Between the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis, the Lebanese return to the land

Lebanese director Michel Zarazir is one of those celebrities who return to earth to soften the effects of the economic crisis, May 2020. REUTERS / Mohamed Azakir

Text by: Paul Khalifeh Follow

In a column signed in the Washington Post on May 20, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab warns of a major food crisis in Lebanon. The country, which imports 85% of its needs, is hit by the worst economic and financial crisis in its history, which manifests itself in particular by a shortage of foreign currency limiting its capacity to finance its imports. Due to the steep rise in prices and containment, the return to the land has become one of the big trends in Lebanon.


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From our correspondent in Beirut, Paul Khalifeh

More than a trend, it is a real phenomenon. Fear of the future, rising food prices, eroding purchasing power, have pushed many Lebanese to plant and grow fruits and vegetables.

At the same time, the confinement caused an exodus from the city to the villages, the opportunity for tens of thousands of families to reconnect with the land. A bond broken for sometimes generations.

This phenomenon is not limited only to rural areas. Even in cities, locals cultivate their gardens, or plant on their balconies or roofs. In supermarkets, the gardening departments have never been so crowded. Several nursery gardeners interviewed by RFI said they had sold, on the last three months, on average five times more plants and seeds than in previous years.

Encouragement from the authorities but no national plan

The Prime Minister's warning reflects the authorities' concern. The government has taken steps to encourage and assist the Lebanese to exploit their long abandoned lands. At the end of March, the Minister of Agriculture called on farmers and the Lebanese who own a garden to cultivate it to guarantee the country's food security as much as possible. Some municipalities have also identified abandoned or unexploited land to cultivate wheat, since Lebanon imports almost 100% of this commodity.

However, there is still no real national plan to support and develop agriculture, which only accounted for 3.5% of GDP last year. The Parliament voted last week an envelope equivalent to 100 million euros to support the productive economy, especially agriculture and industry. However, it will take time for the first results to appear.

Citizen and associative initiatives

NGOs and associations active in the field of agriculture and rural development have been on the rise lately. Awareness and training campaigns on the culture of the land are organized in the villages. They are sometimes accompanied by free distribution of plants and seeds.

Many initiatives have also emerged with the same objective. One of them was launched by the famous director Nadine Labaki and many partners engaged in sustainable agriculture and the environment. A video aimed at encouraging urban agriculture is circulating on social networks and on local media. We see celebrities and locals growing plants and vegetables on their roofs or balconies.

Super happy to be sharing this film # زرّيعة_قلبي
the journey of crafting this project was something else because of my dearest @NadineLabaki the hours and hours of FaceTime are PRICELESS, thank you for being who you are, and let's plant <3 (watch in full on ig: nadinelabaki) ❤️🌿

  Elie Fahed (@Elie_Fahed) May 16, 2020

Read also: Lebanon, bloodless, resists the coronavirus pandemic

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  • Lebanon
  • Economic crisis
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