When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Roses In The Desert - How Qatar Hopes To End Its Dependence On Food Imports

The Roza Hassad greenhouses near Doha, Qatar
The Roza Hassad greenhouses near Doha, Qatar
Laurence Caramel

DOHA – Jean-Pierre Moreau is growing flowers in the desert.

Just 30 kilometers west of the Qatari capital of Doha, roses, gladiolus, chrysanthemum are blooming. At the request of Hamid Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, the Frenchman produces four million flowers a year, with the help of 60 employees mostly from Nepal and India.

Inside the greenhouses of Roza Hassad, which span over 55,000 square meters, it’s a far cry from the hot and rocky scenery outside. A very precise computer-managed regulation system adjusts the humidity and lighting levels every 30 seconds in each of the 16 greenhouses, recreating a tropical climate or the colder temperatures of the Netherlands, depending on the flowers.

The seeds are planted in bedrock made of coconut residue or volcanic rock and receive water drawn 100 meters deep, desalted, then charged with nutritious elements needed for their growth. Roza Hassad is a public company founded to cut down on the emirate’s flower imports.

This comes at a price – but Moreau would rather not talk about numbers. In a country where no project seems too crazy, money is not an issue and flowers are just “a first step.” “With money and the right technologies, we could grow tomatoes, peppers and all sorts of vegetables,” says Moreau who has already grown salads in the most extreme climates.

Food security is at the center of the Qatari government’s strategy presented in its “Vision 2030” plan. More than 90% of products eaten by the country’s two million residents (of which only 300,000 are Qataris) depend on imports.

In Doha’s main wholesale market, trucks unload Saudi eggplants, Lebanese or Chinese apples, Dutch tomatoes, Filipino bananas and Egyptian strawberries… And the same goes for meat and grains.

Securing food supplies

“We cannot imagine our development without securing our food resources. We support international trade but we also believe in climate change and its consequences on agriculture," says Fahad Ben Mohammed al-Attiya, president of the Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP). "Some countries might have to reduce their exports in the future and we cannot remain so dependent.”

The program was launched in 2008 and was created with the help of numerous international experts. It should be finalized in the coming months and fully operational in 2014. “We didn’t invest for 20 years. Our agriculture uses old methods. Productivity is weak. A big part of our harvest is lost in stock. We need to bring skills, training and technology. Many believe it’s unrealistic – I think it will be revolutionary,” he says. He thinks it’s possible to cover 60% of food supplies.

Water scarcity is another issue that needs to be resolved. This is why Qatar is building new desalination factories that will run on solar energy. “700,000 cubic meters of water are used every day by the 1,400 farms in the country, but that water, drawn underground is increasingly brackish. Our programs aims to produce five times more,” says Patrick Linke, the technical director of the QNSFP. But can the sun really be profitable when fuel in this country only cost 20 cents per liter? Authorities have remained vague about the cost and the funding of the new project.

This refocusing on local production doesn’t mean Qatar is giving up buying land abroad. “We will continue because we need to. But we will do so while making sure that property rights of local populations and farmers are respected. These are investments, not land grabbing,” assures al-Attiya.

Early December in Doha, the QNFSP president rewarded the best projects of the Land for Life initiative, which is supported by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). He reiterated his country’s ambition to create a “global alliance of arid areas” that would imply mutual assistance between member countries. “A sort of food security NATO.” The African countries that were present welcomed the idea with a mix of curiosity and interest and are waiting to see what comes next.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

Keep reading...Show less

The latest