By Ron Chen, Correspondent ASEAN Region
The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) (Agriculture Division) in collaboration with IsDB Group Business Forum (THIQAH) jointly held a live webinar entitled “The Role of AgriTech in Food Security & Sustainability” to discuss sustainable climate-smart agricultural technologies for achieving food and nutrition security.
The AgriTech webinar series is an initiative by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) to support the OIC member countries to leverage the power of the digital transformation to advance growth in the agricultural sector, focusing on promoting trade and investments of agricultural products.
The webinar highlighted the most promising AgriTech solutions to enhance efficiencies of agricultural value chains at the national, regional and global level. The webinar also focused on raising environmental awareness and demonstrated AgriTech solutions that can contribute positively to preserving and restoring the environment, as well as establishing strategic partnerships among various stakeholders to materialize the applications of AgriTech solutions and good agronomic practices to advance the sector.
The CEO of ITFC, Eng. Hani Salem Sonbol, delivered the opening remarks at the webinar. He noted that “Globally, agriculture employs around 1 billion people, that is 1 in every 3 workers. In OIC member countries, agriculture employees over 230 million people, nonetheless the yield is way below the global average. Such gap can only be bridged with knowledge and technology.”
He also added that, “In ITFC we believe in building strategic partnerships among various stakeholders to collaborate in addressing the food security and environmental sustainability issues. There is a role for Governments, MDBs, FIs, agriculture companies, commodity traders, tech providers, legal firms, research centers and academic institutions. The result of such a collaboration will directly contribute to SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 12 (Responsible Consumption & Production), 13 (Climate Action) and 15 (Life on Land).”
The webinar, which was presented in English and included French, Arabic and Russian interpretations, featured panel discussions and presentations by industry experts in the field of Agriculture, AgriTech and Trade Finance who shared their in-depth opinions and experiences on industry related topics followed by a Q&A session.
Moderated by Dr. Muhammadou Kah, Panel Member, The Malabo Montpellier Panel, and Professor of Information Technology & Computing – American University of Nigeria, the first panel discussion entitled “Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture” was joined by Carlo Bravi, Project Coordinator, FAO, Nicolas Tremblay, Lead Regional Environment and Climate Specialist, IFAD, Dr. Bashir Jama, Lead Global Practice and Food Security Specialist, IsDB, and Rajiv Pradhan, Country Director in Cambodia, Swiss Contact.
With different areas of expertise, the panellists spoke with the participants on the best practices to boost crop yields, develop strong value chains that are inclusive of the youth and women, protection of the environment and expansion of the natural resources supply as well as the sustainment of the economic viability of agriculture systems. This was followed by a presentation on “Agricultural Digital Community Platform” by Paul Voutier, Director, Knowledge & Innovation – Grow Asia.
Dr. Bashir Jama – Lead, Global Practice, Food Security Specialist at IsDB stated “Sustainable agricultural systems that are smallholder farmers-led must be anchored on robust value chains that engage the private sector effectively and also deploy science, technology and innovations. This is critical to attain the scale necessary and to build resiliency to climate change and markets volatility.”
During the second panel discussion, the panellists including Nabil Marc Abdul-Massih, CEO, Inoks Capital, Birgül Akman Sönmezler, Head of AGRI Banking Marketing, DenizBank and Yassine Oussaifi, Partner, AfricInvest Group, shared their multilateral perspectives on “The Role of FIs in Sustainable Farming”.
The current technologically driven world presents opportunities and efficiencies to agriculture starting with the supply chain. New technologies disrupting the agricultural sector – blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence and robotics are some of the emerging digital technologies that are expected to transform the food and agriculture systems into Agriculture 4.0 (the Fourth Agriculture Revolution). This is reflected well on IsDB’s new business model – Making Markets for Development and is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
As part of initiatives to promote the growth of the agricultural sector in member countries, IsDB will through ITFC and other entities of the bank group be implementing two key interventions – full-cycle Islamic financing products which offers pre-financing to farmers to grow crops as well as offer training programs on the best agricultural practices and institutional support to improve the market access opportunities for agriculture products.
To complement these initiatives, ITFC will also provide technical assistance to farmers and associated agribusinesses to build their capacities to use the digital tools to enhance agricultural productivity and efficiency such as providing them with direct access to global markets.
The webinar witnessed 800 participants and viewers from ministries of agriculture of member states, MDBs, Agriculture companies of member states, selected academic and agricultural institutions, the 2.5 hours live webinar concluded with closing remarks by Dr. Muhammadou Kah.
The 2nd webinar, entitled “Digital Supply Chain” will be held on the 25th of November 2020.