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

Canopy, an NGO, commits to sustainability by targeting the marketplace to mitigate non-green practices. Canopy works with businesses, fashion brands, book publishers, magazine publishers, newspaper publishers and printers to protect the earth’s forests and fragile ecosystems.

CanopyStyle pledges to protect the earth’s ancient and endangered forests from supply chains. It’s “Fashion Loved by Forest” campaign unites prestigious clothing companies to support Canopy’s mission of eliminating environmentally destructive materials from fashion production.

Among the fashion brands devoted to reducing their ecological footprint are Inditex/Zara, Levi Strauss & Co., Quiksilver, Patagonia, Stella McCartney, prAna, Aritzia, Portico/Under the Canopy, H&M, Marks & Spencer, lululemon Athletica, EILEEN FISHER, loomstate, Stanley &Stella, ASOS and G-Star RAW.

  1. H&M protects forests by choosing greener fabrics and by turning to alternate fiber sources. It’s goal is to avoid sourcing any materials from endangered sources by 2017. With the Forest Stewardship Council, it makes sure it uses green materials. H&M is also working to build transparency in its supply chains.
  2. Lululemon Athletica avoids using raw metals like tin, tantalum, tungsten or gold and signed the Responsible Sourcing Network’s’ Cotton Pledge to end forced child and adult labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton harvesting. The company partners with DOWNLITE, a company that provides ethically treated down products. It also prides itself on buying wool from transparent, ethical and green vendors.
  3. Stella McCartney does not use viscose in production or fibers from forested areas. It is also trying to strengthen transparency in its supply chains.
  4. EILEEN FISHER’s sustainable fibers collection uses “natural, recycled, and high-tech fibers in its eco collection.” It opts for Tencel over viscose, which is more traceable, more responsible, less-processed, less-energy intensive, less chemical-intensive and less toxic. According to EILEEN FISHER, Tencel is made from sustainably harvested trees, and its closed-loop production means that 99.5 percent of chemicals used in wood pulp-fiber converting are reused.
  5. Patagonia uses an array of ethical and green materials. It uses PVC and phthalate-free inks for T-shirts, 100 percent traceable down insulation, Forest Stewardship Council-certified fibers and chlorine-free wool. Patagonia’s supply chain is extremely transparent, evident in its published reports: public factory list, factory scoring system, principles of fair labor and responsible sourcing, workplace code of conduct, social responsibility benchmarks, paper policy, water footprint, and packaging and merchandising policy.
  6. Aritzia’s Social & Environmental Responsibility (SER) team takes care of protecting its planet, customers and workplace teams. It helps the environment by cutting back on paper in printing and dining, conferencing and packaging. It uses tech to override paper-based systems and also participates in donating extra fabrics to women and children in Yunnan, China. The program, in alliance with Eco Village of Hope and HANDA Rehabilitation and Welfare Association, works to train communities on how to sew beautiful clothing. Aritzia also donates funds that, so far, have provided 130 hygiene packages, 25 sewing kits and 15 electric sewing machines.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Canopy Planet, Canopy Style 1, Canopy Style 2, H&M, Lulu Lemon, Stella McCartney, Patagonia, Aritzia