UAE: US ambassador discusses food, water security, hails vertical farm in the Emirates

Ambassador McCain participated in the Negev meeting held last week in Abu Dhabi as part of the water and food security committee


Lamya Tawfik

Published: Sun 15 Jan 2023, 5:05 PM

Last updated: Sun 15 Jan 2023, 9:42 PM

The US has great relations with the UAE when it comes to food and agriculture, according to Ambassador Cindy McCain, the head of the US Mission to UN Agencies in Rome - a multilateral mission covering global issues.

The US Mission in Rome is the link between the US Government and Rome-based international organisations such as the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“We have good relationships with the UAE, we are good partners in many issues and food and water is one of them. We share a lot of ideas and a lot of management ideas with regards to crop development, science, developing better seeds that are drought resistance and using less water in general,” said Ambassador McCain adding that research in universities in both countries is taking place and exchanged.

“I come from a state – Arizona - which is very similar to here. The lack of water, the droughts, the climate change have affected us the same way it has here. So, it’s a particular interest to me, not only that we good relations with this part of the world for those reasons but that we work together to develop better ways to manage land and water,” she said.

Ambassador McCain participated in the Negev meeting held last week in Abu Dhabi as part of the water and food security committee. “The goal was to reach some agreement on what we could and should be doing in terms of water and food security,” said Ambassador McCain adding that the talks and discussions emphasised that food and water are the biggest current security threats. “We need to work on these issues especially in an arid part of the world like this.”

The discussions helped identify topics for discussion for the next ministerial meeting in preparation for a potential action plan, she explained. “Countries hopefully can develop a plan to help each other, to develop storage, the ability for water resources to be shared and managed in efficient ways. We have to be able to, in this day and age with climate change, be able to grow more with less. These were all the topics that were discussed, put on the table and considered in every part of the talks. The outcome was really good,” she said.

During her visit Ambassador McCain visited Emirate Crop One – the world’s largest vertical farm which was started in 2018 when US based Crop One and Emirates Airlines signed a $40 million joint venture. The 330,000 square facility is located in Dubai near Al Maktoum International Airport and has the capacity to produce over two million pounds of leafy greens annually.

“We tasted different lettuces and spinach today, it’s an amazing place. It’s a different way to grow with much less water – reusable, recycled water,” she said, adding that being able to sustainably grow fruits and vegetable sand lettuces in this region is very important. “It’s less expensive than flying things over and much healthier,” she said.

With millions of people starting around the world, programs like this show that with some ingenuity, science and technology a lot of suffering might be alleviated. “Anything that’s new and different and can help sustain a community in an arid region like this or any region is important. It's growing more with less,” she said.

The US Mission in Rome also represents the US’s government other international organizations including the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). As US Ambassador to ICCROM, she also visited Mleiha in Sharjah, an ICCROM site and a UNESCO-nominated world heritage site.

“They do an incredible job and I enjoyed seeing how they’re doing it and the effect they have on the community,” she said adding that she learnt that hard working people can make a difference. “Look at what they’ve done here and what they’re going to be able to do as they move further along and they’re protecting their culture and community. It’s wonderful,” she said.

On November 5, 2021, Ambassador McCain, wife of late US Senator John McCain, was sworn in by the Biden Administration to serve as the United States Permanent Representative to the UN Agencies in Rome. She has dedicated her life to improving the lives of those less fortunate both in the United States and around the world. She is the former Chair of the Board of Trustees of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University and served on the Board of Directors of Project C.U.R.E, CARE, Operation Smile, HaloTrust and the Advisory Boards of Too Small To Fail and Warriors and Quiet Waters.


More news from UAE