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UAE Spirulina Farm First for Middle East

Sajila Saseendran / 26 July 2009

DUBAI - The UAE will be home to a spirulina farming project, the first of its kind in the Middle East, to be overseen by a United Nations body fighting against malnutrition across the globe.

The plan is to cultivate spirulina, the blue-green algae known to be a rich source of energy and nutrients, for local consumption and export to poor African countries.

Remigio Maradona, Director General of the Intergovernmental Institution for the use of Micro-algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition, toldKhaleej Times the farm covering a square kilometre had been backed by a$1 million donation.

“A philanthropist has offered one kilometre square of land on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border for the farm. We are in the process of finalising the donation,” he said.

Maradona was in the UAE recently to seek local collaborations for the institution.

Cousin of football legend Diego Maradona, Remigio is the leading ambassador of the organisation that is a Permanent Observer to the UN Economic and Social Council.

Though spirulina is usually grown in more temperate climates, special arrangements such as shade will be made to enable the  mass production of the algae in the UAE.

In the cultivation of spirulina, Maradona said, water is recycled back tothe ponds.

“So the only loss of water is through evaporation.”

He said the algae, sold in powder and tablet form as a dietary supplement in rich countries, could be ready for harvest in just a month and a half.  “An area of 1,000 square metres shall produce six to eight kilograms of spirulina per day. The supply from the UAE farm can be used for local consumption and also for poor countries, especially in Africa.”

Asked about the need to address the issue of malnutrition in the UAE, Maradona said, “Malnutrition is there everywhere, but in different forms. Obese people can also be malnourished…Junk food will not give them the needed supply of vitamins and nutrients.”

A 2007 study published in Japan had found that 36 volunteers taking 4.5 grams of spirulina per day, over a six-week period, exhibited significant changes in their cholesterol and blood pressure. The study found the intake of the algae lowered their total cholesterol, increased the good (HDL) cholesterol, lowered triglycerides, and lowered high systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Maradona said spirulina should be explored as a way to fight the H1N1 virus, or swine flu.

Spirulina’s immuno-stimulant and anti-viral properties have been successfuly utilised and scientifically documented in various viral pathologies ranging from influenza to HIV/AIDS.

“It is already proven that Spirulina, if consumed on a daily basis, can enhance the human immune system and fight off most of the viruses. Therefore it is imperative that the international scientific community and policy makers explore the use of spirulina in order to deal with the cases of H1N1,” he said.

IIMSAM propagates the message that a little spirulina consumed on a daily basis fulfills the daily nutritional requirements of a human body, and counters various pathologies associated with malnutrition. “Our Spirulina Nutritional Initiatives across the world aspire to eradicate malnutrition, achieve food security, and bridge the health divide,” it says.

sajila@khaleejtimes.ae

 
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