Saudi Arabia is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its harsh desert climate and low levels of arable land that constitute only 5% of its total area and scarce water resources. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia is considered one of the top three date-producing countries in the world, with 1,065,032 tonnes from 3.7 million trees. Although date palm trees are known for tolerating harsh desert climates and water scarcity, climate change impact and the rise of temperature that could exceed 50°C would adversely impact date palm cultivation in Saudi Arabia.
Ibtisam, a date palm cultivar from al-Qassim Province, located at the heart of the country near the Arabian Peninsula, recalls learning about the best times for planting palm date trees from her father and recommends early times of the day to begin harvesting dates, saying, “Anyone who wants to have a good date harvest season has to begin as early as after dawn before the sun burns.” She further comments that the climate change crisis has impacted date production in several ways, including changes in soil texture and weather and the severity of dust storms that damage fruits and require efforts to clean them. She advises farmers to cover palm dates with white or green linen bags to protect them against dust, insects, and birds.
Given the scarcity of water resources, rising temperatures, and erratic weather patterns, Saudi Arabian farmers are on the frontlines of an existential battle. A multi-pronged approach to technical support is essential to navigate this precarious terrain.
Water-efficient technologies like drip irrigation and soil moisture sensors can make a significant difference. These technologies conserve water and enhance crop yields by optimizing the timing and amount of water delivered to the plants. Leveraging IoT devices for real-time monitoring could add another layer of precision. Secondly, introducing drought-resistant crop varieties through genetic engineering or selective breeding can substantially mitigate the risks of reduced water availability. Research institutions can collaborate with farmers to test and adapt these new varieties to local conditions. Thirdly, advanced weather forecasting tools that offer hyper-localized, real-time data can empower farmers to make informed decisions. From timing the planting of seeds to optimizing fertilizers, accurate weather information can be a game-changer.
Lastly, digital platforms for knowledge sharing could catalyze change. Mobile apps or online portals that offer expert advice, market trends, and climate-smart farming techniques can go a long way in building a resilient agricultural community.
The ability of country’s farmers to adapt how they farm to climate change: C- Standing Still
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Saudi Arabia Country Managers Abeer Abdulkareem and Amgad Ellaboudy