Back to the land
If Lebanon follows the global trend by promoting organics, more support from the government will be crucial to adopt this concept.
“You are what you eat", says Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life. Organic agriculture that protects the environment and produces healthy food has internationally spread out, and Lebanon is no exception. Souk tayyeb is one of growing examples of healthy places where eye-catching stands offer vegetables, fruits, fattayer and other range of stuffings.
While the private sector, however, is offering organic farming and high-value agricultural produce, Lebanon’s government policies are still shy, recently started to control the use of pesticides.
Lebanon’s agriculture, which offers fertile land and fresh healthy produce, have faced major challenges in recent years, mainly water pollution, health impacts from inappropriate use of pesticides and fertilizers, and environmental pollution. It’s worth mentioning that few producers offer products that meet international standards in organic agriculture.
“Simple, healthful and close to the nature” is one of several organic terms definitions. "Organic agriculture” is defined as an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and biological soil activity based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore and enhance ecological harmony.
Today, despite challenges, organic creates a niche market in Lebanon where consumers are eager to buy healthy products. The growing demand for healthy food in Lebanon comes from health-conscious people, and sick people who are aware of their health. Besides, there are plenty of reasons to buy it, such as its naturalness and the restricted use of pesticides.
While there are no real statistics about the size of the market in Lebanon, for many experts, organic is an emerging market in Lebanon. The increased demand has triggered a few people to open healthy shops and stores, such Souk Tayeb which opens every Saturday in Beirut facing Saint Maroon Church. Through its website, Souk tayyeb defines itself as “a farmers market that exists to promote first a better contribution to life. This is through proper agriculture, animal welfare, community development, tradition preservation, lost species saving… Different ways of one message of life awareness and better contribution to life.” A New Earth” is another shop located in Ashrafieh. Vegetables, fruits, jams and bread, cereals are available in addition to some international imported products.
Organic food also imported from European countries, United States and Australia is showing up on shelves in such shops and supermarkets, but more expensive than other conventional products. If there is a great potential however in Lebanon for export, organic is limited to the local market. Producers admit that certifications recognized internationally are crucial while targeting the international market, to ensure the credibility of the products and its absence might hinder their presence overseas. It’s worth mentioning that “A New Earth” is the first shop certified by the Mediterranean Institute of Certification as 100 percent organic shop.
Some NGO’s and universities such Green Line, and AUB have started promoting organic agriculture. The Green Line project aims to promote organic farming in Lebanon through workshops and seminars, with an emphasis on the preparation for the legal framework and the establishment of a certification on system.
Experts admit that organic agriculture can contribute to meaningful socio-economic and ecologically sustainable development offering farmers opportunities to improve their income and produce more, better-quality and added value products.
If organic goes mainstream in Lebanon, more support from the government to promote organic farming will help this sector grow. Education would also help Lebanese think environmentally, driving further awareness of the benefits of organic food.
STRATEGIES & PLANS
A fundraising event, entitled Think Green, will be held by Zero Waste ACT for all its business members on September, 10,2013, at WHITE, Dora.
The Green Mind Association invited all Green Mind Award Participants, finalists, runner ups and winners to the GREEN MIND DAY on Jan-16-2013 in Beirut, to create a platform where interested Venture Capital and Potential Investors met with participants.
A green initiative launched by Ashrafieh 2020 project aims to transform Ashrafieh into a tranquil and unpolluted area.Green spaces allow residents to walk and ride bicycles.