A rehabilitated irrigation channel and economic empowerment for residents of Lebanon’s Damour area

A project by the ILO’s ENABLE programme is working to empower agricultural communities through employment opportunities and infrastructure rehabilitation of an irrigation channel.

Article | 21 November 2023

BEIRUT (ILO News) - In the coastal area of Damour, Lebanon, just south of the capital Beirut, local municipality employee Boutros Azzam faced unique challenges relating to his passion for agriculture and deep connection to the land.

He had previously attempted to clean a channel which provides an essential source of irrigation for the local community's farms, and which had become overgrown with reeds and filled with garbage. However, this attempt had to be put on hold due to the economic crisis which hit Lebanon in 2019.

Damour local Boutros Azzam (right) speaks with ENABLE Chief Technical Adviser Federico Barroeta at the site of the channel under rehabilitation. ©Elisa Oddone/ ILO
When the ILO's ENABLE programme, funded by the European Union, intervened in Damour, Boutros found renewed hope that the channel could be rehabilitated restored to a properly functioning state. With the programme's support, he could resume his crucial role in channel maintenance, ensuring a reliable water supply for local farmers.

Diana Moubarak, a Syrian residing in Damour, gathers reeds to clear a segment of the channel. ©Elisa Oddone/ ILO
Similarly, Diana Moubarak, a Syrian refugee residing in Damour, had always aspired to a better life for herself and her family. Limited job opportunities in the area posed a significant obstacle. However, with the intervention in Damour implemented by ILO ENABLE programme, Diana was given the opportunity to contribute her skills to the rehabilitation of irrigation channels. Through her dedication and hard work, Diana not only secured an income but also found a renewed sense of purpose and pride within the Damour community where she lives.

The ILO ENABLE intervention in Damour recognizes that sustainable development extends beyond infrastructure and requires the nurturing of local skills and knowledge to thrive in an ever-changing world, through the Employment Intensive Infrastructure (EII) modality. Through comprehensive training programmes, workers like Diana and Boutros are equipped with the necessary tools to master construction techniques and adhere to safety protocols. Following the trainings, workers will practice what they have learned, while executing the rehabilitation works of the channel. This investment in human capital ensures the long-term success and resilience of the community.

The 20-kilometer-long irrigation channel holds significant importance for agricultural practices in the region, with distinct upper and lower sections that facilitate precise water management tailored to specific needs. This reliable system supports successful farming, contributing to productivity and sustainability. Despite challenges such as erosion, structural defects, debris accumulation, the intervention in Damour aims to comprehensively rehabilitate the channel. Through infrastructure rehabilitation, employment creation, and skills development, the project fosters sustainable development while preserving the environment and promoting agriculture activities. The intervention in Damour serves as an inspiring example for other regions to follow.
Workers cleaning the irrigation channel ©Elisa Oddone/ ILO