Investing in innovation and research is key to ensuring the sustainability of date palm production, a valuable food and livelihood resource for millions of people in the Near East and North Africa FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said today. 
“The impacts of climate change are making water increasingly scarce, provoking droughts that are more severe and prolonged, and also contributing to the outbreak and spread of pests and diseases, such as the Red Palm Weevil,” José Graziano da Silva said at the 11th Session of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation (KIADPAI). 
“We urgently need to build resilience and promote the adaptation of agricultural sectors through climate-smart practices that can also preserve natural resources and biodiversity,” he stressed, noting the importance of the date palm, which is deeply rooted in the economies, cultures and diets of the people of the Near East and North Africa region. He referred to the diverse range of tools and knowledge that science and innovation have made available to produce “more and better with less resources”. 
These include, for example, hydroponic systems that produce high-quality food with no soil and only 10 percent of the water normally used in traditional systems, and the use of drones to help track pests and diseases, as well as the use of nanotechnology for water desalinization. 
“The challenge is to seize all the opportunities to apply and develop innovative solutions,” Graziano da Silva said. “For that, we need to put in place innovative policies, investments and partnerships bringing together the public and private sectors, and look to pursuing long-term commitment.”
Last November, FAO organized the first International Symposium on Agricultural Innovation for Family Farmers, where participants recognized the importance of family farmers for agricultural innovation.
Graziano da Silva emphasized the need to strengthen the capacity of farmers to innovate and acknowledged the invaluable role the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation is playing in the promotion of innovative agricultural practices, especially in water scarce regions. 
 

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