Under the patronage of His Excellency the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Ghazi Zeaiter, Mada association held the closing ceremony of the European Union-funded project “Improved livelihoods for small-scale farmers in Akkar” in Hrar.
The ceremony was attended by the President of the Agricultural Center in Hrar Taha Mustafa, representing the Minister of Agriculture Ghazi Zaiter, Sheikh Walid Ismail representing Grand Mufti of Akkar Sheikh Zaid Mohamed Bacar Zakaria, Head of the Union of Municipalities of Jurd El-Qaitah Abdul Ilah Zakaria, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in the North, represented by Dr. Hassan Mohamed, Private Sector Development Project Manager at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon Virginie Cossoul, MP Riad Rahal represented by Dr. Ziad Rahal, former MP Wajih Baarini represented by the Head of the municipality of Fneidiq Ahmed Abdo Baarini, head of municipalities, mayors, members of the Mada association, farmers and the media.
“Agriculture in Akkar is a key sector in the economy and in rural development, and since its establishment; Mada has sought sustainable development for local communities. This project is at the centre of the rural and environmental development of the association through the development of the farmers’ capacity,” said Lina Abi Rizk, in the name of the association, after welcoming the attendees.
She also thanked the EU for its support and involvement, and the Ministry of Agriculture, especially the Agriculture Department of Akkar.
Virginie Cossoul, Private Sector Development Project Manager at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon said: “The project is at the heart of what the European Union is eager to achieve in the country – to reduce poverty and to increase the income for rural communities, farmers in the first place.”
Head of the Union of Municipalities of Jurd El-Qaitah, Abdul Ilah Zakaria delivered a speech in which he praised the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Hrar Agricultural Office and stressed on the efforts of the Union of Municipalities in coordination with the concerned official authorities to fight neglect. He said: “We will remain attached to this good land to ensure its sustainability, and we will face all challenges by all means to develop appropriate solutions through strengthening the partnership between official bodies, government institutions, donor countries and institutions and local associations to support the agricultural sector.
The representative of the Minister of Agriculture Taha Al-Mustafa conveyed in his speech the greetings of Mr Ghazi Zeaiter and his wishes for the permanent success of farmers.
“The agricultural sector occupies a prominent place in the economic life cycle in this region as well as in many areas of Lebanon. It will have the special attention of the Ministry of Agriculture and in cooperation with various stakeholders in this regard, given that Akkar deserves our ultimate attention and efforts, in the light of its great sacrifices at the national level. ”
He continued: “I thank the European Union for its support and funding for this project and all related projects. I also thank Mada for its implementation and supervision of all its activities in the area of Jurd Akkar, which will contribute to raise the standard of living for small-scale farmers.”
The objective of the project that was implemented in Meshmesh, Fneideq and Akkar Atika was to improve the living conditions of small-scale farmers of Upper Akkar through increasing their capacities to apply sustainable agricultural practices and good management of irrigation water. It also aimed to increase their knowledge of opportunities to link with market stakeholders in order to increase the marketing potential of their products.
To achieve these goals, Mada held several training sessions that focused on: good agricultural practices and distribution of materials; the establishment of new orchards and subsidisation of the purchase of new apple varieties; the basics of Conservation Agriculture and the distribution of vetch seeds; Integrated Pest Management; the basics of pruning, harvesting and post-harvesting practices; and rational fertilisation and preparation of fertigation schemes related to soil test analysis.
Through this EU-funded project, the association helped with the installation of 135 drip irrigation systems in the project implementation areas. It also organised the two-day “Akkar Day” event in Beirut and Halba. The event aimed at promoting the products of associations and cooperatives from Akkar.
The project activities also included a round table discussion on how to promote the farmers’ products and intensive vocational training for 17 farmers on good pruning and grafting practices of apple and fruit trees.
The closure ceremony included a round table discussion on the challenges facing farmers, and talks by Engineer Michel Issa el Khoury, the director of the Lebanese Agriculture Research Institute – El Abdeh, the engineer trainer Charbel Hobeika, consultant in the project and expert in fruit tree pruning, and Dr Salwa Taouk, consultant in the project.
During the closing ceremony, certificates were distributed to participants of the intensive vocational training.