Browsing 'agriculture' News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Al Safwa Farm/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Farmers in Qatar continue to overexploit the desert state’s aquifers, increasing the risk that the country’s groundwater will become unfit for crops or human consumption, a new government report has warned.

Qatar’s growing agricultural sector remains heavily dependent on groundwater and drew some 230 million cubic meters – enough to fill 92,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – of water in 2013, statistics from the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDPS) show.

That’s up from 226 million cubic meters in 2005.

The problem, according to the ministry, is that’s nearly five times as much water that enters Qatar’s aquifers each year.

This can lead to the intrusion of salty seawater into freshwater aquifers, raising salinity levels and making the water unusable for drinking or agricultural purposes.

Already, more than two-thirds of wells in Qatar are classified as “moderately saline,” making the water harmful to sensitive crops and causing damage to soil, according to the MDPS.

“Our fresh groundwater reserves are still being overexploited,” Saleh Al-Nabit, the minister of development planning and statistics, in the report. “This makes it difficult to use the groundwater for irrigation and drinking water supply in the future.”

Farmer's Market

Penny Yi Wang/Flickr

Farmer’s Market

The ministry’s report comes amid an expansion of Qatar’s agricultural sector, as more and more land is cultivated to grow fruits, vegetables and fodder for livestock.

Authorities are increasingly turning to treated wastewater to address scarcity challenges, but it’s still far from sufficient to fill the gap.

More than 35 million cubic meters of treated sewage was injected into the country’s aquifers to artificially replenish Qatar’s groundwater supply.

And more and more treated wastewater is being used for irrigation of crops and landscaped areas.

Treated effluent now makes up 19 percent of the water used by the agricultural sector, up from 13 percent in 2005. The remainder comes for groundwater sources.

Thirsty nation

Qatar’s water production has dramatically increased over the last decade alongside its booming economy and rapidly growing population.

For illustrative purposes only.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Water use has jumped from 437 million cubic meters in 2006 to nearly 741 million cubic meters in 2013, the report said.

Agriculture and household use each use more than a third of the country’s water production, some 57 percent of which came from Qatar’s desalination plants in 2012.

In recent years, authorities have tried to encourage residents to use less water, both through public education campaigns and threats of fines for wastage.

Last month, public utility Kahramaa proclaimed that these campaigns have been a success, saying per-person water consumption fell by 17 percent between April 2012 and November 2015.

Thoughts?

Qatar farmer's market

Chantelle D'mello

Qatar’s popular farmer’s markets will open for their fourth season this Thursday with a longer selling season and an expanded offering of locally produced fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish and livestock, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) has announced.

The country’s markets are located at the Al Mazrouah Yard near Umm Salal Stadium, in Al Khor at the Al Dhakira yard as well as in Al Wakrah. All three markets in Qatar will operate Thursdays to Saturdays from 7am to 5pm, with livestock vendors operating at the same times throughout the week.

Farmers market

Ministry of Environment

Farmers market

Some 77 produce farms, including one specializing in organic products, are participating. That’s up from 73 last year and is in addition to the eight fish operations, 40 livestock barns, 80 beekeepers and 12 poultry farms, raising chicken, pigeons, ducks, geese and turkeys, participating.

Many residents are attracted by the market’s low prices, which can be 40 to 50 percent lower than retail rates.

Stalls at the farmer’s market are given to the vendors for free, to encourage them to sell their products and help them make a profit, said Abdul Rahman Al Sulaiti, general manager of the farmer’s market at MOE, at a press conference yesterday.

Previous figures released by the MOE suggest that farmer’s markets in Qatar are rapidly growing in popularity.

Al Mazrouah Yard farmers' market

Chantelle D’mello

Al Mazrouah Yard farmer’s market

Fruit sales increased 55 percent year-over-year, while vegetable sales climbed 82 percent. Additionally, fish was up 217 percent while poultry and livestock jumped 317 percent and 265 percent, respectively.

That added up to big business for Qatar’s agriculture sector, with sales more than doubling to QR39 million. That’s up from QR14 million the previous year and QR6 million in 2012-13, according to the MOE.

Food security

In addition to supporting the livelihood of local farmers, the markets are a way of boosting Qatar’s food security.

As an arid desert nation with a rapidly growing population, Qatar is largely reliant on imported food to feed the country.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

April Younglove / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In an attempt to ease this dependency, the government has encouraged the private sector to construct massive poultry and dairy production facilities.

Such facilities require large amounts of desalinated water, which has led some critics to question the environmental impact of Qatar’s aims to become more self-sufficient in food.

While officials have estimated in recent years that Qatar imports 90 percent of its food, Khalifa Al Ansari, head of farmers’ affairs at the MOE, said increased production means that the figure has decreased to 85 percent.

Expansion

By launching several weeks early and staying open until early June, the MOE is extending the farmer’s markets’ season by a month.

Qatar farmer's market

Chantelle D'mello

Qatar farmer\’s market

Responding to a question from Doha News, Al Sulaiti said that each season is a bit longer than the previous one, as they gradually increase it to “encourage the farmers to produce more (crops) and start production earlier in the year.”

He explained that as the weather starts to cool down, the agriculture production is usually limited in November, it increases gradually until it reaches its peak in February and then declines again as the temperatures start to hike.

This year also marks an expansion of the Al Wakrah market to include poultry and fish. It opened for the first time last year, but was limited to fruits and vegetables.

This year’s offerings include fresh vegetables such as spinach, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, carrots, green peppers and chilis.

The markets will also sell cheese, eggs, other poultry products, fish as well as fresh and canned camel milk.

More information and directions to the markets can be found on its Facebook page.

Thoughts?

All photos by Chantelle D’mello

In an effort to educate Qatar residents about the diversity of dates grown here, the Ministry of Environment and agriculture investment firm Hassad Foods have been holding a three-day date festival at Ezdan Mall.

The event was launched on Thursday, and is located on the ground floor of the mall. It will run from 4pm to 9pm through today. Some 20 varieties of of dates, all picked from local farms in the country, are on display at the festival.

Residents who attend are invited to taste these dates, and learn more about aspects of date farming and palm tree germination.

Speaking to Doha News, a Ministry of Environment representative at the event on Friday said:

“The point of this is to educate people. Most of the dates that people in Qatar eat (some 70 percent) are actually grown in Qatar. This is the first time that we’re having a festival like this.”

She added that over five tons of dates had been set aside for distribution to the public over the weekend.

Rare dates

At the time Doha News visited, more than 50 people were visiting the exhibitions’ stalls, stopping for a hot cup of karak and indulging in the large assortment of dates that Qatar has to offer.

While some of the dates on display are available for sale at Lulu stores around Qatar, most are rare species that are not yet produced commercially.

Some, like Khasab and Tunisie, are not indigenous to the Gulf countries. According to another MoE official, they were brought in as seeds and saplings from countries in the Mediterranean and sown locally.

“This is the time for people to taste these dates,” the representative said. “They aren’t available in supermarkets or grocery stores because they are grown on private farms. We want people to learn about the many different types of dates we have, and have the opportunity to taste them.”

The dates differ in taste, color, size, thickness of skin, and carbohydrate and calorie count, among other specifications. Aside from Khasab and Tunisie, some of the varieties on display include Barhi, Daglagh Noor, Khlas, Lulu, Sukkari, Shishi, Ghur, Razeez, Hibri, Hilali, Shail, Sultanah, and Ghur.

QNA reports that the festival was the first of its kind in the country, and that plans are afoot to broaden the event next year to include the participation of date farmers.

Thoughts?