Over the past three years, the Emirates Soil Museum, based on the premises of the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai, the UAE, has attracted more than 4,000 visitors, including ministers, policymakers, researchers, farmers, and students from around the world.
Out of this number, 2,000 people visited the museum in 2019 alone, and about 1,700 of them participated in various workshops and special events highlighting the importance of soil and water resources for food security and sustainable agriculture.
Moreover, the museum hosted several tree-planting events throughout the year, which were also linked with the Year of Tolerance in the UAE and in which more than 600 trees such as Ghaf, Acacia, Ziziphus (Sidr), and Moringa were planted.
The Emirates Soil Museum is designed to raise awareness, especially among youth, about the threats to soils and the significant role healthy soils play in meeting the current and future food needs worldwide.
According to an FAO report, soil erosion is perceived as the most significant challenge to sustainable soil management. And this is also relevant to the UAE as 75 percent of the country’s soil is eolian sand or wind-blown sand, which means it undergoes almost constant wind erosion and is highly susceptible to water erosion.
Besides erosion, soils face threats like salinization, soil organic carbon loss, acidification, nutrient imbalance, soil contamination, waterlogging, urbanization, and loss of biodiversity.
It is estimated that globally, about 33 percent of the land is in a state of degradation, and some 2,000 hectares of farmland is lost to salt-induced degradation every day. What is more, as a result of urbanization, more and more prime land that could be used for agriculture is being occupied.
Inaugurated in December 2016 with financial support from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), the museum is a unique facility in the Gulf region which promotes environmental protection and soil conservation. Since its opening, it has grown into a knowledge hub for everyone who is interested in soil conservation in the UAE and the Gulf region.
The museum has external and internal exhibits that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the world of soils. Outside the museum, a custom-designed landscape includes a diversity of desert plants and rocks found in the UAE. And exhibits inside are arranged around themes such as climate change and food security. In addition to the displays, there are also two interactive simulators of sand dune formation and water infiltration in different soil types such as sand, silt, and clay. The museum also boasts a library of soil information resources and touchscreen stands to access soil maps of the UAE.