Photo of woman kneeling and touching seedling next to text "Climate Strategy in Action Blog Series"

USAID’s Climate Strategy in Action: Expanding Seedling Production in Lebanon Amidst Climate Change

By Anastacia Hajj

Image

woman kneeling down and planting seedling
A new greenhouse, climate-controlled germination room, and germination machine have expanded seedling production capacity in the Beqaa region of Lebanon.

This blog is part of the USAID’s Climate Strategy in Action series. It expands on a winning photo from the 2023 Climatelinks Photo Contest to highlight how USAID is confronting climate change across sectors.

The Baalbek-Hermel Governorate in the Beqaa region is one of Lebanon’s most vulnerable communities. The area’s approximately 130,000 residents, of which 55,000 are refugees, rely heavily on agricultural production for their livelihoods, which is increasingly threatened by socio-economic pressures and climate change. 

Since 2019, skyrocketing inflation amidst the country’s ongoing socio-economic crisis has placed increasing strain on local farmers as they struggle to purchase crop seedlings, resulting in diminished incomes. The economic crisis also led to an electricity crisis that decreased state-provided electricity to around two hours per day, limiting farmers’ abilities to properly irrigate the seedlings they could afford to purchase. These impacts, coupled with the increasing impacts of climate change that threaten the crops that make it past seedlings, mean small-scale farmers are facing rising agricultural production challenges leading to food insecurity and growing communal tensions over limited income-generating opportunities. 

To address these impacts, improve the region’s agricultural sector, and support local farmers, Cooperation Without Borders (CWB), a non-profit organization, is operating a nursery to provide small-scale farmers with organic vegetable and aromatic seedlings at affordable prices. Since the start of its operations in 2020, CWB produced 4 million seedlings, which increased to 10 million in 2021.

“Even though we grew very quickly, the demand from the farmers was still overwhelmingly high, and we didn’t have the capacity to provide for them all,” stated Ola Mehyiddin, Agricultural Manager at CWB. 

Even though we grew very quickly, the demand from the farmers was still overwhelmingly high, and we didn’t have the capacity to provide for them all.

Ola Mehyiddin, Agricultural Manager at CWB

Indeed, there is no organization or company that provides a similar service in the area; farmers who cannot access CWB’s nursery were forced to travel to South Lebanon, which not only incurred higher transportation costs but also risked damaging the plants during the lengthy trip.

In response, USAID’s Community Support Program (CSP) expanded the capacities of CWB’s seedling production nursery by providing it with a greenhouse, climate-controlled germination room, irrigation system, and other equipment needed to increase its production of high-quality, low-cost seedlings. This support is one example of how USAID  helps strengthen the resilience of communities vulnerable to climate impacts as part of its 2022-2030 Climate Strategy.

“Not only did this intervention increase CWB’s production of high-quality seedlings, but it will enable CWB to cultivate close to 1,200 hectares of land, contributing greatly to the agricultural sector amidst the country’s economic crisis,” said Elias Ghadban, founding member of CWB. 

To sustain the expanded nursery’s heating and cooling systems during lengthy state power cuts, CWB is utilizing its increased annual income to install a solar farm to ensure continuous renewable energy supply. 

Image

Photo of person putting seeds into germination tray
A local agricultural non-governmental organization (NGO) worker in Beqaa, Lebanon, plants high-quality seedlings after USAID CSP expanded the NGO’s seedling production capacity by providing it with an additional greenhouse and climate-controlled germination room to sustain heating and cooling systems.

By January 2024, the expanded nursery was operating at full capacity, enabling CWB to produce more than 1.2 million low-cost seedlings in just two months. In fact, CWB sold more than 750,000 eggplant seedlings, around 300,000 sweet pepper seedlings, and more than 150,000 tomato seedlings at very low prices, benefiting more than 250 local farmers. 

“Now that I am able to purchase higher quality seedlings for a lower cost, I have been able to resume production while saving around 40 percent in production costs,” said Masour al Khoury, a local farmer from Baalbek-Hermel.

The addition of the solar farm will help ensure the seedlings are kept in a climate-controlled environment despite external factors, and is expected to increase CWB’s annual production to around 20 million higher-quality seedlings.

The integration of solar energy not only ensures climate control for seedlings but also addresses the energy crisis in Lebanon, allowing CWB to extend its impact while minimizing its environmental footprint. 

“Given the current energy crisis in Lebanon, solar energy is crucial for our project to provide optimum growing conditions so that we can sustain and extend our production and impact. The solar farm that we are now able to afford will also enable CWB to reach many more farmers in the area while protecting the environment,” says Mehyiddin.

Looking ahead, CWB's commitment to innovation and sustainability promises to enhance agricultural resilience in the region for years to come.

Country
Lebanon
Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Mitigation
Topics
Adaptation, Agriculture, Clean or Renewable Energy, Climate-Resilient Agriculture, Climate Strategy, Food Security, Resilience
Region
Middle East & North Africa

Anastacia Hajj

Anastacia Hajj is the USAID-CSP Director of Communications & Outreach, Chemonics International. With over 13 years of experience in the development and implementation of media, advocacy, and communications strategies in the Middle East and North Africa region for development actors and the private sector, Ms. Hajj has assumed technical and managerial positions with donors, UN agencies, and several international NGOs. Previously, she led reporting and communications at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Related Resources

View All Resources about
Document

Climate Strategy Webinar Series

Screenshot of the landing page of the Climatelinks Climate Risk Management Portal.
Website

Climate Risk Management Portal

Climate Risk Profile

Climate Risk Profile: Ethiopia

More on the Blog

USAID’s HEARTH initiative aims to advance both the sustainable conservation of threatened landscapes and the well-being and prosperity of communities.
Single puku standing still on misty plains
A new activity is helping women farmers access agricultural insurance in rural Kenya.
woman farmer stands in front of cows
The following blogs highlight some of the ways USAID is working at the intersection of climate and agriculture and food systems.
Picture in April 2023, shows a rice farm in Majin Gari, Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State (Long: 6.113753, Lat: 9.07204), Nigeria, by Salihu Idris (in the plot), was fertilized solely with biochar and compost, and no synthetic fertilizers, yielded 4.5 tons/ha, without any release of carbon emissions from the farming activity. The farmer, Salisu, is one of the participants of the USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services Activity implemented by Winrock International.