World Food Day (WFD) was marked yesterday with the aim of creating awareness about providing food to every individual and making food supply sustainable for the generations to come.
In this connection, different events and seminars were organised in Qatar to highlight the need for making food sustainable.
Food sustainability has always been an important topic in Qatar but it came to forefront since the unjust blockade in June 2017 by the neighbouring countries of Qatar.
The message from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on the occasion is very clear.
“Achieving zero hunger is not only about addressing hunger, but also nourishing people, while nurturing the planet. This year, World Food Day calls for action across sectors to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible to everyone. At the same time, it calls on everyone to start thinking about what we eat.”
World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world on 16 October in honour of the date of the founding of FAP in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organisations concerned with food security, including the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
According to FAO, in recent decades, we have dramatically changed our diets and eating habits as a result of globalisation, urbanisation and income growth. We have moved from seasonal, mainly plant-based and fibre-rich dishes to diets that are high in refined starches, sugar, fats, salt, processed foods, meat and other animal-source products. Less time is spent preparing meals at home, and consumers, especially in urban areas, increasingly rely on supermarkets, fast food outlets, street food vendors and take-away restaurants.
A combination of unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles has sent obesity rates soaring, not only in developed countries, but also low-income countries, where hunger and obesity often co-exist. Now over 670 million adults and 120 million girls and boys (5-19 years) are obese, and over 40 million children under 5 are overweight, while over 820 million people suffer from hunger.
An unhealthy diet is the leading risk factor for deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain cancers. Linked with one fifth of deaths worldwide, unhealthy eating habits are also taking a toll on national health budgets costing up to USD2 trillion per year.
Obesity and other forms of malnutrition affect nearly one in three people. Projections indicate that the number will be one in two by 2025. The good news is that affordable solutions exist to reduce all forms of malnutrition, but they require greater global commitment and action.
HE the Minister of Municipality and Environment Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Subaie, in his message on the occasion said that unhealthy diets are now the main risk factor for diseases and deaths worldwide and there is an urgent need to make healthy and sustainable food systems accessible to all, and more than 820mn people in the world are hungry, 9mn children under the age of five are stunted, and 49mn people are emaciated because of unhealthy diets.
The minister pointed out that at the local level, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment has an important responsibility in terms of food security and natural resource development to increase production and the level of self-sufficiency, and the agricultural sector was able to achieve a great leap in order to cover the requirements of the local market and raise the proportion of self-sufficiency in the plant, animal and fishery sectors.
On the occasion, Community spoke to Dr Helmi Hamdi, head of Food and Water Security programme at Center for Sustainable Development (CSD), College of Arts and Sciences in Qatar University. He is an agronomist and PhD in Resource Management and Environmental Science earned at Okayama University, Japan in 2006.
“With the growing population, and increasing demand for food, energy and water, sustainable development has become an important issue. The centre aims to develop innovative and integrated solutions, which address many contemporary and significant challenges posed by the rapid economic and demographic changes in Qatar.
“Under the direction of Dr Hareb al-Jabri, CSD’s mission is to create a platform for knowledge and advanced technologies in sustainable development through applied multidisciplinary research in alignment with Qatar’s National Research Strategy, the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the research agenda of Qatar University. As such, research activities are focused on five interconnected multidisciplinary research programmes: Algal Technologies, Waste Management, Natural Resource Governance, Renewable Energy, and Food and Water Security.”
Speaking about Food and Water Security programme, Dr Hamdi said: “The growing population increases the demand on food and feed, and raises awareness about the global challenge of food security. Increasing local food and feed production has a high priority in Qatar to achieve greater food self-sufficiency, reduce dependency on imports and cope with risks of interrupted food supplies. However, it is difficult to achieve food security with conventional production systems due to limited resources and harsh conditions. More precisely, major challenges reside in limited arable lands, poor soil structure, arid climate, and depleted freshwater resources. In this regard, the CSD is developing innovative technologies for the production of food and feed resources, whilst linking sustainable agriculture to water-use efficiency and adapted practices.
Elaborating on the main research topics of the programme, the agronomist said: “The soil enhancement is our main subject. The use of local alternative sources of organic matter to improve soil structure and fertility, taking into account environmental pollution control is necessary. In this regard, conventional and unconventional bio-wastes such as cow manures, biosludges and food waste composts are valuable and available resources that can enhance soil properties if well reused.”
He added: “The other important research area is wastewater treatment and reuse. Qatar receives approximately 70mm of rain per year, which is not sufficient for agricultural activities and for recharging depleting groundwater resources estimated at 100 million m3 per year. To cope with freshwater shortages, CSD strategy consists of monitoring irrigation techniques for better water use efficiency, and the reuse of high quality treated sewage effluent (TSE) as an alternative water source for crop production.”
The expert further said: “In addition to exploring alternative agricultural inputs (water and biofertilisers), the programme aims also to select and grow crop species that are adapted to Qatari soil and climatic conditions. The list includes halophytes (salt-tolerant plants), xerophytes (drought-tolerant plants), medicinal and aromatic plants, and fodder crops.”
He added: “Through the development of innovative farming practices, such as mixed intercropping, hydroponics and greenhouse technologies can allow for higher production efficiency in more confined and controlled conditions.”
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