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Agriculture – Stéphane Forman

The initial site visits, and the sites themselves, are absolutely stunning. What makes this a truly unique experience is that it forms a kind of triptych, almost in the literal artistic sense of the word, presenting a tableau composed of three panels. One features civilisation, culture and history. Another displays the vast landscapes with their utterly unbelievable colours, from red in the north, to basalt black further south. And then comes the third element, the oasis, which from a more personal point of view is every bit as interesting. The entire history of this site is connected with the presence of water and agriculture, which is what makes it such an emotional experience to be in a place that is absolutely unique in the world. This is a project which immediately struck me as one-of-a-kind. The aim was to take what was already here and to convert it into an absolutely magnificent location, and one that would also comply with all the requirements of sustainable development, whether they be environmental, social, or in any other domain. When I was presented with this project, I saw an opportunity to achieve something that had undoubtedly never been done before, and also to tackle a dilemma that is pretty much at the heart of the whole question of development: can we create a successful sustainable development model if we have access to the most renowned experts in their field, and to the most innovative and advanced technologies? Achieving this sustainable development, in an arid region, is even more complex when the biggest constraint we face is water. The mission of the Agricultural Hub is to support the Royal Commission for AlUla in developing sustainable agriculture, an agriculture that will contribute to the AlUla experience. The support role for sustainable agriculture must be defined by identifying certain processes, certain products that really are specific to the location, and so have economic, symbolic, heritage and of course environmental value. And once we’ve helped the Royal Commission to select these processes which add real value in the AlUla context, we will need to advise them how to develop these processes, how to enhance the performance of the various stakeholders, and how to educate the farmers and other stakeholders further down the chain. The Royal Commission has no agricultural expert, no focal point for considering agriculture and its more technical aspects. They really have a huge demand for agricultural expertise and need to learn exactly how agriculture can contribute to the AlUla experience. This requires a specifically French approach, and solid French expertise in terms of locally-developed agriculture relying on small producers. This approach to tilling the land is very French, and France has a great deal to contribute to understanding how the agricultural sector can be developed in AlUla.

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