Improving food security goes far beyond fighting desertification

2nd February 2022
Omar Saif
Smart, Sustainable & Resilient Cities Advisor

As the global population approaches 8 billion people, hunger for sustainable food systems that cater to the diverse needs of our globalised world is rising. However, this ever-growing demand is putting immense pressure on land, water, energy and the natural environment.

In light of the BBC’s recent discourse highlighting desertification in the United Arab Emirates (UAE),  I think it’s imperative that we remain mindful of the resource constraints impacting the Middle East – most notably, water.

Independent of desertification, arable land in the UAE is quite limited at less than 1% of total area. Therefore, attaining 100 percent food security for a population of nearly 10 million people is a complex challenge. As such, it’s important that we outline what can be done to influence sustainable food production without depleting the country’s valuable and non-renewable groundwater reserves.

A modern and sustainable food system looks to maximise water productivity by producing more ‘crop per drop’ and reusing the ‘drop’ as much as possible.

Here are some pressing thoughts about the evolving water-energy-food-environment nexus in the Middle East:


  1. Embedding sustainable food initiatives into any future masterplan or development at an earlier stage in the conceptual process
  2. Integrating food security into the urban built environment through vertical farms, containerised solutions, urban rooftop gardens/farms etc.
  3. Creating industrial scale ‘food valleys’ to incentivise cost-effective means for food production
  4. Scaling up food security by increasing private sector participation and project financing, and reducing project risks through public private partnership (PPP) models

If you’d like to join the conversation or find out more about WSP Middle East’s Advisory offerings, you can get in touch by contacting