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Agriculture Strategy- Ministry of Agriculture

The Performance of the Ministry of Agriculture concerning the sustainable development file

 
In December 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture presented a strategy to develop the agricultural sector in Lebanon for a period of five years (2010-2014). The strategy was based on eight themes:
 
1) Updating and issuing the necessary legislation.
2) Developing structures and activating the role of the ministry in coordination with the public, private, and civil sectors.
3) Updating agricultural infrastructure and increasing the efficiency of the use of natural resources.
4) Stimulating guidance and agricultural education.
5) Promoting the control on the products and agricultural, forestry, and fishing inputs.
6) Developing the production chains,  improving their quality, and  activating its manufacturing, marketing, and export initiatives.
7) Developing programs and mechanisms to develop medium and small projects.
8) Conserving natural resources (soil, forests, biodiversity, regulating the use of marginal lands, pastures and fisheries.
 
In this section of the report, the work of this ministry will be evaluated according to the terms of its strategy on environment and sustainable development or those that have direct implications on these issues. The Ministry of Agriculture considered food safety in 2010 to be the main issue on conference tables it participated in. This is so due to climate change and its impacts on agriculture (which began to show its consequences in Lebanon through desertification and the decrease of the amount of water available for agriculture) and the emergence of new diseases on plants and animals. Also at the same time there is an increase in demand for food and agricultural products, there is a decline in the amount of food offered for sale in the market due to the use of crops in biofuel production in some countries. Based on this information, the ministry concluded that, among other initiatives, it is necessary to make several steps towards the increase in agricultural areas, water supply, and water storage.
 
 

Updating and issuing the necessary legislations                
 
The issuance of the law that maintains burnt green areas without changing their purpose of use is considered a major accomplishment of the Ministry of Agriculture. It aims to reduce deliberate fire-starting in Lebanon, which was the cause of the majority of observed fires. The Ministry referred to the parliament a number of laws, being the regulation concerning the import and sale of agricultural products and the food safety law the most important ones. These laws are vital in maintaining the health of citizens and to ensure the safety of the environment by reducing the amounts of chemical residues in food and, thus, in the soil, air and water. Frequently, this is the result of excessive or wrong use of some medicines, materials, fertilizers, and other chemicals in the local food production. As stated in the mentioned report, the Ministry of Agriculture intends to issue a number of laws, including, among others, the forest law, the law of forest fires, and the sea fishing law.
The ministry also issued a series of decrees in 2010 and the most important one aimed to amend the Table (1) to the decree number 5246 dated 06.20.1994, regarding the organization of the ministry and the addition of a number of inspectors, monitors and guards concerning forests and fishing. A decree has been referred to the cabinet on the creation of a scientific committee to update the regulations concerning agricultural pesticides prohibited to enter or to be used in Lebanon.
The Minister issued, as well, a number of resolutions concerning the necessity of forming committees for the sectors and crops, mainly: a Committee on agricultural drugs, a Forestry Committee, Committee for the fishing sector, a Committee for the medical and aromatic plants, and a committee for the chemical residues.
 

Second part of developing the structure and activating the role of the Ministry of Agriculture

 
 
The report noted that 179 new employees (70 agricultural engineers, 4 veterinarians, mechanical engineers, IT professionals, etc.) were hired in the Ministry of Agriculture - General Directorate for Agriculture. Contracts were signed with 14 people. As stated in the report, the Ministry is in the process of filling up the remaining vacant positions.
 
 

Training and qualifying staff
 
The report mentioned that the Ministry signed with the Bari Institute and the Institute on Montpelier several Memoranda of Understanding in order to promote and strengthen sustainable agriculture.
 

Budget development
 
The reported mentioned, as well, that the budget of the Ministry increased by 37 Billion Lebanese Pounds, on average, between the years 2009 and 2010. This is a significant accomplishment of the Minister which could not be achieved without the power, efficiency, and influence that the party to which he is affiliated to has over the decision making in Lebanon.
 

Cooperation programs with regional and international parties
 
The Ministry of Agriculture signed a number of cooperation programs with the European Union, the FAO, and the Italian Cooperation Program. The programs which results in the most relevant environmental benefits were those concerning harvest programs to establish mountain ponds, signed with the IFAD \ OFID (worth 16 million euros) and with the Spanish government (worth 1.2 million euros).

The mountain ponds are the best way to feed the ground reservoirs and collect rain water to irrigate the crops in summer. These programs are the most beneficial and, therefore they should be established all around the country.
 

Cooperation development with Lebanese Authorities
 
The report highlighted that, in 2010, the Ministry signed, through the Council for Development and Reconstruction, with the Office of the European Group, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the OPEC Fund for Development two important projects: the first one supporting local development in northern Lebanon, worth18 million euros (dated 4/2/2010) and the second one concerning sustainable agricultural development in hilly areas, worth 16 million euros (dated 17/6/2010).

It was also mentioned in this part of the report that the Ministry is working on the integration of agreements that were signed between other ministries and a number of municipalities and federations of municipalities (Ministry of Interior) concerning rural development, forestation, forest protection, and the fight against its diseases. Cooperation and partnership with local authorities, if given the necessary attention and follow-up from both sides, might establish for the ministry a new era regarding work dynamics.

In the section on the cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment it was stated that the Ministry of Agriculture will continue to work, cooperate, and integrate with the former regarding forests, forestation, conservation of vegetation, fighting desertification, preserving biodiversity, biological control of pollution in the air and soil, the control of local and imported agricultural products, and the treatment of residues from agricultural industry.
 

Project “green” accomplishments                  
 
The achievements of the “going green” project in the third sector were enumerated. We will quote in this report those concerning the mountain ponds that were developed: imposed ponds during the year 2010 (Arabism – Hermel, with a capacity of one hundred thousand cubic meters, Diman – Bchari, with a capacity of one hundred and twenty thousand cubic meters and Merstei – Chouf, with a capacity of fifty thousand cubic meters) and pools under concession (Maroun al-Ras - Bent Jbeil, with a capacity of thirty-five cubic meters and Bentael – Jbeil, with a capacity of thirty thousand cubic meters, and Marjaheen – Hermel, with a capacity of forty-five cubic meters).
 

Fishing
 
The report mentioned that the Ministry of Agriculture is preparing a study concerning the development of fisheries, in cooperation with the National Council for Scientific Research and the Bari Institute. Four training courses took place in this framework in Lebanon and abroad. In addition, a tender is being established to buy four vessels to monitor fishing and, at the same time, rehabilitate and equip the Institute of Marine Sciences in Batroun. Two projects are also being implemented in order to develop abilities and competencies of fishermen in the south.

If the desire is to re-create our fisheries and protect our sea from illegal fishing, the presented measures should be the first of many more important and significant actions. If these efforts are not associated to the political will to strengthen the treatment centers and to treat the marine landfills to prevent pollution resulted from leachate and solid waste, they will loose their effectiveness and Lebanon’s sea will turn into an unfavorable environment for the growth of fish and marine existence.
 

Forests protection
 
The ministerial committee related to forests and chaired by the Prime Minister was formed on 13/1/2001. In addition, it was also agreed, with the National Institute of Administration, to conduct training courses for forest and fishing inspectors and guards. Furthermore, the ministry will distribute 400,000 forest seedlings in the autumn of 2010 and the winter of 2011, at the same time it is establishing habilitating a number of plant nurseries. It also launched a study, in collaboration with FAO, to raise the proportion of green lands covering Lebanon from 13 to 20% of ​​its area.
 

Reading the report of the Ministry of Agriculture
 
During the administration of Minister D. Hussein Haj Hassan, the subject of food security constituted the point of interest of the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon. The strategy focused on increasing the amount of food produced in Lebanon and improving its quality by increasing the extension of agricultural lands and introducing the concepts of sustainable agriculture and other methods. Indeed, the Minister of Agriculture was able, compared to other ministers and initiatives concerning sustainable development, to implement significant achievements in terms of updating the laws, stimulating people, and increasing the budget of its ministry. This might have been caused, in addition to individual characteristics, by the political support that the party received since it represented the most powerful one in the Lebanese government. The minister was able to put a number of projects on the way of implementation and to take a number of important measures in the field of sustainable development due to its presence in a powerful ministry with a significant budget (88 billion Lebanese pounds) and with historical relations with international organizations such as IFAD, FAO, etc.
 
Source: Lebanon Environment and the Year 2010 report, prepared by Mazen Abboud & Aseel Takshee

 

 

                                                                                                   

 

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