What is Food Security?

Food Security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, is “the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

Food security entails four important dimensions:

Availability: The physical availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality that is supplied through domestic production or imports (including food aid).

Access: Access by individuals to adequate resources for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet.

Utilisation: Utilisation of food through an adequate diet and nutrition, clean water, sanitation and healthcare to reach a state of nutritional well-being where all physiological needs are met.

Stability: Access of a population, household or individual to adequate food at all times. Access to food should not be lost as a consequence of sudden shocks (e.g. an economic or climatic crisis) or cyclical events (e.g. seasonal food insecurity).

Global Food Security Challenges

Over 800 million people worldwide are chronically hungry: The resilience of the global food system is being tested by the rise in demand and slow-down in food supply. In effect, we are witnessing an expanding global ‘food gap’, driven by a number of factors including:
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Global Food Security Challenges

Larger and more affluent populations: With the global population growing, total food demand is expected to rise by 35-50% by 2030. Additionally, with populations becoming more affluent worldwide, middle-class per capita food consumption is projected to increase by 16% by 2030.

Global Food Security Challenges

Rapid urbanisation: By 2050, 70% of global populations will live in cities. A lack of temperature-controlled supply chains is a key challenge in these rising demand centres as it exacerbates food loss and waste. In fact, currently one-third of global food production is lost or wasted.

Global Food Security Challenges

Stagnating agricultural productivity: While agricultural productivity continues to grow moderately, it is being hampered by climate change, degradation of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, and the spread of pests and diseases.

Global Food Security Challenges

Intensifying water-energy-food nexus: With agriculture currently accounting for 70% of global water use and 25% of energy consumption, traditional farming continues to put heavy demands on scarce natural resources.

The UAE and Food Security

The UAE faces significant challenges to producing food domestically. Only 0.5% of the land mass is arable, extreme heat limits the capacity to cultivate and store food, and the  country receives very minimal rainfall. As a result, the UAE currently imports roughly 90% of its food supplies.


  1. The UAE’s soil composition is predominantly made up of sandy soil, which is difficult to cultivate without additives and fertilizers

    • Sandy soil (75%) has low nutrient retention and requires large quantities of irrigation water to cultivate

    • Salty soil (8%) affects the plant’s uptake of nutrients and has reduced microbiological activity important for plant growth compared to other types of soil

    • The remaining 10% are other types of soil not suited for agriculture

    • Only 7% of soil (~490k hectares) is rich in gypsum and lime and has suitable properties for agriculture use

  2. Total agricultural area in the UAE has decreased by 3% annually over the last 14 years as a result of steady desertification and soil degradation caused by natural and manmade causes:

    • Natural causes :
      – Wind erosion: Major cause behind irreversible land degradation (1.1m hectares in total lost to-date)
      – Natural salinization: Increasing salt content in soil due to seawater infiltration in marine sediments, degrading soil in coastal areas mainly in Abu Dhabi
      – Harsh climate conditions: High temperatures and low rainfall leads to low soil moisture and accelerated desertification

    • Manmade causes :
      – Irrigation malpractice: Overwatering of plants or use of saline groundwater for irrigation, increases vulnerability to pests, diseases, and root degradation
      – Excessive use of additives: Fertilizers containing excessive nitrogen dehydrates soil and leads to high emissions of greenhouse gases
      – Overgrazing: Plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods without sufficient recovery periods, reducing land productivity and increasing desertification Read more..