On Sunday, November 18, 2018, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS) has opened Al Zahyaa SMARFARM as part of the Organic agricultural Alzahyaa nursery. This project aims to empower persons with disabilities and enable them to reach financial and social independence. Sheikh Saeed bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Deputy Chief of Sharjah Ruler’s Office in Khorfakhan, Mr. Chun Young Wook, General Consulate of the Republic of Korea in Dubai, and Dr. Chang-Gyu HWANG, Chief Executive Officer of KT Corporation, attended the opening ceremony. In addition, Her Highness Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Vice President of Supreme Council for Family Affairs & Director General of SCHS, and a number of students and officials from SCHS were present.
The SMARTFARM project aims to recruit persons with disabilities, develop their skills and capabilities in agricultural based businesses, finding solutions for problems such as the harsh summer weather conditions in the Gulf, low income, increase the number of farmers, and the people working in agriculture.
The technology used in Al Zahyaa SMARFARM is unique and incorporated for the first time in United Arab Emirates in terms of material and ICT (IOT) provided by KT, which will ensure Big Data capabilities that would track the actual seeding to harvest cycles. In addition, there is the revolutionary "AIRGAP”, which is a 3 layered 5mm thick Poly-film. This film used in a new design ensures a thermal insulation of 8 - 10 degrees Celsius while allowing 90% sunlight. The unique airflow regulation in evaporative cooling ensures a steady temperature ambience, which is ideal for organic farming.
The SMARTFARM would produce a range of aromatic herbs during the next phase, such as Italian basil, mint, lavender, chamomile, thyme and rosemary. SCHS will market and distribute the products through various points of sale targeting various sectors and institutions such as shops, hotels and restaurants.
SCHS is seeking through Alzahyaa SMARTFARM to reach sustainability as traditional farming utilizes over 2,000 litres (600 gallons) of water per kg of vegetables produced. The new system uses less than 30 litres (10 gallons) of water per kg of produce.
During a tour inside the farm, SCHS and KT Corporation officials learned about work plans and the tasks assigned to persons with disabilities such as running the advanced electronic system. They also learned that one of the main goals of the project is raising people’s awareness of the capabilities of persons with disabilities in agricultural related businesses and encouraging employers to recruit them.
The SMARTFARM, which is a continuation for SCHS fruitful cooperation with the Republic of Korea, aims to assist SCHS continued efforts to include, advocate, and empower persons with disabilities as well as incorporating modern technology in competitive organic farming. This will teach persons with disabilities the values of work, increase their self-confidence, and contribute to their integration into society.
As for the long run strategies, the project aims at providing Big Data capabilities in order to carry on similar projects in the future. In addition, the project is recruiting persons with autism spectrum disorders, multiple, and mental disabilities. SCHS is planning to invest persons with disabilities products as well as the revenues of the project in establishing similar projects and creating job placement strategies for agricultural related businesses. It will also promote the concept of smart farming in United Arab Emirates and GCC and ensure self-sufficiency for the economies of countries in terms of food production.
Ahead of the opening ceremony for Alzahyaa SMARTFARM, the Oceanic Resort & Spa Khorfakhan hosted the signing of a memorandum between Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services and KT Corporation. The volunteer and activist Zainab Al – Aqabi co-hosted the signing ceremony. Her Highness Sheikha Jameela bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Vice President of Supreme Council for Family Affairs & Director General of SCHS, delivered a speech in which she congratulated Muslims on Prophet’s Birthday. She said, “It is very nice that our sincere wishes in this blessed day connects with our actions and words. We are here today to reveal a new and unique accomplishment in United Arab Emirates and the region that we add to a number of other achievements done in collaboration with our friends and partners in the Republic of Korea”.
In her speech, Her Highness Sheikha Jameela has praised a number of projects done in collaboration with SCHS friends in the Republic of Korea. They both have the same goal, which is improving the quality of life for people with disabilities through incorporating ICT to the utmost. It also aims to creating steadier and more sustainable jobs that can develop to ensure financial independence and active participation of persons with disabilities in the community. Today, this cooperation between both parties has reached its peak throughout the opening of Alzahyaa SMARTFARM in the presence of Dr. Chang-Gyu HWANG, Chief Executive Officer of KT Corporation. This project, which is very ambitious and the first of its kind in United Arab Emirates and the region, is a new trend in using ICT to operate SMARTFARMS. This project aims at enabling persons with disabilities from reaching financial independence.
The Director General of SCHS has praised the wise instructions of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who cares to make Sharjah city a destination for those looking for knowledge, culture, and civilization. These instructions motivated SCHS to create a vision in becoming a leading organization in advocating, including, and empowering persons with disabilities throughout education, rehabilitation, and job placement.
The Director General of SCHS believes that this gathering today to open this SMARTFARM is a practical translation for SCHS leadership, which directs SCHS efforts to touch the future and lives of persons with disabilities in UAE and its partners and friends in other countries.
To conclude her speech, Her Highness Sheikha Jameela saluted SCHS students, who were ready to accept the changes in work environment and the progress made in the Organic agricultural Alzahyaa nursery since its early days until it has become the first SMARTFARM in United Arab Emirates and the region.
She also directed her sincerest thanks to those who cooperated with SCHS from the Republic of Korea. Special thanks went to KT Corporation, its CEO, and other representatives for their continued efforts to open this SMARFARM, which is a milestone for everyone.
Then, Dr. Chang-Gyu HWANG. Chief Executive Officer of KT Corporation delivered a speech in which he expressed his great happiness to open the SMARTFARM and consolidate the relationships of cooperation with SCHS in order to support persons with disabilities financial and social independence.
Dr. Chang-Gyu has praised Her Highness Sheikha Jameela for her continued efforts to launch this project in such short time. He confirmed that the cooperation between both parties would witness a unique shift in agriculture and other fields.
For his part, Mr. Chun Young Wook, General Consulate of the Republic of Korea in Dubai, hoped that the SMARFARM would be successful in reaching its goals such as offering persons with disabilities a chance to work and integrate into society.
Notably, the SMARFARM project is part of SCHS continued efforts to consolidate the relationships of cooperation with the Republic of Korea. This relationship is witnessing a great development in cooperation with a number of Korean institutions such as Quality of Life Technology Center QOLT, Seoul National University, the University of Iowa, and the Center for Entrepreneurship of Persons with Disabilities (DEBC).
Finally, SCHS will not spare an effort in order to consolidate the relationships of cooperation with various local, regional, and international bodies. SCHS seeks to proclaim its leadership and plant the concepts of social responsibility, volunteerism, creating initiatives, and social innovation in every area of life at in the minds of youngsters.