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Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment.

PHOTO BY SUPPLIED


Youth is a key player in food security, says UAE minister

 

DUBAI – Food security has taken center stage on the international agenda in the past year and a half in the light of the restraints the Covid-19 pandemic has placed on food supply chains.

Achieving this priority requires a multi-pronged approach that involves stepping up local food production, exploring new import markets with the aim of diversifying food sources and strengthening the international food supply chain, meeting the highest food safety standards, expanding research and development, and adoption of new technology, and scaling up international synergies and sharing of successful experiences.

The forward-looking vision of our wise leadership and its unwavering support have created a conducive environment to meet local food demand.

Youth is a key player in the efforts to fulfil our leadership’s vision to drive progress across all vital sectors over the next 50 years.

Through capitalizing on the capabilities of our young people and equipping them with the skills to venture into entrepreneurship, we are empowering them to actively contribute to developing the food sector.

Some may wonder whether members of our young generation are willing to take on this responsibility and leverage the UAE’s enabling environment to become entrepreneurs.

The achievements our young entrepreneurs have recorded in various sectors, including smart agriculture and food production, are evident. The increasing number of state-of-the-art farms and small- and medium-sized food production enterprises is a case in point.

In my recent meetings with our young people at initiatives launched by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, such as the Youth Food Security Stations and the drive to employ veterinarians from the ranks of Emirati fresh graduates of higher education institutions in the UAE, I have felt their unbound energy.

To tap into this energy and fully harness it, we need to have the right enablers in place. These include integrated training programs that blend academic learning with hands-on experience to help them take confident steps to launch their food projects. These programs, just like our Youth Food Security Stations, should address all aspects of the projects, from planning to production to sales.

Another important enabler involves building synergies between entrepreneurs and investors to secure funding for their projects and make them economically feasible in the medium and long term. We have factored in this enabler in the later stages of our Youth Food Security Stations, and we continue to work with our partners to explore opportunities to support our youth startups.

From an economic perspective, youth-led food businesses are a highly safe investment. Locally produced crops and foodstuffs have gained consumers’ trust and are in increasing demand, owing to our comprehensive regulatory framework that ensures product quality and adherence to food safety standards. As a result, many of our products have penetrated regional and global markets.

All stakeholders – government, private sector, and youth – play different yet complementary roles in enhancing food security.

Our enabling legislation, coupled with the backing of our private sector and funding agencies, gives me hope that we can boost food security in the UAE and pave the way for the sustainable development of the food production sector.

 

About the author
His Excellency, Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, is the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment.


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