Revolutionizing Lebanon’s Agricultural Sector as Food Runs Out

Revolutionizing Lebanon’s Agricultural Sector as Food Runs Out

Beirut, Lebanon – As time is running out for government subsidies in Lebanon, the struggling country faces an uphill battle to feed its people as food prices continue to rise, driven by an ever-deepening liquidity crisis and a heavy dependence on imported foreign products.
Despite the highest proportion of arable land in the Arab world with over 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres), Lebanon’s own agricultural sector has been underfunded and underdeveloped for many years, hampered by a lack of equipment. modern and inefficient production techniques.

Now, with Lebanese farmers unable to meet their own operating costs and the government crippled by a political stalemate, international NGOs such as Anera have been forced to step up their aid programs to tackle socio-economic decline. fast.

“I think Lebanon is a rich country that has not been developed to its potential, and not just in the agricultural sector,” Samar El Yassir, Anera director for Lebanon, told Al Jazeera.

“With the bad governance that we have instead of optimizing our resources several times, we are reducing [them].

“Our interventions are made at the grassroots level, at the community level and not at the political level. There is no government to influence. We are trying to find ways to build resilience and support these communities through these crises. “

Farm workers tend the newly planted fields [Courtesy: Anera]

Infrastructure does not exist

In happier times, some Lebanese farmers made a nice profit selling their produce in foreign markets. However, this led to a system of diminishing returns as these markets became inaccessible.

Saudi Arabia suspended all imports of Lebanese fruits and vegetables in April after a shipment of pomegranates was used to smuggle millions of Captagon pills into the kingdom, cutting off a major source of revenue and tarnishing the kingdom. image of Lebanese products internationally.

“Lebanon grows quality products that sell for high prices in the Gulf region,” said Serene Dardari, communications and outreach manager for Anera.

“When agricultural exports reach high prices, Lebanon imports the same products from other neighboring countries in order to benefit from the price difference and taxes, which is not really a sustainable economic system.

“Infrastructure and technological support are weak or non-existent,” she continued. “The water supply is in constant scarcity due to a critical lack of dams, which would otherwise allow excess rainwater to be used for irrigation and other functions, although Lebanon has the highest precipitation levels in the region. “

Anera works closely with farmers to improve both the quality and quantity of their crops [Courtesy: Anera]

In the Lebanese coastal district of Akkar, one of the most fertile regions in the country, Anera provided farmers with tools and technical assistance, as well as high-quality seeds and pesticides, while helping them hire workers. additional agricultural workers, many of whom are Syrian migrants.

This then allows farmers to expand their farmland and establish new plastic greenhouses and irrigation pipe systems, also provided by Anera.

“A lot of our rivers are polluted and a lot of the land is not used properly,” Yassir said. “We teach farmers how to irrigate with unpolluted water and with good practices. The hope is that this will improve not only their income, but also the quality of the food they produce.

Dardari added: “The guiding idea behind this is to teach a man how to fish rather than giving him one. By increasing the capacities of farmers, as well as the quantity and quality of their yields, we try to minimize their dependence on aid.

With this program, the NGO hopes to provide a model for a more productive and profitable agricultural industry. This would allow Anera – as well as other local organizations and communities – to build more on this for the future with a scalable approach based on available resources.

Fears of “brain drain”

For this development to continue in a meaningful and sustainable way, a new generation of farmers is needed to continue it. With so many Lebanese graduates and professionals leaving the country in search of a better life elsewhere, this can prove difficult.

“What concerns me as [both] a Lebanese and a development professional in this country is the “brain drain” in all sectors, “lamented Yassir.

“One of Lebanon’s many resources is its people. [We] have access to a good education, we [need to] use these talents.

A farmer displays freshly picked cucumbers [Courtesy: Anera]

Fortunately, Anera may have found a potential solution to this problem by offering young people the opportunity to experience agricultural work on their own, in synergy with their other development initiatives.

“We are investing in training young people in agriculture, placing them with different farmers so that they can gain more experience while helping these farmers,” Yassir said. “We also help them set up their own small farming practices on their own land.

“Lebanon has fallen and we need young people and communities to rebuild it,” she added. “Lebanon needs a government capable of implementing the reforms that are currently holding back foreign aid.

By cultivating interest in the field among the younger generation, the NGO said it would understand the need for sustainable agriculture and the possibilities it can offer as a potential career path.

As fuel subsidies also come to an end, many Lebanese brace themselves for further dramatic increases in food prices, as farmers need large amounts of fuel to run their machinery and transport their goods to market. .


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