17 March, 2022
EVENT ATTENDEES POSED FOR A PHOTO WITH THEIR CHOSEN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL
The workshop was organized by KAUST’s Center for Desert Agriculture (CDA) with the sponsorship of the university’s Office of Sponsored Research and the Makkah Regional Development Authority.
At the official opening, KAUST President Tony Chan emphasized KAUST’s support for the Kingdom’s national food security agenda,
“Desertification and the arid conditions of Saudi Arabia interlinked with water scarcity, reliance on food imports, soil erosion, and related life-on-land issues compound challenges to food security. ... KAUST is proud to help bring solutions to light by hosting this event, and proud of the participants, including our own researchers, for their contributions.”
In the coming decades, the world will need to feed more humans than ever before. All the while agriculture and the food system in general are among the least sustainable of all human activities, consuming 66% of global water supplies and 30% of global energy supplies, occupying 50% of all land used by humans, and emitting 33% of all greenhouse gases.
Under the guidance of Director Rod Wing, the CDA has taken a leading role in the international research community by addressing the crucial question: How can we feed the world without destroying our planet? Through this workshop and the strategies, policies, and actions that emerged from it, the CDA answered this question for the KSA specifically. Four key topics served as the framework for the workshop discussions: food supply, water use, food use, and environmental change.
DR. KHALED AL-ABDULKADER, CEO OF THE KINGDOM’S NATIONAL CENTER FOR VEGETATION COVER DEVELOPMENT AND COMBATING DESERTIFICATION, SPOKE AT THE KAUST WORKSHOP FOR SUSTAINABLE FOOD SECURITY
On the first day, themed “Defining Issues”, keynotes and expert-led panels defined and prioritized food security challenges. Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, Chief Scientist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, identified the major challenges for agricultural production and food security in arid regions like the KSA, and the actions required to solve them. We also heard from Dr. Khaled Al-Abdulkader, CEO of the Kingdom’s National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification, on the intersection of desertification and food security in one of the driest countries on the planet.
During the second day of the workshop, “Developing Solutions”, international leaders pushed forward high-impact scientific, technological, and policy solutions for food security. Opportunities for food tech, plant-based diets, and alternative proteins were explored by His Royal Highness Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, CEO of KBW Ventures, and Professor Mark Tester, Associate Director of the CDA and co-Founder of Red Sea Farms. Such successful strategies to promote food security were then adapted for the KSA in roundtable discussions with key food system stakeholders.
THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, WATER, AND AGRICULTURE'S SEED CENTRE DISPLAYED A SELECTION OF SEED BANK SPECIMENS
At the “Delivering Solutions” summit on the final day, government, industry, giga project, and startup leaders from across the Kingdom gathered to formulate clear policy recommendations and strategies that will deliver solutions for sustainable food security in the KSA. Among these, Mr. William England, Senior Vice President of the Saudi Agriculture and Livestock Investment Company (SALIC), who described how the KSA’s interdependence of environmental sustainability and food supply chain reliability factors into SALIC’s decision-making process. While Dr. Rashed Al-Arfaj, Vice President of Saudi Airlines Catering Company, explained how one of the largest airline catering companies in the Middle East will impact the KSA’s food security for the better by integrating sustainability goals into its operational framework.
CDA DIRECTOR ROD WING DELIVERED THE CLOSING REMARKS AT THE SUMMIT OF THE KAUST WORKSHOP FOR SUSTAINABLE FOOD SECURITY
The summit concluded with the official declaration of agreed-upon strategies and policy recommendations that are needed to transform the Kingdom’s food system and to achieve sustainable food security by mobilizing its key stakeholders.