Jessica Kahawaty visits refugee camp in Jordan

Updated 17 April 2019

Jessica Kahawaty visits refugee camp in Jordan

DUBAI: Lebanese-Australian model and influencer Jessica Kahawaty took her Instagram followers on a trip to Jordan’s Al-Azraq refugee camp near the border with Syria on Wednesday, in a bid to raise awareness about the plight of the families who live there.

Hosted by UNICEF, she posted a series of Instagram Stories about her visit to the camp, including information on the various educational programs being run in the facility. Kahawaty also highlighted the work done by women in the camp, who have taken to finding scraps of material to create and sell small bags and fashion items.

The influencer, who regularly emcees events across the Middle East, took to Instagram a day before her trip to share the news with her 720,000 followers.

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The reason I’ve been silent. Preparing for one of the biggest humanitarian missions. This is my third and it doesn’t get any easier. Al-Azraq Refugee Camp, off the Syrian border. Tomorrow. "لم أرَ وردةً منذ وقتٍ طويل" – هذه هي كلمات ريان البالغة من العمر 13 عاماً والمقيمة في مخيّم الأزرق للنازيحين السوريين في الأردن. خلال ساعات قليلة، سأكون في مخيّم الأزرق للنازحين على الحدود السّورية لمشاركتكم قصص أمل، حكايات حسرة وللتّعرف على مواهب عديدة موجودة بين 13 مليون و500 ألف سوريّ ابتعد عن موطنه بسبب الحرب الأهلية في سوريا. انا ممتنّة لإعطاء هؤلاء الأطفال فرصة إيصال أصواتهم. فالهدف هو خلق الوعي والآمال بجمع التّبرعات التي يستحقّونها الأولاد النّازحين

A post shared by Jessica Kahawaty (@jessicakahawaty) on

“Preparing for one of the biggest humanitarian missions. This is my third and it doesn’t get any easier. Al-Azraq refugee camp off the Syrian border,” she wrote on Instagram.

“Good morning. From where I stand... Al-Azraq refugee camp off the border of Syria (at) 8 a.m. 17 April 2019,” she captioned a geo-tagged Instagram post showing a map of exactly where the camp is.

Kahawaty studied business, finance and law in Sydney and is a keen supporter of a number of humanitarian causes, including UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Last year, fashion house Louis Vuitton selected Kahawaty to work with UNICEF at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan to help children affected by the Syrian crisis, which has seen millions of people displaced.

The multi-talented celebrity also gave a talk at the TEDxSciencesPo event in Paris in April 2018.

The conference, according to a press release, brought together influencers “who work toward breaking the wall between the East and the West” and aims to “provide an essential bridge, to fuse the gap between rising trends of neo-conservatism predominant in the South of France and the cultural diversity that characterizes the Arab world.”

Kahawaty isn’t the only charitable celebrity to visit Jordan this week — British singer Dua Lipa shared an emotional message with her 28.5 million Instagram followers earlier in the week, after spending three days at various refugee camps in Lebanon.

The Grammy-winning singer visited camps in Rayak and Bekaa with UNICEF to meet with refugee children whose families fled the war in Syria.

She described the experience as “eye-opening” in a lengthy Instagram post and added: “I always believe in children as they are our future and we have to take care of them. It was a heartbreaking and emotional yet hopeful experience after seeing these kids still laugh and smile and make the most of a bad situation.”

Two engineers help fight Lebanese farming foe

Updated 5 min 56 sec ago

Two engineers help fight Lebanese farming foe

  • Early-warning system lets farmers know when to protect their crops from fruit flies
  • Mobile app tells them the best time to spray pesticides to halt their advance

DUBAI: An award-winning startup led by two female Lebanese engineers has created an automated early-warning system that allows Middle East farmers to protect their crops against the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world’s most destructive pests.

Fruit flies can devastate entire harvests and have infested over 300 types of vegetables, fruits and nuts globally, causing financial ruin to countless farmers in the Arab world.

However, an ingenious system designed by Nisrine El Turky, a computer engineer and university professor, and Christina Chaccour, an electrical engineer, will tell farmers via text messages and mobile app of the best time to spray pesticides to halt the pests’ advance.

“Many Lebanese farmers weren’t able to export apples because the quality of their produce wasn’t good enough,” said El Turky, co-founder of IO Tree.

“So many I met were desperate to sell a crate of apples for $2 (SR7.50), which is nothing. I wanted to help the sector by better integrating technology.”

Farmers were found spraying too much pesticide to try to kill fruit flies. (Shutterstock)

She began by investigating the difficulties that farmers faced, attending workshops and seminars, and visiting farms. She found the main problem was that farmers were spraying too much pesticide to try to kill fruit flies.

“I found a way that could reduce the use of pesticides and increase production.”

El Turky began working on the IO Tree concept in February 2018 and swiftly built a working prototype, which she showed to Chaccour, who promptly joined the company as a co-founder.

IO Tree’s technology is being tested on farms in Lebanon and the Netherlands. There are two prototype machines — one for indoor use and another for outdoor. The machines can be placed in an orchard, field or greenhouse.

“We need to ensure that the prototype functions in all conditions. Outdoors, there is sun, dust, rain and other weather factors that could disrupt its operation,” said El Turky, who still works up to 10 hours a week as a lecturer at Lebanon’s Notre Dame University.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the machine’s sensors monitor indicators such as temperature and moisture, as well as studying plant stress.

The system can detect and identify pests, providing data on the likely scale of an imminent pest invasion and the best action the farmer should take to combat it. Information is conveyed to the farmer via IO Tree’s app.

“If you’re using pesticides, our app will tell you the best pesticide to use to tackle that problem, the quantity you need and when to spray.”

IO Tree’s sensors use machine learning to measure plant stress. (Supplied photo)

EL Turky said her technology had shown over 90 percent accuracy in identifying medflies.

“Machine learning means that every day the system becomes more accurate,” she said.

“We’re also working on identifying other pests, but medfly is our main target. Once medflies arrive at a farm, they will eat everything.”

IO Tree will enable farmers to use fewer pesticides, reducing environmental damage, while produce will be in better condition and can command a higher sales price.

“By using fewer pesticides, farmers will be better able to preserve biodiversity: Spraying kills a lot more insects than just pests,” she said. IO Tree has initially targeted all types of fruit trees, plus tomatoes and cucumbers, and the product will be launched commercially in September.

“We’re aiming at farmers directly,” said El Turky.

IO Tree’s services will be sold via subscription. After a farmer signs up for one year initially, the company will install its machines at the farm. The number of machines required per acre depends on crop type, crop yield, land topography and other factors.

The company’s initial target market is the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, though it also plans to expand to Europe and eventually worldwide.

The product’s potential has helped IO Tree win a string of startup competitions. It was selected to represent Lebanon GSVC 2019 (Global Social Venture Competition) at the University of California, Berkeley.

IO Tree also joined Lebanon’s Agrytech accelerator, which provided $44,000 in funding, and schooled the fledgling entrepreneurs in how to create and manage a startup.