lebanonLebanon is located in Western Asia and is also considered as a middle-eastern country due to its main language being Arabic and its involvement in the regional politics. French language is still spoken in some circles but the English language is gaining popularity. The country enjoys a coastline and border of about 140 miles on the Mediterranean Sea to the west, and attracts millions of tourists due to places of historical interest and scenic landscape. Its capital is Beirut, sprawled beautifully on the hills alongside the coast. In the absence of a proper census since 1936, the population of Lebanon was estimated to be 4,125,247 in July 2010. 

Context

Context

Lebanon is divided into six governorates (mohafzaat) ‎), which are subdivided into 26 districts (cazas). The districts are sub-divided into several municipalities, and each municipality comprises several cities or/or villages. The country has typical Mediterranean climate. It rains during the winter season, and it is hot and humid during the summer. Higher mountains and cities see substantial snow during the winter season. 

In spite of having a large suitable area for cultivation, adequate water sources, favorable micro-climates and fertile soils, the agriculture of Lebanon has not been fully exploited. A few years back, the country’s annual food bill amounted to US$1,237 million, and total agro-food exports to US$175 million. The agriculture sector employs around 15 percent of the active workforce and contributes about seven percent to the GDP. Out of the total about 247,000 hectares (Ha) annually cultivated land, about 104,000 Ha are irrigated and the rest is rain-fed. About 137,000 Ha are abandoned land and about 118,000 Ha are under forest or pastures. The sector consumes 64 percent of available water supply. Wheat and barley are main crops while fruits include apple, grapes, strawberries and citrus. Tobacco and figs are grown in the south, citrus fruits and bananas along the coast, olives in the north and around Shouf Mountains, and fruits and vegetables in the Beqa’a Valley where hashish is also grown. Farmers also rear livestock and small ruminants like sheep. The country’s agro-industry produces a wide variety of products. 

Based on the Census of Agriculture in Lebanon done in 1999, the total number of farmers in Lebanon was 194,829. Out of this, 18,000 farmers were considered as large, with a farm size larger than 12 hectares each. About 25,000 farmers were rated as medium, holding farms between 6 and 12 Ha each. The remaining farmers, about 151,829, were categorized as small and subsistence farmers. Almost all the farmers in all categories were involved in other non-farm occupations to supplement their income. Also, deforestation has been a major issue in Lebanon. In 2010, the Ministry of Environment set a 10-year plan, funded by USAID, to increase national forest coverage by 20%. 

The 15-year civil war that started in 1975 destroyed most public institutions, including agricultural extension services, as well as infrastructure. While the country was busy in active re-construction and development activities, recent war with Israel, and then the local and regional political developments broke the momentum. In the absence of an effective extension service, Lebanon has been facing the problem of excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers by growers due to wrong advice by input sellers. Chemical residues have been detected on several fruits, and the underground water has been polluted constituting hazards to human and animals’ health not to mention casting a negative impact on exports. The role of private sector is has been steadily increasing in organic farming and high-value agricultural produce but not yet in any big way. Following the recommendations of an FAO project, extension services of Lebanon are being re-structured in order to follow a pluralistic and demand-driven pattern. 

Acknowledgements 

  • Authored by M. Kalim Qamar (August 2012) 
  • Edited by Burton E. Swanson

 

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