DECEMBER 5, 2023

Round Table Discussion on Agriculture, Food Safety, and Community Development in Akkar

Round Table Discussion on Agriculture, Food Safety, and Community Development in Akkar

The Career Services Center at the University of Balamand, in collaboration with MENA Food Safety Associates (MEFOSA), recently organized a Round Table Discussion at its Beino Akkar campus.

The event, held on Monday, November 13, 2023, was attended by Dr. Youssef Bassim, Chief Operating Officer and Assistant to the President for Health Affairs at the University of Balamand, Dr. Elie Karam, Dean of the Issam Fares Faculty of Technology, Ms. Hala Moussa, Head of the Agriculture Wealth at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Hussein al Rifa’ee, President of the Potato Farmers Association in the North, Mrs. Aline Abdo, Representative of Akkar for Network and Development, in addition to Entrepreneurs, and faculty members and staff from the University.

The Round Table Discussion, aimed to address critical issues within the agriculture sector in Akkar. The event commenced with an introduction and overview, providing attendees with a comprehensive understanding of the diverse backgrounds and expertise present. The heart of the discussion unfolded during the SWOT Analysis session, where participants delved into the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing agriculture in Akkar. This collaborative effort highlighted several key weaknesses, including the pressing issue of water pollution, the high cost of irrigation, and the need for effective communication between public and private sectors. These concerns were underscored by the lack of agro-businesses, inadequate data on market trends, and the absence of detailed studies on agricultural products in the region.

On a positive note, opportunities were identified, including the implementation of Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping for Akkar, the development of an agricultural calendar specific to the region, and the integration of advanced technologies such as drones, machine learning, and artificial intelligence in agriculture. The participants also emphasized the importance of a collaborative approach, as outlined in a "3 pillars triangle" connecting the Ministry of Agriculture, NGOs, and universities for more effective project execution.

A significant portion of the discussion was dedicated to success stories in various agricultural sectors, featuring insights from agriculture entrepreneurs such as Mr. Charbel Abo Jaoude and the President of the Potato Farmers Association in the North, Mr. Hussein al Rifa’ee. These success stories underscored the global potential of local agricultural products if supported by the right technologies and standards.

The meeting concluded with a set of recommendations, including the creation of an agricultural calendar specific to Akkar, the transformation of this calendar into a machine learning application, utilizing the University's expertise and facilities.

This transformative Round Table Discussion at the University of Balamand serves as a testament to the institution's commitment to community development and collaboration. As the University continues to bridge the gap between academia and industry, these initiatives are poised to bring about positive change in Akkar's agrifood industry, ultimately benefiting the entire community. ​