The sight of the desert as you come into land, is of a vast agricultural industry. Once undulating barren sand dunes have transitioned to landscapes now flattened and transformed into acres of fertile farmland.
The process of transforming sand into sustainable soil has taken some years. This remarkable conversion is in stark contrast to many so-called progressive parts of the world where once fertile farms have gradually been turned into deserts.
Green manure, where crops are specifically grown to be incorporated into the ‘soil’, raising its organic matter, and the use of waste from livestock and poultry farms, has played a huge part in this transformation.
A variety of crops are grown in the open with Neem trees giving protection from the heat of the sun and plant pests. Acres of beetroot, onions, potatoes, carrots, and leaf vegetables including kale, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbages. In polytunnels the size of football pitches are tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, greens, herb, and lettuces, some grown hydroponically.
Vertical farming, now becoming common place including in London, is very much in evidence. It is water-efficient - they say the technology enables 95% less water consumption - and allows the growing of greens in a pesticide free controlled environment. Many vertical farms are fully automated allowing ultimate plant density on an industrial scale, with energy savings, and minimum manual labour. Alongside the native dates grown in the desert, today the major fruit crops are citrus and mangoes.
The current population of Dubai is just over 3.5 million and growing rapidly. In time this food producing industry will enable this Emirate to be self-sufficient in fresh food.
The speed at which Dubai’s high-rise offices and residential buildings emerge on the skyline, often obscuring the views of once highly prized apartment blocks, is breath-taking. Sea views once enjoyed as little as three years ago, are now in the shadow of new high-rise buildings and islands have sprung up offshore on which new hotels are being built.
Dubai’s climate has also changed, it rains. Without fail this is due to it’s expanding ‘green belt’.
As our flight descends towards cold, damp England thoughts of Dubai’s sunshine swiftly melt away at the sight of our ancient woodland, green pasture and arable crops looking remarkably healthy. This sight fills me with joy and lifts my spirits as I am reminded just how fortunate we are to farm fertile land producing food with little effort. However, just like Dubai, our population is expanding, but our self-sufficiency in food production is shrinking. We ignore this at our peril.