The UAE, largely dependent on food supplies from overseas markets, can now breathe easy, courtesy of organic foods that may actually be grown in deserts! Indeed, the UAE’s abundant natural resource – the desert sands – can be turned into fertile cultivable beds for growing organic foods, without using any chemical fertiliser, herbicide or even pesticide, says a food educator.
“My research shows that desert sands can be converted into green beds. But, to grow food in deserts, we have to mix soil and gravel with sand,” says Yorkshire-born Dave Friend, who is on a visit to the UAE to spread awareness on organic food as a healthier option.
Since no chemicals are used in organic farming, we may lose crops. This may cut into our incomes. But it’s still a challenge. Dave Friend, Founder, Friendly Organics
He concedes that organic foods are two to three times costlier than conventional foods. “But organic foods are more nutritious, tastier, and never toxic. Also, you can eat less and still get the necessary amount of nutrition,” said Dave, while speaking to XPRESS at the Organic Foods Store and Café, Satwa. Most products at the store are certified by the US Department of Agriculture.
He believes a wide variety of lettuce, besides tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and asparagus, can be grown in the desert. “The point is we don’t have to get rid of the sand as it’s a good drainer,” he said.
Dave grew up on a farm in Yorkshire and was brought up on organic food. His interest in promoting organic food led him to live in organic farms in the UK, Europe and British Columbia in Canada. He wanted “to get hands-on experience in organic farming”.
Later, he set up his own organic farm in Vancouver Island, Canada, where he started organic festivals.
He is also the founder of Friendly Organics, a group of organic educators.