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Herb-growing Harba shows us her garden

Herb-growing Harba shows us her garden
How refugees in Lebanon are benefiting from micro gardening classes
In Kamed El Lawz village, there is a brightly dressed woman delicately plucking leaves, radishes and onions from a neatly organised raised bed.

This woman is Harba, a mother of 13. And this is her micro garden in the middle of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Like hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, she is looking for a way to get by.

Over six weeks this autumn, Harba participated in a Monday to Thursday micro gardening training facilitated by Amel Association International. The project is one of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) 111 livelihoods projects in Lebanon. Each project aims to boost the livelihood potential of the participant with newly acquired transportable skills.

“I had only grown basil before in Syria, but now look at this,” she gestures towards her well-tended allotment plot and laughs. “Now I have peas, rocca, cabbage, lettuce, rosemary, sage, onions, basil, radishes, parsley and fava beans!”

Alternating each day, course participants attend practical and theoretical micro gardening lessons led by Amel. With the tips they learn on vegetable and herb cultivation, watering and harvesting, they are given wooden materials and chicken wire to make a small structure as well as soil and seeds. Then, they can start their own mini agricultural projects at home.

WFP’s numerous livelihoods projects like this one in Lebanon were funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). They are varied in nature, ranging from road rehabilitation, food processing and computer skills, but all have the common aim of developing transportable livelihoods skills.

So far, Harba has only sampled the onions and radishes; adding them to stews. “Are they good?” I asked. “Akid!(Arabic for certainly)” she responds with a thumbs up. Harba is already a confident gardener.

With the skills that she learnt, Harba has successfully started a project which, with some care and attention, will eventually supplement the meals of her eight boys and five girls with a few more nutritious greens. But more importantly, it is also the first step towards an agricultural livelihood project.

Such initiatives offer an element of hope and re-orientation to families whose lives have been turned upside down as they fled conflict to a new land. “The garden gives some order to my chaotic life,” Harba iterates.