Helvetas is helping farming families in crisis-stricken Lebanon to continue to supply the country with food while adopting more sustainable agricultural practices. This includes setting up a market in Beirut so that farmers can sell their produce directly to an increasingly vulnerable population, thereby supporting the country’s food security.
Project NameFSSF – Strengthening food security for poor and very poor households in Lebanon
Project Phase2021 to 2022
Thematic focusFood & Nutrition
Auxiliary products and training in sustainable agriculture
With the devaluation of the Lebanese pound and rampant inflation, many farming families can no longer afford fertilizers, pesticides, gas and other inputs. These products are all imported and paid for in US dollars. Helvetas is supporting small farms in the Mount Lebanon and Beqaa Valley regions to the east of Beirut by supplying them with auxiliary products, seeds and compost so that they can maintain their production and make a contribution to food security in the country. The farmers also receive training through a local partner organization, combined with personalized monitoring to help them make the transition to a more sustainable agricultural model. The know-how they acquire and these innovations enable the farmers to significantly reduce their use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, helping them be independent of imports while maintaining good yields of healthy fruit and vegetables.
A direct supply chain from farming families...
Helvetas has established a weekly market in Beirut so that farming families can sell their fruit and vegetables without relying on the intermediaries who play a dominant role in Lebanese agriculture. The market was inaugurated in 2022, and the produce sold there is cheaper than in nearby shops. This space makes farmers more independent, while also giving them insights on what consumers are looking for. More than anything, though, it increases their profit margin, which helps them to improve their living conditions.
…to the people of Beirut
The market is held in one of the neighborhoods that suffered from the explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020. The explosion killed over 200 people, caused enormous damage and made life even harder for a local population already reeling from years of economic crisis. Immediately after the disaster, Helvetas distributed food parcels to the most vulnerable communities in the vicinity of the port. After a temporary period during which Helvetas purchased supplies from local farmers for distribution by a partner organization, the new market started to play its role. This commerce space makes healthy, affordable food available to people in the parts of town affected by the explosion and improves their food security.
In addition to the market, farmers also supply a social grocery in Beirut. It is run like a cooperative, with the idea being that it sells food at cost so that as many people as possible can benefit. Helvetas is currently studying other sales channels.
Activities for children from vulnerable families
The project also has a psychological and social component. During the summer holidays, 60 children from particularly vulnerable Beirut families were able to take part in workshops organized during market time and led by farmers and trainers from Helvetas’ partner organization. The children learned how to plant a plant and take care of it. Thirty children were also able to visit farms operating on the principles of sustainable agriculture. Many of these children have been living in very precarious conditions since the port explosion, and these free activities are their only affordable source of entertainment.