American Univesity of Beirut

Dean Mohtar at FAO zoominar: How can digital innovation help smallholder farmers cope with impacts of COVID-19 in NENA?

Dean Mohtar participated (April 16-23) in the first of a series of Zoominars, organized by the FAO-RNE Regional Initiative for Small-Scale Family Farming. The Dean co-presented with Dr. Armine Juergenliemk, Agriculture Specialist at World Bank, on the topic of “Revitalizing the agri-food sector through digital technologies in Mashreq countries". The two discussed investment in digital innovation in three Mashreq countries, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, and how these investments might help address the challenges emerging with the COVID-19 crisis, including its impact on agriculture, food security, and livelihood.

The presentation built on the key findings of a collaborative background paper, part of the Mashreq Agricultural Initiative, prepared by FAFS, World Bank Group, UN-ESCWA, FAO, and the Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI). The speakers concluded by highlighting the important role of public action to facilitate adoption of digital technologies for agriculture in Mashreq countries. Such technologies can improve efficiency and reduce cost of public sector functions such as the gathering and dissemination of statistics relevant to agriculture, provision of extension services, regulation of land tenure and markets, subsidy payments, and others. They also emphasized the importance of protecting smallholder farmer interests as the digital transformation of agriculture advances, particularly regarding data ownership, privacy, and confidentiality.

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