As of May 27, 1,029,779 Syrian refugees were registered and residing in Lebanon, creating a challenging situation in an already unstable country. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO,) a United Nations entity that has been active in Lebanon since 1977, is addressing an aspect of food security in agriculture through an on-going livestock vaccination campaign that addresses the needs of Northern Lebanon’s poor and rural farmers.
Since the on-set of the Syrian crisis, the influx of refugees has put a significant strain on the agricultural sector which is working to provide food security to both local people and refugee families.
In addition to the increase in demand for food and decrease in production due to the pressure from the refugee influx, many farmers in the Bekaa Valley in Northern Lebanon have not had adequate access to veterinary services or necessary animal medicine, feed and fertilizer for their livestock.
Bekaa Valley, one of the poorest areas in Lebanon where agriculture generates around 80 percent of local gross domestic product (GDP), hosts around 60 percent of the UNHCR registered refugees. Since most of the low-income families rely heavily on livestock for food security, an outbreak in disease would not only risk the health of the livestock and people, but also their livelihood.
Due to the conflict and the 250-300 cattle and goats crossing from Syria into Lebanon each day, the FAO began a nationwide vaccination campaign targeting Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) such as foot & mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and ovine rinderpest. Beginning last summer and running through August 2014, it has been largely successful, reaching 70 percent of the livestock in Lebanon so far.
The program not only works to increase the number of sheep, goats and cattle vaccinated against important diseases, but also provides resources to ensure that livestock is adequately nourished and make sure farmers in communities that are hosting large refugee populations are still able to make a living.
As the on-going refugee crisis in Lebanon threatens to draw 170,000 more people into poverty by the end of 2014, it is important that investments continue to be made to promote agricultural growth, one of the most effective ways in reducing poverty. The FAO’s vaccination campaign is one step in securing the livelihoods of rural farmers in Northern Lebanon against potentially devastating livestock diseases.
– Andrea Blinkhorn