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TABLE 8. Production of Vegetables at the ALRC, 1975-1976

  1975 1976
Tons Value* Tons Value*
Cucumbers 256 908 229 845
Tomatoes 120 331 133 371
Green peppers 11 42 13 66
Other vegetables 12 32 1 5 57
Totals 399 1,313 390 1,339

Sources: Unpublished statistics of the Department of Planning, Abu Dhabi, 1978;Statistical Yearbook 1976 [Abu Dhabi, Department of Planning], p. 52, table 61.

In thousands of dirhams.

Since 1975, when the initial phase of the centre came to an end, the quantity of vegetables produced has remained almost constant. In 1977, 400 t of vegetables were harvested, i.e., 100 t per acre, or five times the current average harvest of farmers in the UAE.

The vegetables grown in the ALRC supply 25 per cent of the yearly demand in Abu Dhabi Town; the remaining 75 per cent is supplied by producers in al-sin and by imports. The centre markets its own produce at the vegetable market in Abu Dhabi and through numerous individual merchants. This ensures that the high quality vegetables from Sadiyat are distributed and sold over as wide an area as possible. The price of the vegetables is consistent with the market prices in Abu Dhabi; it is determined by constant price comparisons. Production in 1977 was valued at 1.5 million dirhams.

A tentative evacuation of the ALRC

The location of the ALRC in Abu Dhabi has proven to be unfavourable for the production of vegetables. The harsh ecological conditions that prevail on Sadiyat make production expensive. Furthermore, owing to its location, the delivery of goods to and from the centre has turned out to be also extremely costly, especially when several different types of transport must be employed.

The main item in the centre's budget is for the Energy Section to cover the cost of fuel and electricity. Other sources of energy, such as natural gas and solar energy, should be investigated. It should also be considered whether the ALRC, with a more efficient use of labour, could reduce the number of personnel required (at present the centre has 67) and thus its outlay for salaries.

The ALRC in Abu Dhabi is of particular importance for research and experimental work. The results that are obtained and confirmed on Sadiyat are accepted by the Department of Agriculture in Abu Dhabi and the Agricultural Ministry of the UAE and their applicability to domestic agriculture is examined. Thus the centre is effective in improving the quantity and quality of production.

In a country when labour depends largely on foreign workers, the education and training of the native population deserve special attention. The ALRC makes a contribution to this task. The successful transmission of technology is shown by the fact that all those who completed the training programme of the centre not only remained there but took over its direction in 1975.

An evaluation of the ALRC cannot merely involve the balancing of the budget of four million dirhams against the sale of vegetables for a total of 1.5 million dirhams. Other factors which cannot be expressed in monetary terms are of much greater significance.

The Abu Dhabi Agricultural Research Station

In 1975 the Desert Development institute, Japan, (DDIJ) and the Ministry of Municipality and Agriculture, Government of Abu Dhabi, signed a contract for the technical installation and direction of an agricultural research station in the Sulymat District, al-Ain, Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The station's task is to conduct experiments on the agricultural use of desert areas. The DDIJ, which is financed by a number of Japanese firms and by the government, assumed all costs connected with the contract with the following explanation:

Japan, which has to import virtually all its oil can, by turning the deserts of the Arabian countries into green

· The information in this section was obtained from publications of the Desert Development Institute, Japan, and from a study visit to the station in Aprii 1978. and fertile areas, contribute significantly to the solution of the world food problem while protecting its own interests. [DDIJ, 1975 - 76, Foreword, p. 1.]

The asphalt moisture barrier system (AMB) which was developed in three years of close co-operation by three Japanese universities and a Japanese company, is to form the basis for the experiments to be carried out. The AMB is a 3-mm-thick asphalt layer which is sunk 45, 60, or 75 cm deep into the ground by machine and which is designed to save water and to save the soil from damage by salts. During the experimental phase in Japan, the asphalt barrier led to the following results which are to be tested in Abu Dhabi:

The permeation of the water into the ground is prevented,the ground water content is maintained at an appropriate level and the water is effectively utilized.

Increases in the salt content of the ground water because of surface evaporation are blocked.

Every 4 to 5 years the plots can be leached of the salinity which has accumulated over long periods of ground water irrigation.

In addition to preventing water from penetrating the ground, it also prevents fertilizer and nutrients from dissolving out and thus saves on fertilizer.

Therefore, when the balance between the crops and water consumption and the construction costs are considered, such farms become highly economical. [DDIJ, Agricultural Research Station, Sulymat, al-Ain, Abu Dhabi, P. 5.]

Description of the research station

Technical installation, which was begun in 1976, was completed in April 1977. Since that time the Abu Dhabi Agricultural Research Station has been under the direction of Japanese researchers for whom there is an Abu Dhabian counterpart and under whom Indian and Pakistani labourers work. The station land, which is surrounded by wind breaks, covers 6 ha. The station includes a multi-purpose building, which serves as the laboratory, an administrative centre and living quarters for the research personnel, a drinking-water desalination plant, a power unit, a meteorological station, a reservoir, a warehouse and 21 experimental plots. Sixteen of these plots are 800 m2; 12 of them have an AMB layer at 45, 60, or 75 cm; four are still in their original condition. Furthermore, there are four experimental plots of 1,600 m2 for cultivating fruit trees (50 per cent with, 50 per cent without the AMB layer). All these plots serve comparative cultivation experiments. Seed and seedlings are tested on a small pilot field. Of the total area, 4 ha are taken up by the irrigation system. A well supplies the necessary water which has a salt content of 1,200 to 1,300 ppm. The average amount of water used daily for the experimental plots is 150 m3. The irrigation systems used are drip irrigation and sprinklers; plants are fertilized with the help of a liquid fertilizer mixer through the drip-irrigation system. Water and fertilizer are precisely determined by the needs of the different seed and plant types. (Fig. 5 shows the outline and surface use of the Abu Dhabi Agricultural Research Station.)

FIG. 5. Ground Plan of the Abu Dhabi Agricultural


The work of the station is at present concentrated on the following main points:

Tests of the effects of AMB construction; experiments concerning flooding methods, quantities and intervals; experiments concerning the accumulation of soil salinity because of salt water flooding and salt resistant reactions of crops; tests on the effects of various types of mulches; comparisons of various types of crops and varieties; investigations of optimum amounts of fertilizers for various crops; tests of the effects of soil conditioners; comparisons of various types of windbreak trees; surveys and studies on harmful insects. [DDIJ, Agricultural Research Station, Sulymat, al-Ain, Abu Dhabi, p. 7.]

The crops chosen for experimentation cover a wide spectrum of cultivation types and can be divided into the following four groups: vegetables; fruit; feed plants; and commercially usable varieties of wood. While the types of vegetables correspond in general to those cultivated in the rest of Abu Dhabi, pomegranates, bananas, and grapes should be mentioned among the fruits, alfalfa and rousan among the feed plants, and tamarisk, acacia, Egyptian cedar, and eucalyptus among the commercial woods.

Although the experimental phase has been short, results of comparative cultivation experiments already indicate that those crops grown on experimental plots with 3-mm-thick asphalt layer at 45 cm have markedly better production rates than those on the other experimental plots, whether with or without AMB. This is the case regardless of the amount and quality of water and chemical fertilizer used. In addition the growth rate is much faster. This is a consequence of the combination of drip irrigation, liquid fertilizer, and AMB.

Although the AMB layer is a product of oil refining, thus a natural resource in the UAE, the AMB system will not be introduced into the native agriculture. It demands too much technical and scientific know-how and is much too expensive.

The value and importance of the research station of the DDIJ lie in its prestige; as a project it is highly politically motivated and serves to secure the interests of Japanese industry in the Gulf.

The Centre Expérimental Agricole de Maziad (al-Ain)*

In order to secure and protect its economic interests in the Abu Dhabi Emirate, the Compagnie Française des Pétroles (CFP) made a number of suggestions to Sheikh Zayed that would serve to improve the traditional economic branches of Abu Dhabi with the help of modern French technology. Asked to make a choice, Sheikh Zayed decided in favour of a pilot project for improving agriculture in desert areas. The project, which was given the name Centre Experimental Agricole de Maziad, was presented to Sheikh Zayed as a gift by the CFP which also assumed all related costs.

The centre was designed to carry out a number of tasks: the breeding and selection of those vegetables that offer the greatest possible success in production and quality, both in the greenhouse and in outdoor cultivation; adoption of agricultural and technical measures for achievement of quantitatively and qualitatively optimum production; application of the results to local agriculture.

Description of the centre

In 1972 construction of the centre was begun on a 25 ha area 20 km south of al-sin at the foot of Jebel Hafit. At present 12 ha of the area are being used for agriculture: 3 ha are covered by four fully air-conditioned greenhouses and 9 ha are used for the outdoor cultivation of vegetables and are planted with shade-giving plants. The cultivable land is divided into strips and is surrounded by a windbreak of trees and bushes. Four wells guarantee the centre's water supply which is stored in a reservoir of 500 m3 capacity; from there it is conducted to the three irrigation systems. The water has an average salt content of 1,300 ppm. Fifty per cent of the daily consumption goes to agriculture at the centre. The annual figure for fertilizer use is 100 t; of this, 60 t are imported humus and 40 t are chemical fertilizer.

The greenhouses correspond both in their lay-out and in their organization with the large greenhouses of the ALRC on Sadiyat. Five Frenchmen make up the technical, administrative, and research staff of the centre; under them are 65 workers, primarily Indians and Pakistanis.

The outdoor cultivation of vegetables

The variety of traditional vegetables cultivated is limited and selection of types according to yield and quality has not been made. The production period is limited to four months and technical improvements, particularly in the use of water and soil improvement, have found little acceptance in traditional outdoor cultivation practices. Furrow irrigation is, as before, most common and the greatest part of the water remains unproductive. Fertilization of plants according to the needs of specific types of vegetables is practiced only to a very limited extent.

The goals of the centre are: the breeding and selection of new varieties of vegetables which are better adapted to the climatic conditions of al-Ain; introduction of an irrigation system that allows for the more economic use of water; the introduction of new fertilizers and methods of fertilization; and the expansion of the period during which outdoor production of vegetables is possible.

Since experimental work began in 1974, more than 120 vegetable varieties have been tested. The results show that all the tested varieties of the European type are well-suited to the winter climate of al-Ain. The consumer habits of the native population, tested at the vegetable market in al-Ain, have set definite limits to the experimental work. New types, previously unknown in the emirate, have not been adopted by vegetable growers in spite of their production success and high quality because they do not sell. Consumers only want those particular kinds of vegetables that have had a place in the diet of the population for a long time and they reject innovations. This experience has caused the centre to revise its first goal. The main goal is now to improve the productivity and quality of already established vegetable varieties and to adjust other goals to fit these varieties. Tests with new vegetable varieties are now of only secondary importance.

Research and experimentation is currently devoted to the following kinds of vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant,. green peppers, okra, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, stock beets, beets, potatoes, and onions.

The application of water to the soil has been improved markedly by the employment of drip irrigation and sprinkler systems. Specifically directed irrigation has reduced the use of water by more than half in comparison with traditional outdoor cultivation and with no reduction in productivity. Drip irrigation has proven itself to be economical for some types of vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant, since it allows for the irrigation of each individual plant. The situation is different with onions, carrots, and beets, where sprinklers make possible a good distribution of water over a larger surface.

Fertilizer is distributed in part by hand and in part by the use of water-soluble fertilizers in the drip-irrigation system.

The period of productivity has increased from four to eight months through use of shade-screens of artificial fibre which cost, according to the centre, about 15 dirhams per square metre.

All results achieved at the centre are made available to the Department of Agriculture, al-Ain, and the Ministry of Agriculture. Both institutions check the results for applicability and usefulness to native agriculture and if the results are satisfactory the innovations are introduced. Thus the Department of Agriculture of al-sin has recently acquired the shade-screens from Maziad for one of its extension farms. A tentative evaluation of the centre must note the following Points.

  1. The centre is a prestige project which is politically motivated.
  2. The education of the French officials at the centre does not qualify them as agricultural experts.
  3. The experiments carried out are of little agricultural significance and merely repeat standard agricultural research.
  4. The laboratory work is carried out in France, not at the centre, although there is a need for a good agricultural laboratory in the UAE.
  5. Only 50 per cent of the daily consumption of water is used for agriculture.
  6. Only 39 of the 65 workers (farmhands) are engaged in agriculture. The remainder take care of the park, the pool, and other non-agricultural areas.
  7. The agricultural production of the centre is sold at the government market at al-Ain, although much higher prices can be obtained at the vegetable markets at Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
  8. According to unofficial sources, the input-output ratio at the centre was 3:1 in 1977.

In light of these facts it is understandable that plans are being prepared to open another centre, near the present one, which will be highly productive to make up for the financial losses incurred at the present centre.

Stock Raising in the Rural Areas

Animal raising has been largely nomadic, as noted in the introductory remarks, and this was either vertically or horizontally oriented. Bedouins travelled over the broad grazing grounds from the interior toward the gulf with their camels and mountain nomads moved from the gravel plains into the mountains with their sheep and goats in a yearly rhythm.

Animal rearing was of only marginal importance in the rural farming areas even though camels, cattle, sheep, goats, and poultry were kept on the farms. Animal rearing represented a means of subsistence, and production for the market played a subordinate role.

With the economic development and increase in population of the UAE, the demand for animal products such as meat, milk, and eggs increased. While increased animal raising could have been expected, statistics reveal that the opposite took place (table 9). The reasons for the decline are several: nomadism is in the process of disappearing completely; with new job opportunities and new sources of income; nomads no longer need to raise animals. Their own animal products can, but do not have to, supply daily nutritional needs since nomads now have the financial means at their disposal to buy these products at the market. Special measures have been designed to ensure the continuation of animal husbandry in the rural bedouin areas.

TABLE 9. Animal Breeding in the Northern Emirates in 1973 and 1976

  1973 1976
Sheep/goats 300,000 312,744
Camels 60,000 14,059
Beef cattle 25,000 13,563

Sources: FAO 1973;Annual Statistical Abstract 1977, pp. 114-115, tables 61 - 63.

During his field work, this author concluded that what was reported of animal breeding in an FAO report in 1973 is still valid: "On the small farms animal husbandry is still primarily the responsibility of the women and social stigma appears still to be attached to men concerned with the care of animals" (FAO 1973, p. 191).

The introduction of chemical fertilizers and the government's tractor service have led to the elimination of the raising of draft animals and the keeping of animals as a source of fertilizer.

Attempts by the federal government to introduce new breeds of cattle have failed. Today, high quality milk cows are raised only on the farms of sheikhs and the well-to-do in Ras al-Khaima and the al-sin area.

Government support for animal breeders is limited to free veterinary care for the animals and the increasing demand for animal products is supplied by steadily rising imports.

Intensive Poultry Farming

The growth of the population and the increasing percentage of foreigners, primarily Indians and Pakistanis, have led to a steady increase in the demand for poultry and eggs. A mission of the British Ministry of Overseas Development, which was studying possibilities for expanding animal breeding in the Emirates, suggested in the early 1970s that poultry and eggs be produced on a market-oriented basis. The government accepted the suggestion but a proposal for a poultry-breed project was rejected by the Cabinet's Finance Steering Committee. Rather, the government left all commercial poultry and egg production to private enterprises but assists with veterinary care. Intensive poultry farms, established after 1974, are not tied to the traditional agricultural areas of the UAE but are almost completely independent since the poultry feed is generally imported. The locations of these farms are determined by proximity to the market. Thus, by 1977 two poultry farms had been established in the immediate vicinity of Dubai and one near al-Ain.

In the spring of 1977 a 20-million-dirham battery-chicken farm in Saaja/Sharjah, opened (see MEED 1977, p. 36). The Agricultural Trading & Development Company, UAE, took over the installation of technical equipment; the Central Soya Company, USA, was granted the management contract. The farm is owned by private interests in Shariah.

The two-storey chicken houses are fully automated. Air conditioning assures a constant temperature of 26 C, independent of the season. Protein feed is imported from the Netherlands. The 40,000 laying hens produce 32 million eggs a Year and the eggs are sold at local and regional markets.

A German firm completed a broiler farm in Falaj al-Moalla/ Umm al-Qaiwain in 1977 and is also responsible for its management. In 1978 another German firm won the bid to establish a poultry farm in al-Ain.

At the suggestion of the UAE Development Bank, another poultry farm is to be built in al-sin at a cost of about 150 million dirhams. Firms in the Netherlands have already expressed interest in long-term participation in the project.


The government of the United Arab Emirates has given strong emphasis to agriculture in its general developmental goals: it seeks to improve and expand agricultural production. The measures apply to the rural farming area, the area within the UAE in which arable land and sufficient water reserves of an acceptable quality for agriculture occur together and are exploited by man. The rural farming area is, for the most part, identical with the gravel plains of the northern emirates. (The agricultural region of the al-sin area will be treated in the second part of this report since it is under the authority of the government of Abu Dhabi.)

The concentrated development of the towns has led to a socio-cultural discrepancy between town and country. Urban occupations and urban life enjoy high status among the population of the rural farming area; agriculture and life on the land on the other hand have low esteem. The abandonment of farms and a flight from the land are the result. In order to realize its agricultural and political goals, the

federal government attempts to improve the standard of living on the land and the conditions for agricultural production. Streets, schools, medical centres, businesses, and new settlements, in which the dwellings (low-cost housing) are granted to the population free of charge, are being built; supply systems for electricity and water are being constructed.

An Extension Service has been established for the improvement and expansion of agriculture as well as for the improvement of conditions for agricultural production; through this service the government provides farm-owners with comprehensive and, for the most part, free help and support.

Agriculture today is characterized by an intensity of capital; this capital is provided essentially by the state by way of the Extension Service. The capital investment that must be provided by farm-owners is limited; where personal capital is lacking, the government provides liberal long-term credit. The material and non-material help of the government has increased production and decreased the amount of labour involved in agriculture, with little investment of private capital.

Because of the economic development of the United Arab Emirates, the constantly growing population, and the fact that the rural farming area is well linked to the urban markets, the marketability of agricultural products determines the production goals of the farmer. Production was formerly oriented to sustaining the farming household. Tomatoes take up more land than any of the other vegetables cultivated, and dates and lemons more than other fruits. Fruits and vegetables are usually grown in open-air cultures and are marketed either by the producer himself or by a middle-man. The state is currently organizing marketing co-operatives.

Profits from the sale of agricultural products have made agriculture more attractive. Agricultural land is in demand among all groups of the native population and is being granted to them. The result is a marked increase of cultivable land, the owners of which are involved for the most part in several branches of production. Agriculture is not regarded as the only source but as one of many sources of income. Agricultural labour is usually supplied by foreign workers; the duties of the owner are limited to organization and direction and a system of absentee ownership is developing.

The increase in the amount of land under cultivation and the use of diesel pumps have led to a marked lowering of the water table. Retention of irrigation and cultivation methods that are currently in use means that the present state of agricultural activity can only be maintained for a short time; a drastic reduction of the area under irrigation will be unavoidable if the depletion of ground water resources continues unchecked. In co-operation with the UNDPIFAO, the Desert Development Institute, Japan, and the Compagnie Française des Pétroles, specific research and experimental work on preserving natural water and soil resources are being carried out. New cultivation methods and agricultural and irrigation techniques are being developed and tested. The results are examined for their applicability to native agriculture and, when appropriate, are introduced into practice through the Extension Service.

In spite of the increasing demand for animal products, the breeding of animals both large and small is decreasing. This is a result of the disintegration of nomadism to which the breeding of all types of animals was related. New areas of employment release the former nomad from the necessity of keeping animals as a subsistence measure.

The preservation of animal husbandry is for the most part an expression of conservative, emotionally determined behaviour; it now plays only a very subordinate role as a source of income.

Poultry raising is gaining in importance since there is great demand for eggs and poultry. Poultry breeding is being carried out on intensive poultry farms and not in the traditional agricultural regions of the UAE since the birds are fed with high quality imported feed. Proximity of the market determines the location of the farm. The large poultry farms are usually under the direction of, and have been organized by, foreign firms. They are owned, however, by well-to-do members of the native population.

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