Lebanon is divided into six governorates (mohafzaat) ), which are subdivided into 26 districts (cazas). The districts are sub-divided into several municipalities, and each municipality comprises several cities or/or villages. The country has typical Mediterranean climate. It rains during the winter season, and it is hot and humid during the summer. Higher mountains and cities see substantial snow during the winter season.
In spite of having a large suitable area for cultivation, adequate water sources, favorable micro-climates and fertile soils, the agriculture of Lebanon has not been fully exploited. A few years back, the country’s annual food bill amounted to US$1,237 million, and total agro-food exports to US$175 million. The agriculture sector employs around 15 percent of the active workforce and contributes about seven percent to the GDP. Out of the total about 247,000 hectares (Ha) annually cultivated land, about 104,000 Ha are irrigated and the rest is rain-fed. About 137,000 Ha are abandoned land and about 118,000 Ha are under forest or pastures. The sector consumes 64 percent of available water supply. Wheat and barley are main crops while fruits include apple, grapes, strawberries and citrus. Tobacco and figs are grown in the south, citrus fruits and bananas along the coast, olives in the north and around Shouf Mountains, and fruits and vegetables in the Beqa’a Valley where hashish is also grown. Farmers also rear livestock and small ruminants like sheep. The country’s agro-industry produces a wide variety of products.
Based on the Census of Agriculture in Lebanon done in 1999, the total number of farmers in Lebanon was 194,829. Out of this, 18,000 farmers were considered as large, with a farm size larger than 12 hectares each. About 25,000 farmers were rated as medium, holding farms between 6 and 12 Ha each. The remaining farmers, about 151,829, were categorized as small and subsistence farmers. Almost all the farmers in all categories were involved in other non-farm occupations to supplement their income. Also, deforestation has been a major issue in Lebanon. In 2010, the Ministry of Environment set a 10-year plan, funded by USAID, to increase national forest coverage by 20%.
The 15-year civil war that started in 1975 destroyed most public institutions, including agricultural extension services, as well as infrastructure. While the country was busy in active re-construction and development activities, recent war with Israel, and then the local and regional political developments broke the momentum. In the absence of an effective extension service, Lebanon has been facing the problem of excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers by growers due to wrong advice by input sellers. Chemical residues have been detected on several fruits, and the underground water has been polluted constituting hazards to human and animals’ health not to mention casting a negative impact on exports. The role of private sector is has been steadily increasing in organic farming and high-value agricultural produce but not yet in any big way. Following the recommendations of an FAO project, extension services of Lebanon are being re-structured in order to follow a pluralistic and demand-driven pattern.
HISTORY OF EXTENSION AND THE ENABLING/DISABLING ENVIRONMENT
During late 1940s, a section on agricultural extension was created within the Ministry of Agriculture. This section was expanded to a department mainly to provide advice on improving citrus and poultry production. During 1960s, public extension was comprised 47 field extension agents who were agricultural technicians with diplomas from agricultural secondary schools. They were placed at all four Regional Agricultural Centers located in different parts of the country. As the long civil war broke out, many other institutions, like the public extension department, also disintegrated. Upon the end of the war, extension was merged with agricultural education and training. A Ministerial Decree in 1994 authorized the establishment of one extension center in each of the 24 cazas (districts) of the country. A survey to assess socio-economic characteristics of the farmers conducted in 1995 found high demand for a comprehensive extension service.
As public extension service was in disarray with little human resources and operational budget after the civil war, a significant number of mostly donor-funded NGOs and private companies dealing in agricultural inputs took over the task of providing extension advice to the farmers. In the absence of policy direction, coordination and quality control by the government, the non-public extension providers promoted their individual extension agendas. Farmers’ demands for a meaningful extension service became louder than ever.
In 2003, the Ministry of Agriculture adopted an extension strategy and formed the Extension Coordination Committee comprising directors of the Ministry, General Directorate, Cooperatives Directorate and the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI). The Department of Agricultural Extension remained a part of the Directorate of Studies and Coordination of the Ministry, headed by a single officer who was given a meager budget to provide extension services. The Ministry of Agriculture has a team of subject-matter specialists in each governorate office. In each district of all governorates, there is one, but sometimes two Extension Centers, depending on the population and/or intensity of agricultural activities. The Centers are run by agricultural school diploma holder extension technicians. The government has decided that, in future, university graduates will replace the extension technicians.
At the government’s request, an FAO project, TCP/LEB/3002 “Strengthening and capacity building of the extension services of the Ministry of Agriculture”, was launched in 2004. In spite of two-year disruption in its activities due to the Israeli invasion, the project was able to prepare a detailed strategic proposal for reforming all aspects of the extension organization in Lebanon including a policy, new organizational structure, human resources, and a pluralistic and demand-based participatory extension approach involving public and non-public service providers. The project ended in 2009 and its recommendations are now being gradually implemented by the government.
Weaknesses in extension services
§ Just one extension official working at national level because several technical positions are lying vacant for many years and there is no administrative support staff.
§ Lack of extension strategy
§ Meager operational budget
§ The number of field extension workers remain small, without adequate facilities
§ The provision of extension services has been taken over by private companies and donor-driven NGOs in the vacuum created by the weak public extension organization
§ Public extension organization not in a position to provide policy guidance to service-providers
§ Public extension organization not in a position to enforce coordination among service-providers
§ Public extension organization is not in a position to assure the quality of extension services delivered by several service-providers because it has neither sufficient human and financial resources nor the legal authority.
§ Un-sustained extension development interventions by non-public service-providers, especially NGO’s, generally terminate after donor funding stops.
§ The public extension organization has neither sufficient human and financial resources, nor the legal authority to stop the excessive application of pesticides on fruit and crops. In short, producers, upon the advice of non-public service-providers, generally results in food safety and consumer health issues that are created through the marketing and exporting of fruits, especially by commercial producers, which use too much pesticides.
Weaknesses of non-public extension service providers
§ Lack of resources
§ Structural disabilities (particularly in case of universities)
§ Low outreach (particularly in case of universities)
§ Commercially oriented (particularly in case of private companies)
§ Dependence on external funds and/or agenda (particularly in case of NGOs)
§ Lack of experience (particularly in case of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture)
Donors have been very active in Lebanon during the post-civil war era for re-construction, re-habilitation and development of agriculture. Some examples are given below:
§ USAID has been assisting in improving organic production and marketing of farm products.
§ Recently, FAO has played the most significant role in reforming extension services of Lebanon.
§ IFAD has completed the execution of the Irrigation Rehabilitation Project and is now financing the Lebanon Hilly Area Sustainable Agriculture Development Project.
§ ICU (Instituto per la Cooperazione Universitaria, Italy) has been implementing Farmers’ Field Schools program in minor irrigation regions.
§ The EU is funding the Agriculture and Rural Development Program.
§ The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development is funding the Hydro Agricultural Development of South Lebanon Project.
§ Several bi-lateral donors, like Germany, Italy, Denmark and Finland, have also been active.
MAJOR INSTITUTIONS PROVIDING EXTENSION/ADVISORY SERVICES
Ministry of Agriculture http://www.agriculture.gov.lb
Public extension services in Lebanon are provided by the Extension Department, a subdivision of the Extension and Agricultural Education Division located within the Directorate of Studies and Coordination within the Ministry of Agriculture. The Extension Department gets its budget, usually very little, from the Ministry. However, it manages to get supplemental funding now and then from donors when they need extension support for their projects or programs.
At the national level, there is only one official although a strategic proposal prepared under a recent FAO project has recommended expansion of the department along with additional human resources at national, regional and district levels, physical facilities, coordination mechanisms at all levels, a method for adopting demand-based grassroots extension program planning, and adequate operational budget. The Extension Department, suffering from the shortage of staff, usually outsources specific extension tasks to universities and non-public actors.
Table 1: Human Resources in Public Extension in Lebanon as of January 2012
Categories of Staff
Second. School Dip.
M.Sc./Eng Agric. Degree
Total = 67 staff
Source: Survey done by IFPRI and FAO as part of the Worldwide Extension Study; 2012
Table 2: Estimated Number of Subject-Matter Specialists (not staff of extension) Supporting Extension in Lebanon (when needed) as of January 2012
Major root and tuber crops
Major protein & oil seed crops
Packaging & cooling
Import & export control
Studies & coordination
Land, soil, water & forestry
Environment & climate change
Farmers’/women’ groups organization
Planning & documentation
Programs & projects
Source: Survey done by FAO and IFPRI; 2012
Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) http://www.lari.gov.lb
The Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute is a public autonomous institution, supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture. LARI has its own Board of Trustee, which determines the research agenda. The institute conducts applied and basic scientific research for the development and advancement of the agricultural sector in Lebanon. LARI has 50 professional staff members and eight experimental stations located in different parts of the country. Researchers at LARI do some extension work with farmers through their research outreach activities. Also, LARI organizes an annual workshop where Ministry of Agriculture staff present findings from the past year and discuss research priorities for the coming year. This is the only occasion where LARI scientists and the extension staff interact in the field. Otherwise, there is no formal planning and operational linkages between LARI and the public extension organization.
The Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture in Lebanon (FCCIAL) http://www.cci-fed.org.lb/English
The federation, established under a government decree, is an autonomous organization. FCCIAL’s mission, according to its website, is to “handle the coordination between different chambers of commerce, industry and agriculture in Lebanon in order to take care of its common interests in a way of enumeration but not of limitation.” FCCIAL provides information services on fruits and vegetables in the local and export markets through the Market Information Service (MIS), in addition to the farm management and accounting services (FMAC).
FCCIAL coordinates the following four regional chambers in the country:
1. Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon (CCIAB)
2. Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Sidon and South-Lebanon (CCIAS)
3. Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Zahle and the Beka’a (CCIAZ) http://www.cciaz.org.lb
4. Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Tripoli and North-Lebanon (CCIAT)
Among the four chambers, the CCIAZ is most active in terms of extension support to farmers. The chamber, established in 1996 and located at Zahle, in the Beka’a valley, has effectively taken over activities of a French bilateral program to help farmers. It has organized training for farmers in the areas of growing fruit trees, and crop demonstrations. Its extension staff makes field visits to farmers and also publishes extension manuals on specific agricultural topics. In 2006, the chamber was assisting 40 farmers through field visits on fee basis. It also started a fee- based farm accounting and management program for agricultural cooperatives and agri-businesses in which 200 farmers were enrolled. The chamber also provides services like the preparation of business plans for cooperatives on fee basis. It has necessary equipment, library and Internet facilities. Some people consider the chamber as a private institution.
All agricultural inputs including chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, equipment and machinery, are sold by private companies in Lebanon. The vacuum created by the absence of a viable public extension service in the country after the end of the civil war was filled in by the private companies which started providing technical advice to the farmers during aggressive sale of their products; some companies dealt in export of agricultural produce. Certain private companies have been blamed for recommending very high doses of pesticides which has led to the accumulation of chemical residue on fruit. Presently, about 50 commercial companies are involved in agriculture. They have their own technical staff and physical resources for marketing. Some examples are:
§ Debbane Freres (one of the biggest companies; has about 50 agricultural graduates on staff) http://www.debbane.com
§ Antagro (supplies and distributes seeds and other agricultural materials to agriculture business companies in Lebanon) http://www.antagro.com
§ Nicobel Agricultural Products (exporter for Lebanese agricultural products) http://www.nicobel.com.lb
§ Spica Agriculture (provides new technologies and products to farmers) http://www.spica.com.lb
§ Joseph H. Chalfoun Establishment (provides seeds, bulbs, seedlings, fertilizers, pesticides and agricultural equipment along with the consulting services) http://www.chalfoun.com
§ MIQDADI – Agricultural Materials Company (supplies agricultural products and services in the areas of crop protection, seed, fertilizer, irrigation equipment, small tools and public health chemicals) http://www.amc.com.lb
Just like commercial agricultural companies, a huge network of NGOs spread over Lebanon after the conclusion of the civil war. International NGOs were funded by various bilateral donors such as Italy, USA, Germany, Denmark and many others. Almost all of them established separate agricultural and rural development centers. Many of these centers were abandoned when the relevant NGOs left Lebanon. Also, like other countries, there has been little inter-NGO coordination as well as little collaboration between the NGOs and the public extension service. Local NGOs have also mushroomed and many of them are working in collaboration with international NGOs, mainly for funding reasons.
A complete list of NGOs in Lebanon compiled by UNDP may be seen at the website http://www.undp.org.lb/partners/ngos/ . A few examples of national and international NGOs active in the area of agricultural and rural development in Lebanon are as follows.
§ Rene Mouawad Foundation (RMF) http://www.rmf.org.lb is a national NGO, which has about 20 extension staff and serves thousands of farmers. In addition, it rents farm machinery to farmers. is active in olive oil and food industry, maintains an Agricultural Center of the North (CAN), which has a staff of 60 including 15 agriculture graduates. This CAN provides technical advice as well as training programs for farmers in the areas of storage, agro-processing, packaging and marketing on commercial lines; has links with USAID and the French Embassy; and has a formal agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture to re-habilitate three agricultural centers.
§ Jihad Al-Bina’a Development Association (JBDA)
National NGO; manages three regional development and training centers to train farmers in various agricultural subjects, and equipped with soil and water analysis, and plant pathology labs; has about 20 extension and veterinary staff; organizes training courses and field visits covering several thousand farmers; provides seeds, inputs and vaccinations at no or reduced cost; no formal collaboration arrangements with the public extension service.
§ Hariri Foundation http://www.hariri-foundation.org.lb
National NGO; provides extension support to farmers mainly in southern Lebanon; helps farmers in organizing cooperatives and managing projects, and provides some funding as well.
§ Safadi Foundation http://www.safadi-foundation.org
National NGO; operates mainly in north Lebanon; provides training to farmers in animal husbandry; has a rural development center and a mobile soil analysis lab to serve farmers; collaborates with the Ministry of Agriculture in reforestation and artificial insemination activities.
§ Associazione Volontari per il Servizio Internazionale (AVSI) http://www.avis.com.lb
International NGO, financed by the Italian government; has established Liban-Villages program for rural development; has a small number of extension staff; established a multi-function advisory center, Centre de Formation et de Services Agricoles (CFSA), that provides technical assistance to about 100 farmers in ten villages; although its activities are funded by the Italian government and the European Union, it still has no formal cooperation arrangements with the public extension service.
§ Association for the Development of Rural Capacities (ADR) http://www.adr.org.lb
National NGO; operates in southern Lebanon; runs projects on rural communities’ empowerment and integration for development in the areas of agriculture, vocational training, micro credit, cold storage, packaging, composting, medicinal and aromatic plants, and rents out farm machinery at low cost.
§ Cooperative Housing Foundation (CFH) http://www.alblebanon.com/business/cooperativehousingfoundationbirhassanbeirut
International NGO; runs several agricultural programs such as transfer of agricultural technology to farmers, training of trainers, capacity building, introduction of new varieties, post-harvest activities, etc.
§ Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) http://www.ymca-leb.org.lb/agriculture
Local chapter of international NGO; has a department of agriculture with technical staff and organizes several programs for the development of farmers.
Farmers-based associations, cooperatives and societies
A few examples of farmers’ association are presented as follows:
§ Lebanon’s Farmers’ Association (the main association in Lebanon)
§ Association of Lebanese Commercial Producers (ALEP)
§ Agriculture Protection and Improvement Society
§ Association of Farmers in South
§ Association of Jabal Akroum for Development
§ Apiculture Protection and Improvement Society
In spite of the fact that cooperatives have a troublesome history, Lebanon still has over 1,000 farmers’ cooperatives concentrating on various commodities. Their management though remains questionable. A few examples of cooperatives are as follows:
§ Agricultural Cooperative – Saksakieh
§ Agricultural Cooperative for Development of Agriculture – Jannat
§ Agricultural Cooperative for Vegetables and Fruits in Danniye
§ Aitaroun Cooperative
§ National Union for Cooperatives
TRAINING OPTIONS FOR EXTENSION PROFESSIONALS
Pre-service education in agricultural extension is offered through degree programs at the universities. Although Lebanon has a large number of universities, the main ones that offer degree programs in agriculture are as follows:
§ American University of Beirut (AUB) (offers degree program in extension) http://wwwaub.edu.lb
§ Lebanese University (UL) (has a faculty of agriculture and veterinary) http://www.ul.edu.lb
There is no particular public institution for the purpose of in-service training of extension professionals in Lebanon. A number of NGOs and some private companies have their own training centers, but they offer training courses for farmers only. Due to a lack of formal agreement between civil society institutions and the Ministry of Agriculture, extension staff is unable to benefit from these training centers. Although universities do not have a regular program in in-service training of extension staff, such training can be organized, if requested, and paid by the Ministry of Agriculture. At present, the Department of Extension grabs any opportunity, such as offered by donor-funded projects, where extension agents can receive training, as one of the project activities. Ad hoc arrangements are also made for the staff to receive short in-service training as needed. Agricultural schools, which were previously under the Ministry of Agriculture and were used as training sites in the past, have been almost non-functional due to deteriorating structures, which were recently placed under the Ministry of Education.
INFO-MEDIARIES AND INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT) FOR AGRICULTURE AND EXTENSION
The Government of Lebanon, through the Office of Minister of State for Administrative Reforms (OMSAR), started building ICT institutional capacity in 2005. Around 75 percent of personnel in the agriculture sector received necessary training. The initiative created a good national agricultural information system. The Ministry of Telecommunication http://www.mot.gov.lb has overall responsibility for promoting the use of ICT within public sector. The Ministry of State for Administrative Reform is implementing the “e-government” covering all the ministries and other public institutions through the provision of necessary hardware and a variety of applications such as Document Management Systems (DMS), GIS, etc.
According to the World Bank, in 2010, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions (per 100 people) in Lebanon was 68. During the same year, the number of Internet users (per 100 people) in the country was 31. In agriculture sector, DMS and GIS are being applied to centralize agricultural information in common, database formats and to facilitate access to this information. Under an FAO project on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGFRA), the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) was connected to many global networks for information sharing.
Under another FAO project aimed at reforming the extension services in Lebanon, a comprehensive database on extension has been established. The database, maintained by the Department of Extension at the national level, contains useful extension-related information, and can be accessed by extension staff and relevant public and non-public institutions in Lebanon. One of the recommendations made in the strategic proposal to reform extension services is to create a section on communication and information technology in the proposed national directorate of extension.
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
Betru, T. and J.S. Long (1996). Agricultural extension as a development strategy for war-torn countries; the case of Lebanon. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education; Fall 1996, Pp. 15-22.
Cortas, A. (2006). Report of consultancy in policy and institutions, prepared under FAO project “TCP/LEB/3002 – Strengthening and Building Capacity of the Extension Services of MOA”. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Eid, M. (2011). Consultancy Report for Lebanon, prepared under FAO’s Investment Assessment Project. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
El-Khoury, D.L. (June 2008). Extension and Training Needs Survey (two reports prepared under FAO project “TCP/LEB/3002 – Strengthening and Building Capacity of the Extension Services of MOA” (The survey report covers public, private and civil society institutions). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FAO (2011). Filled-in survey questionnaire on extension in Lebanon, prepared under FAO’s Investment Assessment Project. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
IFPRI and FAO (2012). Filled-in questionnaire of the survey of agricultural extension service providers in Lebanon
ILO (2010). Cooperatives in the Arab States, 2010; Summary Proceedings of ILO Sub-regional Workshop http://www.ilo.org.coop2010
Kalaily, R. (2008). National Agricultural Information System Status in Lebanon. Lebanon Country Paper presented at the Regional Workshop for Strengthening National Information Communication Management Focal Units in Near East and North Africa Region, organized by AARINENA in collaboration with GFAR, FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture of Oman, held in Muscat 8-10 January, 2008.
Karame, J.H. (September 2006). Economic Assessment of the Agricultural Extension Service in Lebanon: Current Status and Its Role in Agricultural Development. M.S. Thesis, Department of Land and Water Resources, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut
Moses, R. (not dated but probably 2010). The Current Status of the Agricultural Extension in Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley: Key Factors, Major Challenges, and Opportunities in the Re-establishment of Public Sector Extension. Report of an MS candidate from International Agricultural Development Graduate Group, University of California at Davis
Qamar, M.K. (2010). Strategic Proposal for Creating A New National Agricultural And Rural Extension System In Lebanon. Document prepared under FAO project “TCP/LEB/3002 – Strengthening and Building Capacity of the Extension Services of MOA”. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Authored by M. Kalim Qamar (August 2012)
Edited by Burton E. Swanson
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