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The Netherlands and Qatar to work together towards food security

The Netherlands and Qatar plan to work together towards food security in Africa. This was agreed on Tuesday by Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation Ben Knapen and the Qatari government.

On the last day of a working visit which also took him to Yemen and Kuwait, Mr Knapen had talks in Qatar with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and with academics and representatives of the Dutch and international business community.

Qatar is a relatively new donor country. Since the food crisis in 2008 it has begun to earn a reputation for its involvement in international efforts to address global food problems. Qatar is a desert country and depends for 90% of its food supplies on imports. It is now planning to produce 70% of its own food by 2023, and to be a model for other desert countries.

With the launch of the Global Dry Land Alliance, Qatar also hopes to make world food production more sustainable. However, a plan in Kenya was thwarted by land grabbing. The Qatari government is keen to uphold the rights of local populations, said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah. Since these were not properly regulated in this case, the plan was abandoned.

Dutch companies, knowledge institutions and NGOs have knowledge of and expertise in both farming projects in Africa and methods of producing food using relatively little water. The Netherlands is also a leader in water management. As Mr Knapen pointed out, ‘We have the knowledge and skills. Qatar is a relatively rich, new actor in the developing world, and it is committed. We complement each other.’

By 2050, the world will need to produce enough food for nine billion people. That means 70% more food, while only 15% more arable land is available. ‘Food is increasingly becoming a geopolitical problem.’

During his visit Mr Knapen also discussed political developments in the region, and opportunities for the Dutch private sector in the Gulf state, for instance in the run-up to the World Cup in 2022. He also visited an international agricultural fair, where the Dutch Green Port International Project was represented, and attended the signing of a joint venture between Royal Haskoning and Qatar’s United Group for Projects.