Minieh, North-Lebanon (ILO News) The ILO, together with ACTED held a training for women and men interested in setting up joint income-generating activities in Lebanon’s agriculture and agro-food sectors, as part of an initiative aimed at fostering social solidarity and improving livelihoods in selected villages.
The training introduced candidates to the concept of social entrepreneurship and equipped them with the knowledge on proposal writing in a bid to help them develop and submit business proposals on social and solidarity initiatives in the agriculture and agro-food sectors that address some of the common socio-economic challenges faced in their local villages.
Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE) initiatives are defined as a “concept designating enterprises and organizations, in particular cooperatives, mutual benefit societies, associations, foundations and social enterprises, which have the specific feature of producing goods, services and knowledge while pursuing both economic and social aims and fostering solidarity”.
In Lebanon, the initiative seeks to identify key socio-economic priorities and needs, including challenges and opportunities specific to the agriculture and agro-food sectors and bring together key actors to address these common challenges.
The initiative is supported by the Netherlands, under the framework of PROSPECTS, a multi-agency programme, which addresses education, employment and protection in the context of forced displacement in eight countries, including Lebanon.
“We are working closely with steering committees established in collaboration with the municipalities of the northern villages of Bebnine, Syr El Donnieh, Kfar Habou and Akroum to help vulnerable communities devise solutions to their own problems, as part of our efforts under PROSPECTS to promote livelihoods and decent jobs for vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugees,” said Shaza Al Jondi, ILO Regional Chief Technical Adviser for PROSPECTS. “At the heart of these interventions lie social solidarity and cohesion.”
The training brought together active actors in the agriculture sector such as farmers, agricultural workers, cooperative members, municipality members, members of civil society organizations, and young women and men interested in establishing joint income-generating activities in the agriculture sector.
“We all have ideas and would like to establish income-generating projects and this training introduced us to new terminology and taught us how to accurately plan and organise our ideas in order to achieve our goals,” said Faten Mohammed Aboud, an activist from Bebnine, who participated in the training.
Following the training, candidates will be invited to write and submit their proposals to the ILO by mid-November, after which a selected group will receive further training to develop their full-fledged business plans related to their SSE initiative. The most successful business plans will receive grants and further technical support to set up their projects.
Working with local communities, identifying prioritiesWorking closely with the four municipalities, the ILO and ACTED have helped establish steering committees, composed of agricultural and agro-food actors and experts, who are tasked with providing strategic guidance; identifying socio-economic needs and monitoring the implementation of the SSE projects.
The committees include municipality members, representatives of the local Ministry of Agriculture offices, local farmers, agriculture engineers, cooperatives, civil society organizations and representatives of the private sector.
“We understand steering committees as entry points for the ILO and ACTED to identify key actors in the sector, help establish SSE initiatives and ensure their sustainability in the longer-term, as steering committee members will be in charge of monitoring these projects,” said Mayssoun Korban, ACTED Projects Coordinator. “The extensive involvement of the steering committees in the implementation process also ensures ownership of the SSE projects by the committees at the community level.”
Through a series of consultation workshops and focus group discussions, stakeholders have identified challenges and proposed solutions to support the development of the agriculture and agro-food sector in the four villages. Village-specific profiles have been developed to lay the ground for the establishment of income-generating SSE initiatives in the agriculture and agro-food sectors.
Key challenges identified include those related to lack of water irrigation channels and water scarcity; high cost of raw materials and equipment; difficulty in accessing the market; and lack of farmer knowledge.
“We have held several meetings with key actors who have lived experience in the challenges facing the sector in Bebnine,” said Deeb Kessar from the Bebnine municipality and who is a member of the village’s steering committee. “The proposed projects will benefit our communities and we are happy to be working with the ILO and ACTED on this initiative.”