MedArtSal at Sleiman Salinas in Anfeh: towards economic and ecological sustainability

(c) Georges Sleiman - October 2022

In an effort to understand more about the work that lies beneath Lebanon’s ancient salt Salinas and the support provided under the MedArtSal Project, Fair Trade Lebanon interviewed grant recipient Georges Sleiman, third generation operator of a salt salina in Anfeh, to shed light on his work and the progress that has been made so far.

Sleiman Salinas - Anfeh - Lebanon

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name is Georges Sleiman, third generation Salinas operator after my grandfather and father. We produce between 45 and 50 tons of high-quality salt every year, depending on the season. Sadly, we are facing huge challenges due to the economic crisis, and I’m forced to work two or three other jobs to be able to support my family. However, these Salinas have been operating since 1941, and we are emotionally attached to the sea and its treasures. Therefore, we are committed to do whatever it takes to preserve this rich heritage that we inherited from our ancestors.

Georges Sleiman - Sleiman Salinas - Anfeh - Lebanon

How did the MedArtSal project improve your Salinas?

Before the MedArtSal project was launched in Lebanon, our Salinas operated the traditional way and we used to sell our product through the middlemen. We only focused on producing sea salt with the minimal resources that we had. This project introduced us to the concepts and methods of “sustainability” and “eco-friendly”, so we started to think and act sustainably. 

Sleiman Salinas - Anfeh - Lebanon - mills detail

We first began by analyzing every step of our operations. We were using fuel generators for the pumps, which was polluting the sea and the air. So, we had to start there. The first step towards sustainability was renovating the traditional and famous windmill and switching from the fuel pumps to solar powered clean pumps. We are now able to extract the salt from the sea via food grade pipes covered by cement which prevent damage from the heat and sun. With these upgrades, and thanks to MedArtSal, we are proud to say that our Salinas are fully “green”!

Sleiman Salinas - Anfeh - Lebanon - mills detail

Moreover, by installing this simple but highly efficient system, we not only contributed to safeguarding the environment, but we also benefited financially. With less fuel consumption and not having to pay for the maintenance of our old pumps, we remarkably reduced our operating costs. 

In addition, following the storms that hit during the past few years, our Saltpans needed rehabilitation. We were able to do that, and they can now store a bigger amount of sea water.

We also incorporated new activities to our Salinas, for instance we are nursing small fish and returning them to the sea once they become 6 months old.

How did the MedArtSal project improve local tourism?

Through MedArtSal, we understood that our Salinas can help promote the village of Anfeh and its rich history. As a result, we widened our perspectives and extended our activities from the production of salt to tourism. We even built a special basin for visitors where they can swim and benefit from the medical properties of the sea salt. 

Sleiman Salinas - Anfeh -Lebanon - tourists

It is worth mentioning that we introduced ecological awareness into our program. We explain to the visitors the importance of preserving our nature and fighting pollution and organize tours to introduce them to the biodiversity that exists in and around the Salinas.

Sleiman Salinas - Anfeh - Lebanon - Georges Sleiman with tourists

Beach cleanups in the area are being set up regularly, because in order to preserve the Salinas, all the surrounding environment, from the air, to the sea, and land, should be clean. We are getting a large number of visitors every year, and we try to focus on the younger generation, so we introduce them to our work and encourage them to participate in the beach cleanups.     

Sleiman Salinas - Anfeh - Lebanon - beach cleanups and flocks of birds flying over the salt pans

To conclude…

Another major support that we received from the MedArtSal project is increasing our visibility on social media platforms. With the training provided under this project, we were able to create our pages on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Finally, we can say that our work before and after MedArtSal is not the same. Sleiman Salinas in now more sustainable with a more global and modern vision.