Food insecurity pushes Lebanon towards subsistence agriculture
Over the past weeks, the precipitous fall of the Lebanese libra has increased the cost of food many times over, leading to widespread hunger and even hunger crimes. Some citizens have been responding to this by investing their time and effort in small community gardens or abandoned farms, learning subsistence agriculture.
The call to sow seeds and till the land has been coming from political parties, celebrities and civil society groups who have been encouraging people to plant food crops in their land or at home. New projects have emerged that offer technical assistance in both farming and marketing practices for those who want to take this up, advising people on cheap and effective techniques to make the best of the land. People who had left their lands to come work in the city are heading back due to unemployment and are keen to once again make their livelihood from farming, much like their grandparents did.
But small initiatives like these are not nearly enough to avert the looming food crisis. Already there has been a substantial decrease in cropping this season due to shortage of dollars and a lack of access to credit which meant many farmers were not able to procure the supplies and equipment they need. Some estimates say the value of this year’s crops would be as much as 60 per cent lower than last year’s.
All eyes are on the government which is in the process of setting up a committee for rural development that will assess the country’s food needs and start procuring the essentials for the next planting season. Experts believe that the situation is dire across the food chain and, while these small-scale initiatives might help some people on an individual level, only the government has the reach and power to ensure the population has enough food to eat in the coming months. Even those who are currently growing food in small parcels of land or rooftops gardens acknowledge this. They say they went down this path because of the need to depend on themselves in the face of increasing food shortages and hyper-inflation but agree it’s not sustainable in the long term, especially if the country as a whole is facing a hunger crisis. Community farming might just be an insignificant blip in the radar.