A tangle of muddy roads lead to Rana’s farm, which is nestled between the snow-topped peaks of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
They could be a metaphor for the many factors they represent. World Food Programme(WFP), is warning that there are three main factors driving up fuel and food prices in the Middle East/North Africa: conflict, climate change, and rising costs.
Since she was a child, Rana has got up at 5 a.m. to make a living out of what she loves most: being busy on her parents’ farm. “I am a farmer at heart,” says the former nurse. “I feel an itch whenever I stay between four walls for too long.”
Rana is just one of the millions of Lebanese living in a crumbling economy with skyrocketing prices as Ramadan approaches.
The conflict in Ukraine is affecting fuel and food prices. Import-dependent Lebanon gets 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine – which together with Russia supplies 30 percent of the grain worldwide.
Last year, the cost of a food basket – the minimum food needs per family per month – Reports indicate an annual increase in 351 percent in Lebanon, followed by Syria at 97 percent, and Yemen’s 81 percent.
Sadly, wheat shipments to Lebanon are forced to arrive on smaller ships, after the devastating Beirut blast in 2020 destroyed the country’s largest grain storage silos.
Rana, a farmer from Rana, is at the forefront of climate change as prolonged dry spells cause havoc in their fields.
“I thought last summer would never end,” says Rana. Rana said that she had to sell half of her cows and sheep to pay for the fodder.
“I also had to get rid of most of my vegetable yield last year because of a bug infestation,” she adds. When it doesn’t rain it’s “heaven for these little critters”. This summer she expects more and more of her crops will “fall victim to climate change”.
She adds: “You don’t need a weather app to tell you something is not right. You literally feel it on your skin.”
Heat and humidity make agricultural labour more difficult. Rana must also cultivate crops earlier or later than normal to avoid financial ruin from a poor harvest.
Wildfires are ravaging Lebanon, causing havoc and forcing people to flee their homes. Since 2017, WFP in Lebanon has been on the front line of the response to the country’s climate crisis. We have planted more than 1.1 million seedlings, and saved more than 502 ha of forests from being destroyed by fire.
WFP and the American University of Beirut are currently implementing a pilot program that strengthens the adaptive capabilities of rural communities by supporting smallholder farmers in Akkar, Bekaa (Baalbeck), Hasbaya, and Baalbeck.
It is helping farmers to reduce the impact of climate change by enhancing their marketing skills and managing their livestock.
WFP is currently examining the possibility of replicating this work or similar livelihoods project. However, a lack of funding hinders our full support to vulnerable people – including farmers – as they approach the brink. Funding is vital to build on past successes and support more people who are in greatest need.
Rana’s greenhouse used to be filled with different kinds of vegetables. The climate crisis is forcing her to opt for crops that are resilient to water shortages – planting aromatic herbs like mint and rosemary instead of the usual, and more lucrative, tomatoes, green peppers, and zucchini.
“What I’ve learned in this project is eye-opening. I’m producing cost-friendly, organic fertilizers out of things I’m accustomed to throwing out,” says Rana, adding that this has allowed her to use the money she has saved to compensate for some of her losses.
So instead of buying fertilizers, she is making them out of things she’s accustomed to throwing out.
Rana predicts that as Ramadan prices rise, more families will be left with little to eat after breaking their fast.
WFP remains at the forefront of the humanitarian response to Lebanon’s crises, currently assisting one in every three people across a country that is now reeling under the impact of local and global crises.