Lebanon CSP Transforming Lives – Support to Ainata el Arz
FARMING COOPERATIVE BUILDS RESILIENCE WITH UPGRADED FARMING TECHNOLOGY USAID – Donated Agricultural Equipment Improves
“The equipment provided by USAID/CSP has made farming easy for us. Farmers are returning to their lands and our community’s youth are choosing to stay here to work.” Rawad Rahme, Head of Ainata el Arz Cooperative
As the snow receded to make way for apricot and cherry tree blossoms, the farmers in the remote mountain town of Ainata el Arz welcome the fruit cultivation season. Located at an altitude of 1,500m, Ainata regularly faces harsh weather conditions which threaten local crops and place significant importance on timely pruning and cultivation. It is just past mid-day and local farmer Fawzi Rahme has finished the day’s work at an unprecedented rate and is enjoying a warm cup of coffee: “This morning, thanks to these new electric shears, I managed to prune four rows of trees, whereas previously it would have taken me a whole day to complete a single row!” he declared.
Known for its cultivation of apples, cherries, apricots, and grapes, Ainata el Arz established a cooperative to improve farming practices and enhance local economic opportunities. However, the village has been severely impacted by Lebanon’s socio-economic collapse and farmers face rising production costs coupled with diminished incomes. The remote location of Ainata also restricts new farming technologies from reaching farmers. Limited local jobs and economic opportunities were driving youth to leave the village in search of income.
With the objective of sustainably improving livelihoods, USAID’s Community Support Program (CSP) expanded the cooperative’s services by providing new and modern farming equipment. This included ten electric pruning shears, five semi-automatic rotary tillers, two wood shredders, two trailers, as well as a solar-powered welding station to repair broken irrigation lines. The provided equipment has notably improved the productivity in the village. “My elderly father used to return home increasingly exhausted by the work,” stated Mariane Rahme, member of Ainata Cooperative, “This year the situation is very different; with this new equipment he manages to work easily and with no pain.” But it is not only the men in the community who are benefitting from this donation: “By making the work less physically straining, I was also able to use the electric shears to take part in the pruning and harvesting process, and I hope more women will follow suit!” continued Mariane.
Locally known as the ‘Master Welder’, Georges Rahme is busy starting up the new solar-powered welder to demonstrate the remarkable difference it is making in repairing broken irrigation lines: “This welder has enabled us to improve irrigation pipes at a much higher standard than we had ever been able to before.” Prior this intervention, the community needed to rent an outdated welder from Zahle. Rawad Rhame, Head of the Ainata Cooperative, points to the old irrigation pipes which are littered with makeshift plastic knots around the joints attempting to cover some of the leaks: “Although we used to travel more an hour away to rent the welder at over triple the cost, these pipes barely lasted two seasons before leaking so much that we would have to replace them. This new welder is making our irrigation far more durable and at a fraction of the cost.” With this upgraded technology, Georges equally lends his services to neighboring villages so that they too may generate higher incomes. “Our aim as a cooperative is to improve production for the entire area, and as such, we want to support as many farmers as possible through this equipment,” stated Rawad.