Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS)

COMSATS-ISESCO-INIT 5th International Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Biotechnology: Role of ICTs successfully held in Monastir, Tunisia

COMSATS-ISESCO-INIT 5th International Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Biotechnology: Role of ICTs successfully held in Monastir, Tunisia

COMSATS in collaboration with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and the Inter Islamic Network on Information Technology (INIT) organized the 5th COMSATS-ISESCO-INIT International Conference on ‘Agriculture, Biotechnology and Food Security: Role of ICTs’, in Monastir, Tunisia, from 4th to 6th November 2019. The Conference was held in conjunction with the International Thematic Workshop on ‘Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Biotechnology: Best Strategies and Good Practices’, organized by TWAS Young Affiliates Network (TYAN). The three-day event was hosted by TYAN and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Tunisia.

Over 50 researchers and subject experts from 24 countries that include Algeria, Bangladesh, Benin, Cameroon, China, Egypt, Gambia, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Nigeria, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tunisia and Turkey, Uganda, and Yemen participated in the event. In addition, representatives of COMSATS’ Centres of Excellence in Iran (Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology – IROST), Kazakhstan (Al-Farabi Kazakh National University – KazNU), and Sri Lanka (Industrial Technology Institute – ITI) participated in the event as speakers.

The Conference was inaugurated on 4th November 2019 by Prof. Hedi BEL Hadj Salah, President of University of Monastir and Professor Mokhtar Mahouachi, President of Jandouba University.

In her inaugural remarks on the occasion, Dr. Jalila Ben Salah-ABBES, Executive Committee Member of TYAN for Arab Region and Associate Professor of ISBM, Monastir University, stated that the current platform will provide an opportunity to the scientists and young researchers of the subject field to discuss ideas and joint research projects for sustainable development in their respective countries. She extended gratitude to all the partner organizations for their support towards organizing the subject event in Monastir, Tunisia.

The Executive Director COMSATS, Dr. S.M. Junaid Zaidi, in his message read out by Mr. Tajammul Hussain, Advisor (Programmes), stated that the information and communication technologies present innovative and sustainable solutions to help overcome the digital divide between rural/remote and urban communities of developing countries. He thanked the participants and experts for their presence, as well as the partner organizations for collaborating with COMSATS for holding this conference.

Speaking on behalf of the Executive Director INIT, Mr. Atiq-ur-Rehman, Senior Programme Officer at INIT stated that the integration of ICTs in agriculture, biotechnology and food security has significant impact on reduction of the gaps between agricultural community, bio-technologists, food security experts, governmental and non-governmental organizations thereby leading to developing a much-needed synergy.

The three-day Conference consisted of six technical sessions framed on the following themes: agriculture and sustainable development; climate change adaptation for sustainable agriculture; crop improvement, protection and management; food nutrition security: new concepts and strategies; medicinal plants for industry and biotechnology application; and food safety regulation and standards. The presentations made during these technical sessions covered a range of topics which, inter alia, included use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) technologies in agriculture; orphan crops in agroforestry; computer simulated path analysis in predicting yield and quality of agricultural produce; precision forestry for sustainable forest management; strategies for sustainable crop production; solutions to overcome water scarcity-related challenges and implementation of Artificial Intelligence in agriculture-food systems; and occurrence of disease causing fungi in wheat and other cereal grains. Active discussions and deliberations during the sessions promoted exchange of ideas and knowledge-sharing among the participants.

In parallel, brainstorming sessions were held between TYAN members for discussing prospects of collaboration under the themes of the Conference. As a result of these discussions, following projects were finalized to be jointly executed under TYAN/TWAS support programme: production of salt-tolerant rice; design of multitask robot prototype for agricultural needs; and boosting Balanites aegyptica valorization through quality enhancement of derived products.

The Conference ended with the closing remarks of Prof. Boulbaba SELMI, Mr. Hussain, Dr. Jalila, and Mr. Atiq-ur-Rehman, and distribution of certificates among the resource persons, local and foreign participants, as well as organizing committee members.