A POSITIVE IMPACT

Kuwait 2019 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

KISR has developed its research capabilities as an independent institute with a system not designed or administered by the government.

Samira A. S. Omar Asem
BIOGRAPHY
Samira A. S. Omar Asem was appointed Director General of KISR by the Kuwait Council of Ministers in 2016. She has led many projects to conserve biodiversity, restore ecosystems, and promote sustainable agriculture in Kuwait. In addition to her work at KISR, Asem is also a Research Fellow at The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) for the Advancement of Sciences in the Developing Countries and a recipient of many honors and awards including the 2016 Medal Lectures honored by TWAS in November 2015. Asem holds a PhD in wild land resource science from the University of California, Berkeley.

By 2030, KISR wants to be internationally acknowledged as the region's most respected STI gateway. How will it do so?

We are considered unique in the region, having established ourselves as a purely R&D organization in the 1960s, since which time we have developed our research capabilities as an independent institute with a system not designed or administered by the government. We are currently completing our eighth five-year strategic program up to 2020. Meanwhile, we will keep developing key research programs to meet the demands and challenges the country faces in respect to science and technology development, though I also expect new generations to come up with new research ideas that will solve complex issues. We are interested in getting more contributions from industry; hence, our solid partnership with the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. We want our research to have a positive impact on the community.

What specific aquafarming techniques can be utilized to ensure self-sufficiency of fish and livestock?

Our aquaculture and oceanography research started with the establishment of the institute. KISR's task is to identify economically important species in order to study the stocks and monitor their status, but also develop aquaculture techniques to grow these fish in tanks for commercialization, while enhancing their population in the open sea. We have both environmental concerns and food security issues, and the research succeeded in developing know-how and increased productivity in several species. We have expanded our research to new species as well. Currently, species such as hamour, Subaiti, and shaem are in high demand, but are also economically feasible and can easily grow within our aquaculture methods. We also crossbred subaiti and shaem to keep bolstering our fish resources. The results have been excellent so far, and we are looking at developing new commodities such as sea bass, lobster, mangrove crab, and shrimp. To achieve our objectives, we have been developing integrated farm systems in the desert that allow us to implement an agriculture system completely efficient in terms of energy, water, plant, livestock, and fish integration. Furthermore, we have been encouraging private companies to contribute 5% to our research. For the past three years, we have received increasing interest from several farmers. About 55% of the total beneficiaries of our projects are from the private sector, and its interests keeps growing.

How is KISR addressing environmental concerns?

KISR has an excellent relationship with the environmental authority of Kuwait. We provide it with consultation services and have a committee for emergency fish kill. We help monitor and remote sensing data, looking for any oil slicks or other contamination. We also have our own station for radiation and air pollution. In addition, we do research on coastal management, another crucial environmental issue. If there is any damage to the coast due to extreme weather conditions, we monitor it and take the adequate steps to solve the issue. We also have a program for decisions supporting environmental disasters, which tries to predict any possible disaster. Furthermore, we have a program specifically for climate change modeling and assessing the acidity of the water in the Gulf and how it is affecting the fish population.

In what ways is KISR collaborating with international organizations and institutes to better develop innovative solutions?

We currently have more than 100 international agreements with reputable research and academic institutions. We recently signed a partnership with Csiro Lab, for example, a well-known Australian lab specialized in energy, water, and the atmosphere. Moreover, we are members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Our role within this organization is to look at ways to use nuclear energy as a safe technology for food and agriculture, as well as the environment. We use isotopes and radiation to enhance wheat production, for example, and record acidification for climate change assessment. We also assist the government in terms of nuclear safety and control.