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Thumbs up to the authorities

Using local talent to enhance Lebanese infrastructure

Behind his mask, Mohamad is grinning.

The 35 year old Lebanese father of six — with another on the way — is working on a construction project in Wadi Khaled, north Lebanon and he is beyond happy to be there.

On previous construction jobs, Mohamad learned how to plan and execute simple projects including excavations, levelling, graveling and compacting. However, he had, and still has, few opportunities to put those skills to use, only finding work once in a while.

Born in Wadi Khaled, he knows all too well that the land and infrastructure has been overlooked and not used to its full potential. He is also frustrated because jobs are scarce and he seldom has the chance to put his skills to use.

“There are few opportunities to work up here. I could go to the cities, but then I would have to leave my family behind,” he explained.

So, why is Mohamad grinning?

He is now involved in a livelihoods project designed by the Wadi Khaled municipality. The authorities are keen to turn the story around and maximise both the untapped local talent and the agricultural land.

The municipality submitted a proposal to rehabilitate an 800 meter agricultural road that will give those farmers better access to take their produce to the local villages, Rama and Hiche. In addition, they want to complete the construction of an 800 meter concrete irrigation channel that was abandoned years ago. The canal will both reduce the chance of flooding during winter and direct the rain water to the 35 surrounding farmers’ fields.

The project is the brainchild of the Wadi Khaled municipality and is overseen with technical advice by non-governmental organisation Danish Refugee Council. It is one of dozens of similar projects in Lebanon, fully financied by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ. In 2017, BMZ gave the World Food Programme US$ 32 million for livelihoods activities across the country.

The projects are designed by and for local municipalities, intended to enhance community assets as well as provide skills development training to vulnerable Lebanese and Syrians.

In exchange for 20 days of work each month on the project, Mohamad and his 35 Lebanese and Syrian coworkers receive US$105 to spend on food. They also receive a small stipend to cover transportation costs.

After removing his mask, Mohamad explained, “I am happy to work for the community — the community that I grew up in and that my baby will grow up in.”

The municipality wants to maintain the momentum established and plans to employ a couple of the workers once the project is complete in an effort to build on local knowledge and skills.

Learn more about WFP’s work in Lebanon.