LIVINGAGRO highlights the main challenges of the Lebanese agroforestry sector: an insight with Ms. Khawand of the SOILS Permaculture Association

Photos by LARI staff

Which are the main challenges Lebanese agroforestry is facing nowadays and what are the main difficulties as well as opportunities of the sector in reference to developing and implementing agroforestry projects in Lebanon?

LIVINGAGRO partner Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) discussed this issue with Ms. Rita Khawand, co-founder and Executive Director at SOILS Permaculture Association in Lebanon in the framework of the interviews performed within the project activity concerning the analysis of economic stakeholders, one of the preparatory actions for establishing LIVINGAGRO’s Living Labs. Hereafter an extract of the interview.

On the obstacles’ side Ms. Khawand outlined that “most land owners are reluctant when it comes to long-term (8 years or more) lease of land, and with perennial shrubs and trees it's not feasible to rent land for a short period of time. We've had this issue when we were looking for land for our aromatic plants, and even after we found one and planted it, when we wanted to add trees, the landowner asked for trees to be added only on edges next to the wall and in small numbers”.

Lack of data concerning support species suitable for the Lebanese climate was also identified as a hindrance to the development of agroforestry: “we don't have enough data on native or non-invasive (or manageable) foreign species that can be used as support species in local agroforestry systems, such as n-fixers, or plants suitable for windbreak, etc.”

She concluded by saying that “as we moved from traditional pastoralism to industrial rearing of animals - which now relies on imported feed -, we lost the knowledge of traditional practices of rearing animals in a sustainable way. The challenge of re-introducing animals in woodlands or in orchards is access to data or demo projects that allow designers and farmers to understand the breed of ruminants and small animals best adapted to our environment and to foraging under trees, and share best practices of rotational grazing.”

On the other hand, concerning opportunities, Ms. Khawand mentioned the fact that new generation of farmers could implement agroforestry practices since “younger people are going back to the land, and are usually more open-minded to complex and diverse systems than conventional farmers”. Furthermore, “landowners (some of them living abroad) are willing to make their land available for community projects in this context of economic crisis providing a better access to land overall.”

Finally, according to Ms. Khawand “with the high price of imported feed, farmers will be obliged to look for alternative and more local as well as sustainable methods to feed their animals, which might make them interested in silvo-pastoral systems”.