The Gulf Region is one of the most water-scarce areas in the world. Over several decennia, by far the largest proportion of water-for-agriculture used in the Gulf countries came from non-renewable fossil water aquifers with no or low replenishment rates. Growing concern about the ecological implications of the depletion of these aquifers has prompted the governments of Gulf countries to take adequate action over the past five to 10 years. Water-saving techniques have been introduced, among which are modern greenhouse complexes, and government support is given through development banks and investment funds.
The region is characterised not only by water scarcity but also by a harsh climate and little available arable soil, which hampers local agricultural production. Importing food faces challenges in certain periods such as during worldwide drought or political upheaval like the recent Russian war in Ukraine. These developments are leading Gulf countries to place greater emphasis on local agricultural and horticultural production for their own food security, which puts even more constraints on the non-renewable water reserves*.
The water and horticulture sectors join forces
Several solutions have been introduced to tackle some of the constraints, like indoor farming, vertical farming, water technology solutions, and high-tech greenhouse solutions. Tough problems are sometimes too complex, and solutions need to be found through an integrated approach that overlap different sectors. The renowned Dutch water sector and horticulture sector are uniting to offer an integrated approach. By offering a total solution that combines integrated solutions in the field of water and horticultural technology, water and technology management (guidance), and knowledge transfer, we believe we can help countries in the Gulf region become more self-sufficient.
In support of this, the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP), Dutch Greenhouse Delta, Water Alliance, and Netherlands Enterprise Agency are grouping the Dutch private sector and knowledge organisations into a PIB cluster. PIB stands for Partners for International Business, and it is a programme that allows Dutch companies to achieve their international ambitions in public-private partnerships. This multi-year public-private partnership aims to position the Dutch water and horticultural sectors in the Gulf region. Doing business in the Gulf region requires a collective approach to better respond to local needs and issues, and the PIB has proven to be a useful programme to position Dutch sectors effectively.
Initial studies show that the Gulf region needs integrated solutions in the fields of:
high-tech (data-driven) water monitoring systems to increase water efficiency;
water reuse technologies e.g. in modern greenhouses;
nutrient recovery and optimal dosage, minimising fertilisers;
desalination technology and brine treatment/salt recovery, alternative desalination;
distribution systems for water safety;
decentralised sewage water treatment; and,
sustainable groundwater management.
A focus mission to the Gulf region will take place in February 2024. Leading up to the mission, the coordinating partners will carry out several inbound and outbound missions to the region to get an in-depth and collective understanding of the complex issues in the different countries and the specifics in each country.
*A relevant overview of the above-mentioned challenges in agriculture in Gulf countries focusing on Saudi Arabia, and the way forward by looking for integrated solutions is: Kim & Van der Beek (2018) A Holistic Assessment of the Water-for-Agriculture Dilemma in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3193849
Interested in joining the Dutch cluster?
If you are interested in achieving your goals in the Gulf region and seeing the added value of a joint structured approach, please contact Roy Agterbosch. An information meeting with the interested parties to discuss the next steps will be held.