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Upscaling EWABELT: a Joint statement by EWABELT Scientific Advisory Board at the United Nations.

Prof. Youssef Brahimi, Founding member, Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS), and Prof. François Tapsoba, delivered a joint statement during the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference on April 12, 2024 at the United Nations.


"5 considerations and very pragmatic proposals for upscaling EWA BELT project results and approach, with the conviction we have that ICTs and AI can make a significant contribution to accelerating the eradication of poverty, malnutrition and desertification."


Watch the statements by the speakers on our "SI in Africa" Joint YouTube channel


With Africa hosting 17 out of the 30 fastest-growing agricultural economies in the world - a phenomenon diametrically opposed to the social trend where poverty is accelerating, and having the youngest population in the world - over 250 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 - not only is the sub-Saharan region an important field for ICTs application within the agricultural field, but it is also a potential reservoir for the development of professional profiles linked to the world of artificial intelligence. 


Recognizing how ICTs and AI are useful instruments to aid the elimination of poverty, malnutrition, and desertification, research endeavors involving international actors and centers and employing digital technologies integrated with sustainable intensification practices to further progress, like the EWABELT Project, are of great relevance to the African and international communities alike.


Read the suggestions proposed by Prof. Youssef Brahimi and Prof. François Tapsoba, members of the EWABELT Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) to upscale the results we achieved so far, offered on the occasion of the second session of the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference dedicated to the Project on the theme “Poverty eradication and hunger: a first challenging priority for AI” on April 12, 2024 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

“Thank you Mr. Bukuru, it’s a great pleasure to meet you again and to have the opportunity to exchange with you during this EWABELT session dedicated to poverty eradication and hunger, the first challenging priority for AI. It’s an honor to have been invited to participate in this session of the Infopoverty World Conference. 
Mr. Chair, Dear participants, our joined brief communication, from Doctor Francois Tapsoba and myself, is based on 5 considerations and very pragmatic proposals for upscaling EWA BELT project results and approach, with the conviction we have that ICTs and AI can make a significant contribution to accelerating the eradication of poverty, malnutrition and desertification.
The first consideration is about the approach pursued by EWA BELT for the sustainable intensification of agriculture production. Following the presentation made by Dr. Giovanna Seddaiu we consider that the approach being pursued by EWA-BELT for the Sustainable Intensification (SI) of agriculture productions is as important and exemplary as the content of the scientific and technical results achieved, in that it meets the requirements of an approach to science that serves humanity: human-centric, reliable, ethical, inclusive, fully respecting, promoting and protecting human rights, oriented towards sustainable development and accountability, promoting digital transformation, helping to overcome digital divides between and within countries (cf. the UN General Assembly Resolution A/78/L.49, 23 March 2024: Seizing the opportunities of safe, secure and trustworthy artificial intelligence systems for sustainable development).
At the local level, the Farmer Field Research Units in which EWA BELT carried out research activities are spaces for coordinating research and sharing activities based on the involvement of farmers, technicians, and end users. The activities focus on areas such as degraded land, abandoned land, and existing agricultural land in order to increase the yield potential. A parallel can be drawn with the Farmer Field Schools developed by the FAO and widely adopted by IFAD in the design and implementation of rural development projects in support of poor farmers. In order to bring research and development closer together, we recommend considering how the FAO and IFAD, as well as the other institutions implementing the Farmer Field Schools’ concept (FFS), could systematically integrate the digitalization of sustainable natural resource management into the content of FFS training, in line with the methodology developed by EWA-BELT.  The expected results are improved access to information, the promotion of innovation in smart agriculture and improved access to technology for small farmers.
To expand and upscale the results at the African level, we must rely on the existing relevant African mechanisms and institutions. To this end, we propose to establish partnerships with the relevant initiatives and scientific institutions of the African Union Commission, including, but not exclusively, the Great Green Wall Initiative, the AU Digital Agriculture Strategy and AU-SAFGRAD:
  • The ambition of the Africa Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) is to help communities to grow one of humanity's most precious natural assets (fertile land), and to contribute to Food security, well management of migrations and conflicts resolution on the continent

  • The recently established AU Digital Agriculture Strategy aims at creating and hosting accessible knowledge and learning platforms and encouraging co-learning between different regions to create synergies. 

  • AU-SAFGRAD is a research and development institution, which has one of its strategic objectives to build research capacity in agricultural productivity and adaptation to climate change in order to improve the resilience of rural populations' livelihoods.

 Areas of partnerships between EWA BELT and African relevant institutions and initiatives could cover the following: 
  • Strengthen data collection and analysis: It is essential to collect and analyze accurate data on the evolution of ecosystems. 

  • Developing decision-support tools: Artificial intelligence can also be used to develop decision-support tools for planning and implementing effective actions.

  • Strengthen coordination and collaboration: Artificial intelligence can facilitate collaboration enabling information to be shared rapidly and securely, It is therefore important to promote the adoption of digital collaboration and communication technologies to strengthen the coordination of actions.

  • Building local capacity: Developing the skills and knowledge of local stakeholders in artificial intelligence is essential to facilitate the adoption of digital technologies and their effective use. 

  • Invest in research and innovation: to strengthen the implementation of the various initiatives. Public-private partnerships led by AU-SAFGRAD can be encouraged to support the development of innovative digital technologies tailored to the region's specific needs.

 

At the international level, the use of AI was discussed at the UNCCD's CRIC 21 (Samarkand, November 2023) during the preliminary analysis of the results of the UNCCD's 2018-2030 Strategy. For Africa, the synthesis map on natural land gains, prepared by the UNCCD, and using default data, shows that Mali, Libya, Sudan and Somalia are among the few African countries to have gained natural land over the period 2000-2019, However, we know that these countries have been at war for several years or that they have been severely destabilized for years by internal conflicts. For these countries, it is highly unlikely that they would have been able to successfully combat land degradation during this period. In light of such surprising results, some Parties requested the Secretariat and the Global Mechanism “to address the data and methodological gaps that lead to erroneous estimates of the extent of degraded land in hyper-arid zones by exploring… the possibilities offered by innovation in methods based on artificial intelligence”.
There is thus an opportunity to support the UNCCD in this way, in compliance with the ethical standards defined by the relevant United Nations resolutions, with the forthcoming UNCCD COP 16 that Saudi Arabia will host in December 2024. Parties will certainly have to adopt measures to accelerate the fight against land degradation because of the land degradation in view of reaching land degradational neutrality by 2030. It certainly will be the best place to address the issue of AI in the fight against poverty and desertification, including ethical issues.
Thank you very much for your attention.

-Prof. Youssef Brahimi & Prof. Tapsoba

EWABELT Scientific Advisory Board



Drawing from the insights emerged from the statements of the participants - stay tuned for more! - OCCAM drafted the Final declaration of the Conference, which includes suggestions, proposals and recommendations at all levels to cope with an ever-changing world where technologies, if adequately oriented and regulated, could be beneficial to a global socio-economic development in view of e-welfare for all, in the respect of human rights and UN principles. 


Alongside it, OCCAM outlined the Plan of Action that encompasses all the operative instances that emerged towards the achievement of the SDGs and the UN 2030 Agenda, dedicating particular attention to the best practices of the EWABELT Project and promoting scientific and policy recommendations for the benefit of the most disadvantaged communities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. 



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OCCAM - Observatory on Digital Communication



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