In a region where water and arable land can be scarce, the growing agriculture sector in Jordan requires a resource-smart approach. Yet as innovators look to start new agricultural businesses or plan to expand work to meet market demands, many do not have the knowledge, skills, or resources to properly do so.
To support agricultural entrepreneurs, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched the new Smart Desert Business Support Incubator at the National Agricultural Research Center (NARC) in Baqaa, Jordan in March. The incubator – the first of its kind in the agricultural sector – is designed to support knowledge-sharing and foster innovation.
The incubator provides young people, farmers, food processing businesses, and home-based business (HBB) owners in Jordan with the support they need to build their ideas and work toward year-round income generation. It is part of the Smart Desert project’s multi-part plan to establish and scale up business support services that complement the kingdom’s growing agriculture sector.
Smart Desert, established in 2021, is a consortium led by IUCN taking a holistic approach to supporting vulnerable Jordanians and Syrian migrants in Jordan’s agricultural sector by improving farm practices, working conditions, and year-round income opportunities. As an implementer for Smart Desert, we aim to support sustainable livelihoods for a changing Jordanian economy.
To ensure the long-term sustainability of these support efforts, the incubator will also launch a business off-taker through support from Agence Français de Développement (AFD). The off-taker, called the Smart Desert Company, will work in tandem with the incubator to train farmers and home-based business owners on improved packaging and marketing methods to expand their businesses, increase revenue, and enhance market linkages.
At the incubator launch event, Mr. Laurent Duriez of AFD shared, “We welcome the inauguration of the incubator at NARC which will play a decisive role in the development and transfer of knowledge to farmers in Jordan. Smart Desert relies on a sustainable economic model to scale up the project in the future, relying on a public and private partnership.”
We have already begun working with HBBs and will continue to scale our efforts with the opening of the incubator. To date, our team has provided more than 120 HBBs with trainings to help them enter the formal economy and link them to new markets. Dozens more will receive training, seed grants, and equipment to advance their businesses in the coming months. In total, Smart Desert plans to reach 500 agricultural home-based businesses and 200 farms in the Northeastern Badia Highlands.