Supporting the resilience of vulnerable agricultural producers and households in northern Lebanon
Lebanon is facing a multidimensional crisis directly impacting farmers and local producers. Farmers became heavily indebted as they were usually able to repay their debts during the harvest period (May-October) to secure credit for the following planting/production season. In 2020 their ability to repay these debts has been reduced to the minimum, making it impossible to start the new cropping cycle due to the lack of available capital. With the absence/lack of national agricultural support programs, the agricultural sector has moved to a low input system, which is likely to result in lower yields and lower marketable production.
© Mahmoud Rifai Al Sarraj ǀ Première Urgence Internationale
Farm of M.A. – Deir Dalloum, Akkar – Two greenhouses used to plant vegetables before rehabilitation.
The economic and financial crisis had an impact on all sectors especially in Akkar governorate where more than 60% of the population is depending from the agricultural sector either directly or indirectly.
Akkar governorate has experienced during the last year an increase in production costs, scarcity of agricultural inputs and supplies, in addition to a weakening of end consumers’ purchasing power. It is therefore crucial to help farmers and gardeners cope with the compounded crises assailing the country while preventing them from resorting to negative coping mechanisms.
Support to farmers and producers in this peculiar economic crisis in Lebanon became each day of paramount importance in order to strengthen their resilience and increase their livelihood and means of subsistence.
Within this scope and with the aim of preserving livelihoods in this extremely difficult context, Première Urgence Internationale implemented the project “Supporting the resilience of vulnerable agricultural producers and households in northern Lebanon”, in collaboration with the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) and with funding from the French Embassy’s Inter-ministerial Food Aid Committee (CIAA). The project lasted one year and a half, from April 1st 2020 until the 30th of September 2021.
Thanks to this intervention, Première Urgence Internationale provided support to 110 farmers and 75 gardeners, of Lebanese and Syrian nationality. The difference between those two groups lies in the size of the land. Indeed, persons of concern are considered “farmers” if the planted area’s surface is equal to 1,000 sqm and above, whereas they are considered as “gardeners” if the planted area’s surface is below 1,000 sqm.
The intervention gave preference and selected the individuals most in need based on Première Urgence Internationale assessment and specific vulnerability criteria.
© Mahmoud Rifai Al Sarraj ǀ Première Urgence Internationale.
Farm of M.A. – Deir Dalloum, Akkar – The same two greenhouses after rehabilitation.
The intervention included several activities aiming to mitigate food insecurity, economic instability and improve agricultural livelihood. The feedback collected from beneficiaries of the intervention during monitoring activities showed that “100% of farmers were satisfied with the content of the training and considered that the training sessions have filled some of their knowledge gaps”.
LARI delivered the training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to farmers, covering five main agricultural topics:
- Integrated pest management (insects and diseases),
- Traceability and record keeping.
For the gardeners, LARI provided a different training focusing on basic agricultural practices and maximization of the production and efficiency in their small available land space.
Helping to revitalize local markets in northern Lebanon
Gardeners also received an agricultural kit including different essential tools to help starting or maintaining their small farming activities. The training was complemented by a distribution of emergency vouchers to farmers and gardeners over three agricultural seasons. This modality was selected following the Food Security and Livelihood sector recommendations in order to avoid direct cash distribution to beneficiaries and give to all the recipients the possibility to purchase a different variety of items (seeds, seedlings, trees, pesticides, fertilizers) in selected agro-shops in Akkar.
In this way, each farmer or gardener was able to purchase upon its own priorities and within this modality, the intervention was contributing to revitalize the local markets. Monitoring activities initiated by Première Urgence Internationale highlighted in this regard that the majority of beneficiaries were satisfied with the modality of distribution and the quantity and quality of items distributed for both the input supplies and the tool kit.
In addition to the above activities aiming at supporting resilience of vulnerable producers and households, Première Urgence Internationalerehabilitated 35 greenhouses belonging to 18 farmers and gardeners during the months of August and September.
Première Urgence Internationale distributed high quality inputs (tarpaulin, drip irrigation pipes, raffia, nylon fumigation sheets, etc.). The distributed materials, particularly the nylon sheets used for the coverage and the doors, had a guarantee of 36 months. The rehabilitation was conducted with the technical supervision of LARI and the support of the farmers’ workers who also benefited from a hands-on training on greenhouse rehabilitation and maintenance.
“Building strong farmers networks can be what we need today to keep our agricultural activity ongoing”.
On July 2021, Première Urgence Internationale organized an event to present the “farmer’s association” concept, aiming to mitigate farmers’ problems by creating working groups among common agricultural crops and practices.
The event focused on the conformation of “cluster groups”, a simple form of informal association that farmers can be part of, on condition of agreeing on a set of common objectives or deciding to cultivate the same type of crops. At the end of the process, following a comparative analysis between a cluster member and non-cluster member prepared by the LARI, 18 farmers agreed to be part of a farmers’ association, and two clusters were created in September 2021 (one cluster for garlic and one cluster grouping those who have greenhouses).
Those clusters, although small – 8 to 10 farmers each – represent one of the most positive outcomes from the intervention, since they constitute the primary core part of the transformation into future associations/cooperative. This clustering approach represents for Première Urgence Internationale (PUI) and its partner LARI a sustainable option: those clusters will be accompanied by Première Urgence Internationale within Centre De Crise et de Soutien  intervention with additional capacity building and trainings provided by the LARI or other consultants enabling their formal constitution and formal registration under the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture .
J., one of the farmers participating in the cluster launching event, stated that “This cluster initiative is the cherry on top of the cake; it comes to provide a full-fledged solution to farmers suffering from the economic downfall and the lack of governmental support. Promoting and fortifying the horizontal relations is much more sustainable than vertical relations or top down support. Hence building strong farmers networks can be what we need today to keep our agricultural activity ongoing”.
In the words of H., a farmer from the village of Machha, “this project showed the farmers other agricultural methods that are definitely more sustainable, in addition to the financial support which was much needed and appreciated during this drastic devaluation of the Lebanese currency when everything has to be purchased with US Dollars. Première Urgence Internationale had not only provided economic and technical support, but most importantly moral support by standing at the farmers’ side during these difficult times”.
This program is supported by the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) and with funding from the French Embassy’s Inter-ministerial Food Aid Committee (CIAA).
 French Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs.
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