Inflammation and stories on Lebanon

Toward Sustainable Agriculture in LebanonThe famous concept of permaculture, developed first in 1978 by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, has recently been integrated into the Lebanese agricultural system, particularly in the rural areas of the country. Permaculture is a design science aiming to combine knowledge and culture with habitats and human agricultural systems. It utilizes the principles of ecology and anthropology to ensure the ethical reproduction of the diversity, resilience and uniqueness of natural ecosystems.

Through the application of these ethical principles in their daily lives, people gradually transform into productive producers rather than simply being passive and dependent consumers. Therefore, permaculture not only unifies local communities through the development of teamwork skills and resilience, but also paves the way to a more sustainable agricultural system and environmentally friendly future.

The rural areas of Lebanon implemented permaculture in 2014, after countryside residents received training and workshops organized by the SOILS: Permaculture Association Lebanon. With a goal of initiating the creation of sustainable agriculture in Lebanon, Rita Khawand, a former Lebanese actress, co-founded the SOILS organization after winning a social entrepreneurship competition led by environmental and sanitation based non-governmental organizations in her hometown. According to Khawand, Lebanon needs such a creative process, as it helps humans in “respecting nature and man.”

Alongside Khawand’s vision, Fadi Kanso, a Lebanese agricultural scientist, joined the SOILS community following the completion of his education in Germany to invest in permaculture with the aim of implementing sustainable agriculture in Lebanon. Kanso highlighted that the main problem in Lebanon is the farmers’ dependence on monoculture, a tendency that seemed to be catastrophic during severe climate shifts where some people witnessed huge financial losses as they relied only on a single crop species.

Kanso also stressed the negative impact of the overwhelming amount of pesticides administered by the farmers in the country, as it led to a reduction in crop fertility by a yearly rate of 15 percent. Moreover, these toxic chemicals also manifest adverse effects through their contribution to the development of health problems, such as minimizing the levels of iron and magnesium in the body which are absorbed from the consumption of certain types of fruits and vegetables.

One of the main advantages of the SOILS organization’s permaculture project in Lebanon is its role in achieving food security for refugees through manuals designed to help vulnerable populations create their own microgardens, and thus have access to the necessary food products. Permaculture can eventually aid the government with the burden of limited resources, which has become a significant concern following the Syrian war crisis and the immigration of millions of Syrian citizens to Lebanon.

Rita Khawand and the SOILS community are striving to transform Lebanon from an underdeveloped non-environmentally friendly community to a developed country with a sustainable agricultural system by uniting entire regions to fight for a better and improved future. From the Bekaa region in the north to the village of Saidoun in the south, the dissemination of permaculture is becoming a national success as local residents indulge themselves in Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) courses and learn how to overcome all financial and environmental challenges.

Despite the numerous fallbacks witnessed during the past few years, the positive impact of permaculture has created a sense of optimism among Lebanese citizens in their ability to succeed in the improvement of their country and their contribution in the development of sustainable agriculture in Lebanon.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in LebanonThe country of Lebanon has experienced years of domestic instability and conflict. However, prior to the civil war that began in 1975, the former French colony was a luxurious tourist destination. Its capital, Beirut, was commonly known as the Paris of the Middle East. With the significant rebuilding of infrastructure in Lebanon, many hope that Beirut may once again be in the international spotlight.

Rebuilding Infrastructure in Lebanon

Following the 2005 peace agreement, Lebanon’s economy grew at an extraordinarily fast rate for a number of years. Growth exceeded 8 percent within a four-year period, from 2007 to 2010. However, even at that time, the country’s needs were immense.

Lebanon’s current gross domestic product is $47 billion, yet the 2010 estimate of necessary spending on infrastructure in Lebanon topped $20 billion. At that time, one government minister suggested that the most valuable development efforts would include projects to connect areas outside the capital with Beirut and the completion of a transportation corridor across the country’s north-south axis.

A 2013 report detailed the results of one $30 million program to repair and enhance infrastructure in Lebanon. Coordinated through the World Bank, the program resulted in the rehabilitation of 175 kilometers of roads as well as reconstruction of 17 public buildings. It benefitted an estimated 178 municipalities across the country.

Recent Developments

More recently, the country’s improved trajectory has been somewhat obstructed by the civil war in neighboring Syria. Lebanon has hosted the largest number of refugees from that conflict and this burden has strained the country’s resources.

As a result, economic growth has also slowed. Fortunately, growth has not turned negative, and some infrastructure projects continue as the international community addresses the refugee crisis. The United Nations Development Programme and the U.S. Agency for International Development each have numerous ongoing projects in Lebanon. Additionally, international travelers are again recognizing Lebanon as a desirable vacation destination.

Improved stability and rebuilding have the potential to return Lebanon to its former status as an international hub. Such an outcome would greatly improve the lives of its six million citizens. It could also make this Mediterranean nation, with historical ties to both Europe and the Arab world, a valuable trading partner in future years.

– Paul Robertson

Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in LebanonThe country of Lebanon sits on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered by Israel to the south, Syria to the west and Turkey to the north. Lebanon’s tumultuous history with its neighbors has hindered its economic growth and recovery. The last two decades have seen Lebanon wrapped up in wars and invasions from its neighbors.

Since 2011, over one million refugees from the Syrian Civil War have registered with the Lebanese government. These refugees live in camps, supported by the U.N., among the Lebanese population in major cities. The influx of one million people in six years has severely strained the economy of a country of only six million. A report by the World Bank claims that this influx has limited credit access in Lebanon.

Wars, occupations and bombardments have damaged Lebanon’s infrastructure. Although much of the damage was done to Lebanese cities, the countryside was not untouched. Any damaged farmland can significantly hurt credit access in Lebanon. Much of the rural population lives in poverty and already had difficulty gaining access to credit before the war in 2006; damaged fields and lower crop yields only made this more difficult.

To increase credit access in Lebanon, specifically to rural farmers, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) launched a program targeting these farmers, called the Hilly Areas Sustainable Agricultural Development Project (HASAD). By organizing crop rotations, water access and soil conservation, the project aims to increase the productivity of the farmers. An increase in crop yield means higher profits for the farmers, which could, in turn, increase their access to credit.

Credit access in Lebanon is much easier to gain in urban areas, where more of the country’s wealth is located. After 16 years of civil war (1975-1990), people found that the banks could not offer sufficient credit. Kalafata was founded in 2000 to assist banks and help small businesses gain credit access in Lebanon. The organization is supported by the European Union, the World Bank and the Lebanese government.

Since the beginning of the refugee crisis, Lebanon’s economy has only grown by one to two percent each year. The refugees have increased the amount of available labor, but many Lebanese blame them for taking their jobs. This increase in labor could potentially help small businesses boom, which will hopefully increase the growth of the Lebanese economy.

Economic growth and credit access in Lebanon will continue to be hindered by the instability of the region. Unfortunately, regional stability does not look to be anywhere in sight. Recently the Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad al-Harir stepped down from power, claiming he feared for his life. This has sparked outrage from the Presidents of Lebanon and Iran. Both parties claim that this is interference from Saudi Arabia. The leader of Hezbollah has decried that this is an act of war against Lebanon.

Most recently, President Donald Trump declared that the United States will move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, increasing tensions in the Middle Eastern region and possibly hindering the further development of nations like Lebanon. Lebanon’s greatest hope for its future lies in itself and how it will continue to handle the refugee crisis. Perhaps allowing refugees access to work opportunities and credit in Lebanon will give the nation’s economy the boost it needs.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr

Development Projects in LebanonLebanon is a small country bordered by the countries Israel and Syria. Since gaining its independence in 1943, Lebanon has experienced turmoil within the country. This includes a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990, Syrian military occupation from 1976 to 2005, continued fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia and a short-lived war in 2006. In more recent times, over one million registered Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War. As a result of these events, numerous organizations have been working within Lebanon to address a wide variety of concerns and challenges. Below are five noteworthy development projects in Lebanon that are currently being implemented.

The Lebanon Host Communities Support Programme (LHSP)

The LHSP was created in 2012 under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in response to the Syrian Civil War and in joint cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs. The LHSP works in communities where there is a high risk of tension and hostility due to the high numbers of Syrian refugees resettling in these communities. The total budget is over $39 million, with top donors including Denmark, Ecuador and Italy. The LHSP aims to facilitate conflict resolution, create peaceful coexistence and stability and maintain livelihoods and services, making this project a standout in terms of noteworthy development projects in Lebanon.

The Water Supply Augmentation Project of Lebanon

This project, approved in 2014 and projected to end in 2024, is funded by the World Bank and aims to increase the available water supply to the greater Beirut and Mount Lebanon regions. This project includes various components such as financing and constructing the Bisri Dam, constructing pipelines to the already existing Joun reservoir and expanding the Ouardaniyeh water treatment plant. The total estimated cost of this project is $617 million.

Project Supporting Economic and Social Fund for Development (ESFD)

Another example of development projects in Lebanon is the ESFD, which is also a UNDP affiliated project. It was created in 2011 to improve employment and community development opportunities in Lebanon. Due to UNDP’s strong partnerships with local authorities and actors in various parts of the country, this project will support ESFD in working in poorer regions of Lebanon to assist in job creation and community outreach programs. The sole donor of this project is the Lebanese Council for Development, providing a total of over $12 million to this project.

Lebanon Country Programming Framework (CPF)

The CPF, which was started in 2016, aims to address various issues identified in the Ministry of Agriculture Strategy of 2015-2019 and the Food Security Strategic Response Plan of 2016. This project focuses exclusively on seven distinct areas which include increasing food security in vulnerable communities, improving food sanitation and safety, strengthening reliable nutrition information systems, providing assistance to develop sustainable agricultural practices, implementing sustainable management of land, establishing an efficient agricultural statistics system and promoting the increase of crop value chains.

Sports for Development Project

Launched in 2013, this project is a joint collaboration between the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and HOOPS Club, with the objective of fostering communication between Syrian refugees and Lebanese communities. This project has been implemented in Beirut, Akkar, Baalbek and Sour, where there has been a large influx of Syrian refugee families. This project brings together young people from both communities to encourage interaction and the free exchange of ideas and thoughts. Due to the Syrian Civil War, many Syrian refugee children lost their close network of friends and this project helps to foster friendship and establish harmony between the two communities.

Although Lebanon has experienced a broad range of events and political turmoil in just the last 50 years, there are numerous actors, institutions and organizations that are working to improve the situation in Lebanon. Although these projects listed are noteworthy development projects in Lebanon, they are not alone in working to secure a better and brighter future for Lebanese citizens and those that have just started calling Lebanon their home.

Miho Kitamura

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in LebanonIt may not be evident walking down the crowded streets of Beirut, but according to the U.N. Development Programme, more than one in four citizens in Lebanon are currently living in poverty. What is even more shocking is that this number has climbed nearly 66 percent since 2011.

Fortunately, there are many organizations with missions working on human rights in Lebanon to alleviate not only the causes, but the symptoms of poverty. Two of these organizations include the Insan Association and KAFA Enough Violence and Exploitation (KAFA).

The Insan Association works with all marginalized groups in Lebanon, including asylum-seekers and migrant workers. Its mission is to promote human rights in Lebanon through being a voice for individuals who do not have a voice of their own so that they can reach their full socio-economic potential. Insan does this through what is defined on its website as a “scheme consisting of educational, psychosocial, and legal services.”

One way Insan furthers human rights in Lebanon is through the Insan School and Integration Program. The program assists children who have been removed from public schools in Lebanon due to various reasons (including a lack of language ability or psychological or social issues that are not addressed by schools). These programs provide the necessary support for children to integrate back into the public school system. Once they are integrated back, it continues to guide the children until they find a job or enter higher education. These services include providing tutoring or psycho-social support.

KAFA is an NGO dedicated to human rights in Lebanon as well. It achieves this through ensuring a society that is free of discrimination against women and children. KAFA (meaning “enough”) supports its mission through introducing new laws and reforming existing ones and conducting research. It also provides training to empower women and children who have been victims of violence. Its focus is on family violence, trafficking of women, child protection, and sexual abuse cases.

One successful program through KAFA includes the “Citadel of Protection” training. Since 2014, there has been training given to more than 300 service providers living in the area of Bekaa along with 1275 children, 400 teenagers and 935 caregivers. It includes information on children’s sexual development, children’s rights and their protection from gender-based violence which includes early marriage and sexual abuse.

It is organizations like these that will hopefully continue providing services that assist human rights in Lebanon. In these ways, these organizations can get to the root causes of poverty instead of focusing on simply the symptoms.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

Organizations That Help People In Lebanon
With crises come many people willing to help. The result of the war in Lebanon borders has brought hard times, leaving Lebanon with a high amount of refugees. Tending to these refugees is the focus of many organizations and foreign aid. The response to the crisis has been addressed with the help of international organizations.

American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) addresses the development and needs of communities in Palestine and Lebanon. ANERA is doing its part to help people in Lebanon by helping the region become more self-sufficient. Its goal is to ensure its projects secure long-term viability.

Today, ANERA is responding to the needs of Syrian refugees with programs. These programs have been helping people in Lebanon cope with their displacement. They are helping them build better futures, providing math and literacy education, making safe schools. Programs are teaching job skills and sports, as well as providing medicines, treatments and awareness.

Oxfam is an international confederation of 20 organizations determined to change the world. Oxfam works to find ways to help people lift themselves out of poverty. With a six-factor strategy, Oxfam seeks to overcome poverty by promoting fundamental rights and empowering women to drive human development. Also, when disaster strikes, Oxfam is present, working to secure global food supplies, and Oxfam enables access to services such as health and education.

Today, Oxfam has worked with others to address governance issues, provide safe water, and worked towards protection in the region, enabling women to take on more leadership roles in the community.

Along with these well-known organizations, many others are working to help people in Lebanon. Not only is aid possible through these organizations, but ordinary citizens may also help as well by supporting them. Donating to help citizens in Lebanon is the number one way to help, and it is the very action that enables these organizations to do these extraordinary acts on the ground.

Brandi Gomez
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Lebanon
The poverty rate in Lebanon is increasing, but so is the GDP, although not to its full potential, according to the World Bank. The influx of refugees has caused some challenges to the country’s GDP and strain public finances. But Lebanon remains one of the wealthiest economies in the South Mediterranean region.

Lebanon is a free market economy that relies on service-oriented businesses such as banking and tourism for its income. A civil war in Lebanon from 1975-1990 slowed economic progress. In the years that followed, Lebanon’s government struggled to maintain its economy which resulted in heavy borrowing in the 1990s. But in the early 2000s, the government made improvements to the economy. Foreign investment still has many restrictions, delays and obstacles, and the main source of income is tourism.

The GDP of Lebanon increased an estimated 1.8% in 2016, improving from the 1.3% increase in 2015. With that said, the influx of Syrian refugees in Lebanon created challenges with the economy. According to independent Lebanese government sources, up to 1.5 million Syrian refugees (equal to a quarter of the population of Lebanon) have taken refuge in Lebanon since 2011.

This influx of people strained public finances, service delivery and the environment in Lebanon. The poverty rate in Lebanon is expected to worsen because of increasing income inequality. About 200,000 Lebanese became impoverished due to the Syrian crisis, adding to the one million already classified as poor. Additionally, another 250,000 to 300,000 people became unemployed.

Even though the Syrian crisis caused the poverty rate in Lebanon to increase, the GDP is also increasing. There need to be some solutions of where and how to take care of refugees, while also distributing money to Lebanese citizens.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

Three of the most major diseases in Lebanon are coronary heart disease, stroke, and hypertension, according to World Life Expectancy data. These ranked first, second and ninth, respectively. All three diseases are types of cardiovascular diseases, meaning that they affect the heart and blood vessels.

Coronary heart disease is defined as the buildup of plaque over time within the arteries. This plaque can rupture and cause blood clots, or it can weaken the arteries so much that it prevents oxygen from flowing through the blood to the heart, causing a heart attack. A stroke occurs with the interruption or reduction of blood flow to the brain, which may result in the death of brain tissue. Hypertension or high blood pressure is when the heart pumps so much blood that too-thin artery walls cannot properly manage it. This can lead to heart disease or stroke if left untreated, as it weakens heart muscles.

Although cardiovascular diseases account for 31 percent of worldwide deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO), these same diseases cause 47 percent of all deaths in Lebanon. According to World Life Expectancy, hypertension leads to 2.89 percent of deaths in Lebanon, while strokes cause 10.43 percent. Coronary heart disease itself results in 34.41 percent of all deaths in Lebanon.

One of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease is smoking, which damages blood vessels and other structures of the heart. According to World Life Expectancy data, Lebanon ranks eighth in the world for smoking, which puts its residents at greater risk for developing the major diseases in Lebanon.

The good news is that, in 2014, the Lebanese government partnered with the WHO and began working to prevent smoking in the country. Together they created laws against smoking in public places such as universities, restaurants and hospitals and established a fine for breaking these laws. According to the WHO, Lebanon also removed tobacco advertisements, put warning labels on packages and began a recovery program for smokers to help combat smoking and prevent cardiovascular diseases.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

For citizens, healthcare in Lebanon has become hard to come by. Most people in the country struggle to afford access to health care, despite government attempts at regulating expenses. Now, due to the recent influx of Syrian refugees, access for anyone in Lebanon has become a luxury. Here are the three things you need to know about healthcare in Lebanon.

Three Facts About Healthcare in Lebanon

  1. Healthcare is increasingly becoming scarce: Lebanon is a smaller country with a population of 3.7 million. Most live in the capital city of Beirut. Pricing is a major issue in the country’s healthcare system. The high prices have left about 50 percent of the nation uninsured from any type of health coverage.Other factors, such as a serious lack of medical supplies, have affected citizens healthcare in Lebanon. Hospitals have been reported denying access to those who lack insurance. This has to do with the shortages of hospital beds, medicine and staff. In an interview with, physician Kamal Mohanna stated, “we have 7,000 nurses in Lebanon, but we need 29,000.”
  2. Syrian refugees have put a strain on resources: Currently, 1.5 million Syrian refugees have entered Lebanon. These refugees find themselves sitting in refugee camps where health hazards are a daily occurrence. The influx of people has affected the already crippling inability to access healthcare in Lebanon, affecting both citizens and refugees.The number of families nears hospitals has also increased by 1,400 percent. The refugees themselves are struggling to find health providers and money to pay for said healthcare services. At the beginning of the refugee crisis, due to the increasing strain on medical supplies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) became a free provider of healthcare. Soon after, the influx of aid forced the organization to begin charging patients a two-dollar fee to receive care.The UNHCR has also lowered the percentage of coverage for emergency patients. The commission formerly covered 85 percent of healthcare costs, but now only covers 75 percent.
  3. Government-funded efforts barely help: The Lebanese government has tried to implement new ways for citizens to have access to healthcare. The National Social Security Fund was created to allow all those who work to receive healthcare aid. Funding is dispersed based on a citizen’s income. The fund covers 10 percent of hospital costs, along with 20 percent of medicine and exam costs, while 100 percent of coverage is dispersed to patients who are terminally ill.

According to, “those enrolled with the National Social Security Fund lose their benefits upon retirement or loss of job, or in other words when they need them the most.” This is an example of how hard it is to receive and maintain healthcare coverage in Lebanon.

Maria Rodriguez

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Lebanon
Poverty in Lebanon is caused by various factors. Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Lebanon has seen an influx of refugees, resulting in an increase in poverty, something that has been an issue for quite some time. According to the Nations Encyclopedia, the income gap between social classes has increased over the last 10 years. Both the upper and middle class have seen an increase in their income since 1991, but the rest of the country is not earning much money at all as the income of many has dropped below the poverty line.

OXFAM International, a nonprofit that fights poverty, addresses how the issue of poverty is multidimensional. OXFAM International works to address both the cause and impact of poverty in Lebanon, as well as in over 90 other countries. According to its website, the number of people living under the poverty line in Lebanon has increased by 66 percent since 2011. The World Bank discusses goals for economic improvement in Lebanon, including the creation of new jobs and the installment of an improved education system in order to spark an interest in business related jobs in the country’s youth.

Despite Lebanon’s continued economic struggles and the governmental issues behind them, there is still hope for improving poverty in Lebanon. According to data from the World Bank,  between 1992 and 2014 Lebanon’s GDP grew by an average of 4.4 percent, varying from year to year. The data also addressed the creation of new jobs between 2004 and 2009, when varying amounts of growth was seen, particularly in the trade, service and construction industry. According to the World Bank, 15 percent of the population emigrated from Lebanon in 2010, which is a factor in the economic improvement that the country has seen. This emigration increased employment opportunities and therefore sparked economic growth in the country as a whole.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr