Planting Change, Sowing Hope
Eat what you grow
Lebanon is a lush country, with ample but very poorly managed resources. The nation’s food security relies heavily on imports. Today, Lebanon’s financial and banking crisis has led to the depreciation of the Lebanese lira, which is severely impacting the country’s agricultural production. According to the World Food Program, between September of last year and May 2020, Lebanon witnessed a 109% increase in the monthly average price of a basket of foods considered to be the minimum needed for survival. And the situation has continued to worsen since May.
To address the rising food insecurity, Anera’s Akkar team have partnered with UNICEF and Al Ta’alof Association to launch an introduction to agriculture vocational course in the town of Berqayel. This 60-day training provides an opportunity for young people in Lebanon to learn about their land, conventional and organic fertilizers, how to plant a home garden and which crops are well adapted to grow locally.
The course also offers students a way to earn an income. The program will pay the youth a daily wage for building greenhouses as part of their practical training. Anera will distribute the produce that these students harvest to vulnerable families in Akkar. These young farmers will be putting food on tables in their communities.
"When I heard about the agriculture course, I immediately knew I wanted to join. I really want to learn how to cultivate my own land. I also believe that we need many more properly-done greenhouses here.”
— Fatima, 22, Lebanese student
Of course, the students and their trainers are taking all the recommended precautions against COVID-19.
“We cannot afford to be afraid and stay home all the time! As long as we are all wearing our masks, keeping a distance, and washing out hands regularly, we can be out on the field and getting things done.”
The trainer, Mahmoud Al-Muzalzak, is a 31-year-old with a degree in agriculture planning. He worked in the Ministry of Agriculture for two years, before moving to the Gulf to earn a higher salary designing public gardens. Like many young professionals, when Mahmoud returned to Lebanon he struggled with unemployment for a time.
“Today, I work as an agricultural trainer with Anera. I arrived at this neglected and poor piece of land with a group of students and we made it our mission to bring it back to life!”
Mahmoud and his students prepared the land for planting. They spent days removing stones, clearing weeds, tilling the soil and creating a path to the main road. Now they have finished installing the greenhouses and planted tomatoes and cucumbers, with more vegetable crops to follow.
The students worked with sanitation and plumbing experts to set up an irrigation network across the 2,000-square-meter plot of land.
“This is a very important project in a very critical time. Lebanon needs more greenhouses, as well as educated young experts in agriculture. They are the county’s biggest asset! Our government needs to integrate such programs into our agricultural sector. A big thank you to Anera and UNICEF for this opportunity.”
Anera is implementing this course with the support of UNICEF, and in collaboration with Al Ta’alof Association which provided the land.