“After 30 years of living and working in Beirut, I am now restoring our family home in Jezzine to come back and live here for good,” said Salim Slim, a young emerging farmer who found an opportunity in apple farming amid the growing economic challenges in Lebanon.
UNDP’s support to the farmers of Jezzine was initiated in 2018 in the form of an integrated intervention that included the establishment of an apple sorting facility, cold storage rooms, and an irrigation lake, derived from the priorities identified by the local community. This comprehensive infrastructure not only strengthened the capacity of farmers in Jezzine and enhanced participation and job creation, but it also mitigated the impacts of the unforeseen socio-economic challenges of today and equipped farmers to overcome them and become catalysts of improvement and profitability.
Using the apple sorting facility and cold storage rooms established and equipped by UNDP in partnership with the UK, the farmers are reaping what was sown and have exported, for the very first time, more than 3000 sorted apple boxes from Jezzine. In a country which relies heavily on imports, Jezzine is on a promising path to becoming a key contributor to apple exports. Youth are also benefiting from job opportunities at the facility while farmers rebuild a sustainable agricultural sector as a main source of livelihood.
“I haven't stopped receiving calls from all over the world from people requesting to order our apples to the extent where we did not have enough supply to meet the demand,” expressed Jihad el Asmar, head of Jezzine’s Agricultural Cooperative. “The facility has greatly improved our marketability and standards of production.”
As farmers face a limited supply of water for their agricultural production, UNDP’s integrated intervention also included the establishment of the Souwan Lake. This 14,000m3 lake, built in partnership with Germany through KfW, provides farmers with efficient irrigation means to grow apples and plant their lands using modern and sustainable techniques.
“With the availability of water for irrigation, I am finally able to replant my grandfather‘s land using modern agricultural techniques that improve quality and produce a diverse range of apple varieties,” Salim added.
UNDP’s holistic intervention motivates farmers of Jezzine to dedicate all their efforts towards the upcoming harvesting seasons and inspired the youth of the area to preserve and hold on to their ancestors’ lands - the gifts that keep on giving!
“Through the facility and complete network established, you held the hands of young people and encouraged them to return to their lands, be active, and find a spark of hope in these dark days,” Salim said.