Feature: Agricultural project in Lebanon's Baalbek saves hundreds from unemployment

2021-05-31 11:36:16 GMT2021-05-31 19:36:16(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

BEIRUT, May 31 (Xinhua) -- The "Agricultural Village," a project located in the plain of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon, helps alleviating the suffering of hundreds of people by providing job opportunities amid the current economic crisis.

Hundreds of workers, including technicians, engineers, and farmers, arrive in the project site every morning to work in various fields, each according to their specialization.

The project, the first of its kind in Lebanon, was launched on a small plot of land as a plantation that uses organic fertilizers to grow seedlings for distribution among farmers at cost prices.

Rami Lakkis, supervisor of the project, told Xinhua that the village has expanded to include additional services such as agricultural training, a department for marketing the produce, a restaurant and cafe, and an agricultural academy.

The idea of establishing an agricultural village in the plain of Baalbek came up two years ago with the help of a large group of activists who work with the Lebanese Association for Studies and Training.

Lakkis said that the absence of official agricultural and industrial strategies prompted civil society organizations to explore solutions that would reduce the burden on farmers by helping them reduce the cost of production, market their produce and raise their income.

The project, which adopts a multi-tasking approach, expanded from 10,000 square meters to 37,000 square meters, with parts of the area being used for plastic tents, training and research centers, and experiment and production fields.

Lakkis noted that the Agricultural Village has succeeded greatly in providing seedlings, training and guidance to farmers, and in coordinating joint agricultural activities by providing processing tools for agricultural products such as tomato paste, various types of jams, and wine.

"We have also succeeded in securing financial support for more than 250 families, valued at 250,000 euros ... we have provided job opportunities for 100 permanent employees, 400 part-time agricultural workers and 15 agricultural engineers," he said.

Wassim el-Sheikh, a farmer in his 40s, said he is happy that he got a job at the village amid the current harsh living conditions.

Ahmed Al-Khalif, a cleaner employee, said that he found a permanent job at the village, which will enable him to support his family.

For his part, Mohammad Borji who is in charge of plantations at the village, explained that plantations operate throughout the year, and provide various types of seedlings at cost prices to farmers, whereby over 1.5 million seedlings are distributed in each agricultural season.

Ali Hammoud, director of the marketing department of the village, told Xinhua that the success of the various projects is now attracting a big number of farmers, visitors and merchants, pointing out that the village's production of vegetables and grains is being reserved in advance.

Agriculture plays an important role in Lebanon's economy as it contributes to 7 percent of the country's GDP, and secures income for about 15 percent of the population. Enditem