Posted on September 27, 2013

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee (Q22) and the Qatar National Food Security Programme (QNFSP) joined with President Bill Clinton today to announce Qatar’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to use the power of international sport to develop innovative food and water security solutions.

In a featured event on the stage of the CGI Annual Meeting, Q22 Secretary General Hassan Al Thawadi announced that Q22 is working with QNFSP to determine how the same revolutionary cooling technologies being developed to cool stadia and training facilities for the tournament can be used to close critical gaps facing farmers in dryland and water-stressed regionsof the world. These innovative cooling applications and the training facilities that will house them, have the potential to be converted to cooled greenhouses required for efficient year-round food production in dryland or water-stressed regions. The two organizations are currently collaborating on second-generation cooling prototypes and designing football (soccer) training sites that can be converted into high-efficiency greenhouses after the tournament.

“When international sporting events come to new regions, the opportunity is created to focus on the challenges of sustainable development,” said Secretary General Al Thawadi. “We are committed to celebrating the power of football to bring critical issues front and center. We see this as an amazing opportunity to make advances that benefit millions, and potentially billions, throughout the world while also building a more sustainable future for all those who call our region home.”

The partnership between the two Qatari initiatives emerged from a series of workshops between technical teams and feasibility assessments with experts. In the commitment announced today, Q22 and QNFSP pledged to work together to develop technologies that will allow for sustainable food production in the world’s dryland and water-stressed regions.

“Maintaining optimum growing conditions for food production is key to efficient agriculture throughout the world,” said QNFSP Executive Chairman Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiya. “But greenhouse systems designed for other climates are not ideal for drylandand water-stressed regions.  In addition to requiring greater control over the amount of sunlight reaching plants, greenhouses in dryland areas often struggle with traditional cooling technologies.  Standard mechanical cooling requires too much energy and is expensive. Conventional evaporative cooling requires precious water resources and is often limited due to humid conditions. An efficient ‘hybrid’ application that combines the best of both technologies holds a great deal of promise,” he said.  “Powering the system with solar energy brings us even closer to a new generation of applications that boost sustainable food production in some of the areas that need it most.”

While hunger is not an issue in Qatar today, the nation ranks high among those dealing with the challenges brought when rapid growth meets limited water and land resources. In spite of a booming energy sector,the Gulf state imports more than 90 percent of its food and is one of the only nations on the planet that is a desert ecosystem from coast to coast. While serving as the Heir Apparent in 2008, Qatar’s current Emir, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad AlThani,established the Qatar National Food Security Programme to develop a national plan for addressing the issue. In addition to expanding strategic reserve capacities, diversifying international trade and modernizing its national market, the plan includes a 10-year roadmap for boosting the resource efficiency of Qatar’s private sector farms. The plan paves the way for a five-fold increase in local food production using the same amount of land currently under cultivation and one-third less water.

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“We are proud of our desert climate and culture,” said Chairman Al-Attiya. “We have no desire to ‘green the desert’ or expand agriculture at the expense of the balance of our natural resources. We will always look to the global marketplace for a significant portion of our foodbasket, but, like anyone else, we do want to find ways to grow a responsible level of fresh, healthy food for our people. Our unique environment gives us an ideal workshop for developing resource-efficient technologies, better practices and smarter crop mixes for high-efficiency food production in arid and water-stressed conditions.”

“When we welcome fans and players to Qatar, we are inviting them into our home, showcasing our culture and our unique environment,’” added Secretary General Al Thawadi.  “Sports facilities from Dallas to Singapore have incorporated cooling systems and arenas across Europe and North America have deployed innovative heating solutions to improve the comfort and safety of players and fans.  We have the unique opportunity to push these concepts forward. When we welcomed FIFA’s inspectors during our bid and showcased our first prototype featuring solar-powered cooling, we were thrilled to be able to demonstrate the innovations inspired by our environment. As we launch this second generation prototype, I am proud to join with my colleagues at QNFSP to raise the design bar even higher.”

“We are committed to delivering progress of food security that boosts the resiliency of our nation, serves as a platform for sustainable development and empowers economic growth and diversification in Qatar’s private sector,” said Chairman Al-Attiya. “It is our sincere hope that our investment in addressing these issues in Qatar has an even greater impact for people around the world.”

“The challenges we face as a world today require innovative thinking and unconventional partnerships,” said Al Thawadi. “We have always seen the hosting of the FIFA World Cupas an opportunity for Qatar to contribute to innovation and build a sustainable legacy that would benefit the global community, but we don’t want to do it alone. We challenge others to join us in this exciting work. From cooling experts to football fans, scientists to students – let’s use our love of sport to make a lasting difference globally on food and water issues.”

With early feasibility studies and site selection complete and work on designs underway, the process of developing and constructing the prototype for testing hybrid cooling applications and training facility-to-greenhouse convertible structures is set to begin in early 2014.  The facility will serve as a research and development platform for developing and perfecting high-efficiency climate control and food production applications. Both Q22 and QNFSP expect to announce additional partnerships with leading NGOs and research groups around the joint effort.

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