolution gives us powerful new tools to achieve the UN SDGS. The UAE is applying those tools in real life situation to improve people’s lives, she said.