Organic agriculture is kicking off in Informal tented settlements in Ersal, hosting around 70,000 Syrian refugees. On February 7, a group of 25 Lebanese and 25 Syrians were awarded certificates following a training program on organic agriculture held in November and December of 2018 for 100 families, including a total of 14 days of training per participant. This training, set up by Amel Association International and in partnership with the World Food Program (WFP) of the U.N and the collective “Buzuruna Juzuruna“, aims to raise awareness on organic farming techniques, through various training sessions (general principles of ecological agriculture, selection and production of seeds at home, manufacture of “homemade” biopesticides, biofertilizers, etc..) while accompanying them in the construction of an organic garden for their family consumption, either in the informal tented settlements in which these families live or near their homes.
Beyond the general interest of organic farming techniques for the environment and health, these traditional methods, long used by Syrian and Lebanese farmers before the development of intensive agriculture, have found a new interest in the context of the Syrian crisis and have emerged as an “organic necessity” according to Lucas Wintrebret, Amel’s project coordinator for this micro-gardening project.
These methods are indeed less water consuming, less expensive and difficult to obtain agricultural raw materials (pesticides, seeds, fertilizers, etc.) and applicable to very small plots. They as well give farmers back their autonomy and allow them to be almost self-sufficient by producing themselves, and with easily accessible products, the raw materials needed to manage the organic garden.
“Thanks to this training, I can now farm without chemicals,” Ahmad said. This 30-year-old Syrian refugee proudly shows us his small garden located in one of Ersal’s informal settlements.
During this project, in addition to the training courses implemented in parallel in Ersal (North Bekaa), Khiam (South Lebanon) and Saadnayel (Bekaa), Amel Association International distributed to each family a selection of seed bags and plants (22 different varieties of vegetables, aromatic and seasonal flowers) produced by the Buzuruna Juzuruna farm in Saadnayel, as well as 5 cans of natural fertilizers and pesticides per family (garlic-chili maceration, nettle or horsetail manure, whey, etc..). A total of 2,500 liters of natural pesticides and more than 6,500 seedlings and seed bags, for the 100 families benefiting from the first training cycle. Successive distributions will take place in spring and summer for these families as well as the next beneficiary families, and support will be provided throughout the year.
The objective of this training is to enable participants to acquire agro-ecological skills in order to improve healthy food supplies for their families, but also to enable them in improving their skills as skilled agricultural workers and thus improve their income.
In total, this project, being implemented as of October 2018 and until September 2019, will support a total of 300 families from Ersal and Khiam (half of them Syrian families and the other half Lebanese families) in the construction of their vegetable gardens and will offer 3 cycles of in-depth training to 102 people at the Saadnayel training center (51 Lebaneses; 51 Syrians).
To mark the occasion, trees were planted in a city park. And then the certificates were distributed in the presence of representatives of Amel Association International and the municipality of Ersal, and ended with a meal shared between participants and partners and a visit to the organic gardens in the settlements.
This article is also available in French.