A delegation from Qatar is coming to Oregon this week to meet with political, academic, research and private industry leaders as part of that nation's initiative to strengthen food security and optimize their use of arable land and scarce water supplies.
The group had a coordination meeting Wednesday, the group will have a series of visits today at Oregon State University, attend the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, and conclude with visits to agricultural operations in Eastern Oregon on Friday.
"Qatar currently imports about 90 percent of its food supply and wants to develop and implement advanced agricultural systems and new technologies to substantially reduce imports," said Ron Adams, dean of the OSU College of Engineering. "They also want to extend that knowledge and technology to other dry land regions that face similar challenges."
OSU has been active in Iraq, Qatar and elsewhere in the Middle East in partnerships to advance research and higher education in sustainable engineering, agriculture, and forestry, Adams said. University officials and other Oregon business and political leaders hope to build on those initiatives, in particular helping Qatar to achieve its goal of food security and sustainable development.
The group from Qatar will be led by Fahad Al Attiya, chairman of the Qatar National Food Security Programme, and Sheikh Hamad Al-Thani, vice chair of the program. The United States ambassador to Qatar, Joseph LeBaron, also was instrumental in arranging the delegation's visit.
While at OSU, the delegation will hear presentations on the university's capabilities that relate to the Qatar food value chain, including some revolutionary work with fiber optic environmental monitoring that might be critical to Qatar's goal of optimal water use and precise irrigation in agriculture. Other topics will include sustainable agricultural systems on extremely arid land, remediation technologies, desalination, solar energy, and a tour of one of the signature research centers that are helping Oregon to build partnerships between academia and private industry.
State officials say they hope to develop a range of public and private projects as a result of this initiative, including a virtual "research and demonstration center" focused on arid land sustainable food and agriculture. Increased trade, investment, educational exchange and new business opportunities between Oregon and Qatar are also envisioned.