Managing Scarce Water in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley
Water is a vital but vulnerable resource for farmers in the Barqa-Rabiaa village in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Climate change has brought about a rise in temperatures and droughts in the region, making water scarcity a growing problem for the area’s environment and economy. Local farmers realize it is more important than ever to initiate smart water management practices.
ANERA recently completed a project, known as “Improving Farmers’ Production through Optimal Water Use in Barqa-Rabiaa,” to support farmers in the effort. Farmers have been struggling to irrigate their crops in spite of a decreasing water supply and inefficient resource management. When water demand was high during growing season, there often was not enough water to go around. Farmer and village leader Sami Geagea lamented the inefficient use of the available water: “We used to irrigate in June with a lot of water – irrationally.”
This project fixed the main water network, installed 6 filtering stations and gave 31 farmers irrigation drippers.
The project was implemented in partnership with the YMCA, with two objectives aimed at improving the farmers’ situation: increasing the efficiency of water usage and using the new techniques to cultivate new farm land. This approach would not only make farms more cost- and water-effective, but would also increase the productivity of the local fruit trees. During the project’s year-and-a-half of action, technical experts coordinated with local farmers to achieve these goals. Mr. Geagea says the result was “overall excellent and gave farmers hope.”
The project included rehabilitating the main water network, installing six filtering stations, equipping 31 farmers with brand-new water drippers for more efficient irrigation, and providing 133 farmers with an individual irrigation schedule adapted to their farm’s qualifications and specific irrigation system. There were also awareness sessions on proper water management, which benefited the entire farming community. Farmer Sami Geagea said he gained a lot of good water practices. “Now I know that a tree may need 20 liters per day of water in March and April, and 70 to 80 liters per day in July and August.”
133 farmers were each provided with irrigation schedules customized to the specific needs of their farms.
With better water management and better equipment, Barqa-Rabiaa’s farmers say they can expand crop production by 15 acres. For farmers like Sami Geagea, this means increased income from higher production of crops like apples, cherries, apricots, and almonds. Farmers are putting aside their old habits and fully embracing the new techniques after seeing the project’s results. Mr. Geagea already sees a difference. “Attitudes of farmers have changed and farmers have started to talk about the changes. Applying what we have learned takes time, but farmers have started gradually…Science is very important – just as much as experience.”
ANERA has been implementing other agriculture projects in Lebanon, including organizing home gardens in the northern Nahr El Bared and Beddawi refugee camps and planting new fruit trees for farmers in the Bekaa valley.