By team UAEU: Ayesha Alam, Laura Pulido Beltran, Meera Alkaabi, Silvio Kaiser and Azza Alshamsi
A fervent commencement of the new year and arrival of the Wetskills organizers and participants, impounded a great head start for the work-life post-Christmas hangover, with the spice of Emirates winter, rain showers and COVID upsurge. Well, COVID is a kind of chunk of life now, but it continues to play the character of a bothersome obstacle for social gatherings, meet and greets, field trips and scientific talks. In a nutshell, it is non-negligible trouble for people to step back into normal life same as two years ago. Patiently dealing through the roller coaster ride of the journey mirroring the ride from Dubai airport to the hotel on the top of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain, Wetskills Dubai 2022 got a kick start with warm and pleasant catchup at the Al Ain Zoo under trillions of social gathering protocols imposed by the government, of course for our safety!! However, remaining all the programs were steered online amid the covid 19 upsurge in the country in the past few days as a Christmas present. Alas! Nothing could have been done but to continue over Zoom for the rest of the program whereas, the grand finale would not be compromised at all because Expo 2022 is a global hub of opportunities and exposure to the sustainable future.
Besides all obstacles, Wetskills managed to organize a visit to the farms of UAE University, a government operated Higher education institute located in Al Ain City. A prior announcement was made by Program supervisors Rick and Ioana on behalf of Dr Elke Neumann (Case owner Team 3) who promised to host a visit to the agricultural farms of UAEU. Well, the day was quite pleasant and sunny, must say “hot” for visiting open fields of (Al Foah) and aquaponics station of (Falaj Hazza), but interestingly, the visit ended up with a pile of information and adventurous. It was great deal to witness overwhelmingly escalating agricultural practices of UAE for transformation of desert into green nirvana. The farms were equipped with high function greenhouses, net houses and open fields where successful crop production have been conducted such as Tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, wheat and rice whereas the aquaponic station had integrated a large number of exotic fishes i.e., Tilapia, Catfish and pomfrets for experimental designs. Date palm is the leading crop of the UAE harvested twice a season (Rutab and Tamar: fruit stages) that yields up to approximately 100-125kg of fruit per tree every year. Indeed, highest revenue generating crop though! The excitement of encountering the affectionate and humble animal of UAE “the camel” that are cattle for milking and as experimental specimens on the farm, also some ruminants such as lambs and sheep.
Long story short, the field trip was an amazing experience and a closer observation to the agricultural customs of the UAE. Especially it was really helpful for our team to attain an eye glance and to hear operations of the local farming to hit the spark for ignition of critical thinking to dig into the core of case pain and come up with an applied solution. So yeah, a happy ending to the trip with a bit of nervousness for the Wetskills Expo Dubai 2022 finale as the deadline is approaching faster than the fumes.