Improving livelihoods among farmers and refugees in Lebanon

January 10, 2019
Published by
ICARDA Communication Team
Water reservoir for drip-irrigated orchards in Qabb Elias
Water reservoir for drip-irrigated orchards in Qabb Elias

ICARDA and partners in Lebanon to support communities hosting Syrian refugees

Qabb Elias in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley is one of many rural areas which has seen a significant refugee influx from neighboring Syria since conflict broke out in 2011. This is where ICARDA is currently implementing a water supply and management project to support host communities, in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and national partners, through funding from the Government of Japan. Hosting the displaced peoples has stretched resources and led to massive demands for access to basic services. With a population of around 4.5 million people, Lebanon is currently also home to an additional nearly one million UNHCR-registered refugees from Syria, as well as some 450,000 Palestinian refugees registered by UNRWA.

New farming technologies and improved crop varieties

The project “Comprehensive Agricultural Livelihood Support for Refugee Host Communities” has enabled the lining of canals, installing of modern irrigation systems and improving rainfed agriculture. This has been essential to enhance efficiency and productivity of irrigated farmlands and introducing improved seed varieties and new agricultural practices suitable for cereal-based systems.

Activities are implemented in collaboration with the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI), the Municipality of Qabb Elias, and the Lebanese Ministry of Energy and Water. During December 2018, the Ambassador of Japan to Lebanon, along with the Mayer of Qabb Elias, the UNDP representative, and ICARDA and LARI representatives, visited the project sites in Beqaa Valley. The delegation also joined a workshop facilitated by ICARDA for 30 farmers and technicians on how to improve irrigation management and practices for higher agricultural production and efficiency.

Coping with water scarcity and inefficiency

Lebanon’s agricultural sector is one of the most important due to its contribution to the local economy and food security. Farming remains the livelihood of the majority of the population and is a critical source of income for displaced persons living in rural areas of the country.

One of the key challenges in the agricultural sector is the severe water scarcity which is compounded by the demand for irrigation water to meet the food demand. The use of old earthen irrigation canals and highly inefficient irrigation systems are among the main reasons for water losses and inequitable water resource allocation, which is further exacerbated by precipitation variability and drought.

Scaling out to more beneficiaries

Around 1,000 Lebanese farmers and 5,000 Syrian casual agricultural workers employed by the farmers in Qabb Elias, are estimated to benefit from improved access to irrigation water and new agricultural practices. The project promotes the participation of farmers, both men and women, in the capacity building programme. Also, the construction of water structures creates short-term employment opportunities for both vulnerable local Lebanese and Syrian workers.

Halfway into the project that runs till mid-2019, significant improvement and benefit to rural livelihoods in Qabb Elias has been recorded. ICARDA and its partners, encouraged by the Government of Japan funding the project, are therefore now exploring the possibility to further scale out similar technologies and training programs to more farmers and other areas of Lebanon.

For more information about ICARDA in Lebanon, please contact Country Manager Hassan Machlab: [email protected]