THRIVE would like to extend warm gratitude to Mariam for her presentation on ‘Developing climate-smart agriculture to ensure future food security’ at the THIVABILITY MATTERS webinar held on 19th October 2021.
Doctor Mariam Awlia is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Plant Science at the University of Cape Town and a volunteer at the Reach for a Dream foundation. Mariam obtained her PhD in Plant Science at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Her research is focused on resurrection plants–plants which can survive extreme dehydration over a long period of time. Her work is one of the first studies ever that comprehensively examines the combined effect of drought and salinity tolerance of resurrection plants to create climate-smart agricultural systems. She is also a supporter of environmental sustainability, social prosperity, and mindful living.
The THRIVE Project – an organization that places humankind onto the path towards a more sustainable future – was fortunate to have Mariam as a guest presenter for its monthly Webinar.
Mariam presented on the topic of how drought severity and soil salinity is threatening global food security. It has been reported that the growth rate of many cereals and other crops will greatly decrease in future. For example, by 2030 rice is estimated to have a 23% growth rate reduction.
Therefore, major changes need to be made in the future to sustain agriculture.
Mariam explained that to achieve these goals major changes had to be made. Some tactics to tackle this are precision agriculture, water efficiency, genetics, solar energy, and biofuel. Mariam spoke about how plant genetics could play their role in climate-smart agriculture. This was shown through the core example of Resurrection plants. Resurrection plants consist of a special trait – the ability to survive through prolonged states of drought and salinity conditions and revive after rehydration. Her work will enable the identification of genes in the resurrection plants responsible for drought and salt-tolerance and will create a pathway to incorporate these genes to other crops, which will help to thrive in adverse climatic conditions.
Mariam also took some questions from the audience, notably highlighting the politicized nature of genetically modifying crops, and how regulations are so strict as to prevent even research. These regulations are unfortunately delaying progress from being made.
Whilst Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) is usually met with public cynicism, the term is widely misunderstood. Future estimations on agriculture are ominous, but with researchers such as Mariam, many sustainable solutions may be within our reach to ensure food security.