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From field to fork

From field to fork
A recipe for success for small-holder farmers of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley

“Welcome to the inauguration of the Jeb Jennine’s farmers market!” exclaimed grinning local mayor Issa Dassouki.

Beneath a vast roof and surrounded by the plains of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley there’s a wholesome, delicious and colourful story to tell. The mayor is opening the newly renovated Jeb Jennine farmer’s market.

Increasing access to markets

Restoring the farmers market was a World Food Programme (WFP) initiative, supported by local partners and the municipality. In 2016, Mercy Corps coordinated the construction and rehabilitated the access road, and in 2017 ACF is overseeing the project implementation. It is entirely funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ.

The aim: to increase small-holder farmers’ access to local markets so that they can sell their local produce directly to the consumer.

Hundreds of tables groan under the weight of an array of fruits and vegetables.

Delicious and nutritious

“It’s wonderful,” explained Dunja, a visiting Lebanese-Canadian. “Why am I here? Why wouldn’t I come? Look at it: it’s cheap, they have everything, it’s delicious and nutritious.”

And that sums up the project.

Local farmers used this space for years, selling from the back of trucks. The conditions were less than ideal for trading. Now, with a solid infrastructure, a roof to keep off the glaring summer sun, traders now have a space to sell their produce. The German-funded project is organised, clean, efficient and open for business.

Customers come from all walks of life. Local restauranteurs, tourists passing on vineyard and hiking tours, people looking for dinner inspiration.

Lebanese and Syrians holding a government ‘green card’ or a UN ‘red card’ can also buy fruit and vegetables there. The point-of-sale system used by WFP in its 500 contracted shops across the country are being installed this summer, allowing access to the freshest produce for Lebanon’s most vulnerable populations, at rock bottom prices.

“My brothers are farmers and I’m the businesswoman,” explained Hamida. Her family has worked in agriculture for 18 years in the Bekaa. The Jeb Jennine farmer’s market has given the family a new entrance into the booming local produce market. “People come to buy my greens from all over the Bekaa.”

Access to the agricultural business is also a boon for Syrians in the Bekaa. Mohammad and his nephew Mahmoud are selling beans, tomatoes, lemons, okra, apples and eggplants. “We pick them on Friday and by Saturday they have been sold and eaten,” explains Mohammad.

With bumper crops just metres from the market and a booming appetite for affordable local, fresh produce, the project is a no-brainer: its a win-win for everyone.

Find out about WFP’s work in Lebanon.