Harnessing the power of digital solutions in agriculture. © UNDP/PAPP - Ahed Izhiman

Ramallah, 22 September 2020 – The United Nations Development Programme, in partnership with the Government of Japan, the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Ministry of Telecommunications and IT, and the Palestinian Information Technology Association of Companies (PITA), launched today the first Palestinian AgriTech summit to encourage young entrepreneurs to engage in social innovation through the introduction of ICT tools in the agricultural sector.

His Excellency Minister of Telecom and IT, Dr Ishaq Sider, highlighted the importance of developing the ICT sector and the role it plays in economic growth and access to global markets. “This summit will encourage young entrepreneurs explore digital solutions in the agricultural sector. It is also in line with the Palestinian government’s strategy, covering both the Agriculture and the ICT clusters”.

His Excellency Riad Attari, Minister of Agriculture, indicated that agriculture is a major employer, with over 180,000 families currently working in the sector across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ‘Agriculture is significant to Palestinian development, people and identity,” he added.

The summit is the last component of the Japan funded Innovation and ICT Development project at the Jericho Agro-industrial Park, where two competitions were organized in 2018 and 2019 to identifying talented entrepreneurs who have innovative business ideas that address socio-economic challenges, including agriculture. The five winners from the 2019 competition, who are also presenters at the summit, received financial support and an opportunity to travel to Japan to develop their ideas further.

His Excellency Masayuki Magoshi, Ambassador for the Palestinian Affairs, and Representative of Japan to Palestine, highlighted that the agricultural sector is key to food security and job creation and exports but there has been a structural decline of the agricultural sector over the past years, impacting the economy.

At a time where supply chains are disrupted by COVID-19, and with the ncreasing strains from climate change, harnessing the power of digital solutions in agriculture is key to supporting resilient economies and inspire youth entrepreneurship in agriculture.

UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator, Yvonne Helle, highlighted the importance of bringing together national and international partners to find solutions to 21st century Palestinian challenges. “Traditionally, agriculture has been the backbone of the Palestinian economy and an important driver to job creation. We look forward to hear your ideas on how to effectively use innovation in agriculture towards more sustainable practices, diversifying job opportunities for youth, particularly women, increasing agricultural productivity and improving competitiveness in the market,” she added.

 

Following the two symposiums, the five winners from the year before were given the space to present their ideas and accomplishments and motivate other youth and entrepreneurs, especially females, to participate in the AgriTech sector. All five launched their businesses with support from PITA and PICTI. From the West Bank, Sabri Sabri presented his business of detecting harmful insects using artificial intelligence. Eba’ Yqoub’s from Jerusalem displayed her agro-ecological platform and smartphone application. From the Gaza Strip, Salah Abu Shaer showcased his Agro Robot project, HamdAllah Al Ashqar with smart automation of agricultural greenhouses, and Ahmad Abu Moamar on Integrated agricultural monitoring and control system using IOT.

The virtual summit was attended by H.E. Minister of Telecom and IT, Dr Ishaq Sider; H.E. Riad Attari, Minister of Agriculture; H.E. Masayuki Magoshi, Ambassador for the Palestinian Affairs, and Representative of Japan to Palestine, Mr Adnan Samara, Chairman of the Higher Council for Innovation and Excellence; Engineer Ibrahim Jaffal - Chairman of PITA; and Yvonne Helle, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator. The summit also brought together manufacturers, entrepreneurs, academics, companies working in the agriculture and technology sectors, university students and representatives from the public and private sectors.

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