“DigitalAg4Her” in Lebanon: Finding solutions by & for women for more productive agriculture 

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Agriculture is one of the main livelihood sources for vulnerable communities in rural areas in Lebanon and is seen as a critical sector for creating employment opportunities  and reducing poverty. Not only does it provide job opportunities at the production stage, but all along the value chain as well, including processing, packaging, and distribution, and in related sectors such as services, transport, and communications.  

Women play a prominent role in the agriculture sector in Lebanon, making up 43%  of the agricultural labor force, especially in smallholder and family farming households. However, major constraints impede women’s work, such as limited access to extension services, finance, productive resources, as well as market and labor-saving technologies. 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has already reinforced calls for the revitalizing and rethinking of the Lebanese agri-food sector to build back better and greener.

Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon, Wafaa ElDikah Hamze, agrees and spoke to the Bank saying, “The agriculture sector in Lebanon has been suffering immensely for years and will continue to do so without the implementation of much-needed reforms, such as the introduction of technology, transitioning into a more digital sector, and the inclusion of more women and youth.” She mentioned that these three key elements will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the revival and sustainability of the sector.  

Modern digital tech-tools (such as platforms or apps used for financial services, information and advisory services, access to markets) can significantly facilitate the inclusion of women and increase their productivity, while capitalizing on their creativity. Such tools have become extremely crucial in Lebanon where the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages have increased by almost 300% in one year alone, according to the Central Administration of Statistics due to the compounded and multi-faceted economic and financial crises 

Agritech means applying much-needed technology solutions in agriculture, and it can create new momentum for inclusive economic development  by supporting the transition towards a more commercially focused, competitive, and export oriented agri-food sector. Such a transition would not only contribute towards food security, but also a more resilient and diversified economy . This is especially true in the case of Lebanon; a country desperate to revive its paralyzed economy. 

To help crowdsource ideas for technology solutions in agriculture, a hackathon was organized  by the World Bank Group’s Mashreq Gender Facility (MGF) and the Agriculture and Food Global Practice called “DigitalAg4Her,” in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Berytech. “DigitalAg4Her” aimed to bring innovative solutions to make the agri-food system in Lebanon more efficient, productive, inclusive, and most importantly, environmentally sustainable . More than 280 passionate young women and men submitted their applications to join the hackathon. 

Three women-led teams won the hackathon and received further technical assistance in developing a minimum viable product and two-month incubation support from Berytech. The winning teams were: 

  • Pure Farms, which uses a vertical farming system and their own developed techniques to produce high-quality microgreens / beyond organic products. 

  • Kawafungo,  an environmental, recycling, social startup aimed at reusing coffee waste that is thrown away by coffee brewers to grow mushrooms. 

  • Rivaland, a sustainable and low-cost nature-based solution for the on-site treatment of water through a hybrid composition of water purifying plants and effective microorganisms.   

One of the participants Hiba Farhat really enjoyed being part of the hackathon. She said, “The sessions were really rich in information and it helped us a lot to build and develop our business plan. The diversification of the sessions and topics was so professional.” 

The results of the “DigitalAg4Her” Hackathon demonstrate the potential young women have to bring innovation to a crucial productive sector.  Investments by the government and international stakeholders in this sector are critical, especially in these unprecedented circumstances, to support the creation of an enabling environment for unlocking women’s potential. 

Agritech is a massive opportunity to contribute to women’s empowerment and transit their country into a long-lasting and green growth path.    

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Authors

Angela Elzir

Labor Market Specialist, World Bank

Armine Juergenliemk

Agriculture Specialist at the World Bank

Mohamad Hussein Mansour

Economist consultant with the World Bank

Ahmad Jaber

Communications Specialist & Consultant with World Bank, Mashreq Gender Facility

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