Through the relief agency ACTED International, Magnus Wolfe Murray, spent several weeks visiting Lebanon, observing and assessing the situation in order to give recommendations on improving local resilience, as well as designing a programme for an EU funding proposal. The project responds to an EU call for proposals to address food security and livelihoods which are both stressed in Northern Lebanon where the Syrian war has cut off traditional markets. This, combined with a huge influx of refugees, has made the situation very difficult and social tensions are high. The maximum budget for this call is one million euros.
Based on local research, he found that the lack of water is the leading cause for low investment in agriculture, while there are few other jobs around. There is reasonably good rainfall at around 700mm / year and the main problem are the denuded landscapes that are unable to hold water.
A proposal was written with collaboration from Blueprint member. The approved proposal is to select an area of around 70 hectares to showcase a series of water retention landscape projects. Alongside this, to create examples of ecological agriculture that can offer high returns on investment (higher than conventional agriculture) including benefits of high water retention farming, possibly some processing of oils or essences for export, fisheries, and other "value-added" micro-businesses. A third and final output is the development of household gardens for up to 350 families, using rainwater collection, vertical gardens (walls and cylinders) that offer higher productivity in small spaces. To support these, low-cost biogas plants were proposed as a good way to develop high quality slurry for fertilizer inputs.
Berndt Müller and Christoph Ulbig from Tamera helped a lot in developing the water retention landscape aspect of the proposal, TH Culhane and Solar Cities for biogas elements and a partnership with the local Permaculture group SOILS Lebanon was suggested as experts for the household gardens elements. For the water retention part of the proposal, besides using their own experience in South Portugal, Bernd and Christoph also used data from WOCAT, a research platform evaluating hundreds of restoration examples, including China's Loess plateau documented by John D. Liu. Funding has now been successful, and we are now waiting for the bids for project implementation. Tamera, Solar Cities and local actors can deliver capacity building programmes on-site and off-site.
SOILS Lebanon, they have been running permaculture design certificates, bee keeping courses and have developed a sustainable agriculture manual in Arabic with Mercy Corps.
Below you can download the exploratory presentation about this project.