Inland and coastal modular farms for climate change adaptation in desert environments
Climate change has increased the odds of low rainfall in hot and dry areas and thus has decreased the quality of the available fresh water resources and the groundwater recharge rates. As a result, less water enters the aquifers which leads to increased salinity levels. The quality of land and water has deteriorated over the years in the United Arab Emirates, significantly decreasing the production of vegetables in the country. The saline groundwater cannot be used for conventional crops cultivation, so in many cases farmers are installing small-scale desalination units to produce good quality water for their cultivation. However, they dispose the reject brine in the soil, a practice that aggravates the problem with salinity of the underground water reservoirs.
The project seeks into utilizing the reject brine a by-product from desalination through modular farming systems to grow fish and the aquaculture effluents enriched in nutrients are used for halophytes (salt-loving plants) irrigation. A pilot integrated farm has been operating at ICBA’s experimental station for the last 4 years implementing this approach (Figure 1). In addition, the potential of using seawater and water from fish farming for halophytes production is also explored in a coastal desert area in Umm Al Quwain (Figure 2). The goal of the project is to bring into production degraded or barren lands with economic benefits for the local communities. The project helps in developing and optimizing the inland and coastal multi-component farms using marginal saline water resources to grow unconventional crops in order to enhance food, nutrition and income security of rural communities that are struggling to produce in hot and dry environments like UAE.Figure 1. Integrated farm developed at ICBA’s experimental station (inland modular farm) ©ICBA Figure 2. A seawater-based integrated farm developed at the experimental station of Marine Environment Research Department (MERD) of the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCaE) ©ICBA