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Lebanese family turns to farming to survive crises -Breaking


© Reuters. Khadija Shreim (39), stands in front of her produce and fruit stall, as a customer purchases cucumbers. This is Shreim’s Houla village home, close to the border with Israel. It was June 7, 2022. Picture taken June 7, 2022. REUTERS/Aziz Tah


Maya Gebeily and Aziz Taher

HOULA, Lebanon (Reuters). Qassem shreim sat down in a small village in the southern Lebanon to check his crop of wheat. Food costs have soared amid a global wheat crisis and Lebanon’s own economic meltdown, but the builder-turned-farmer feels shielded by his self-sufficiency.

Shreim, like many other families in crisis-ravaged Lebanon, turned to farming when the value of his local pound started to slide in 2019. This made it difficult for him to build and more expensive to buy groceries.

“We couldn’t work so what did you do? The 42-year old told Reuters that he turned to farming in Houla near Israel’s border.

According to the World Food Programme, food prices rose 11 times since Lebanon’s crisis started. The official price limit for the basic pita bread has been raised incrementally by Lebanese authorities. There are also growing concerns about a shortage of wheat since Russia invaded Ukraine, which halted grain shipment.

This crisis is far away from Shreim’s home. There, slices of melon from the garden sparkle in the afternoon sunlight, and flatbread made by Khadija using the wheat grown on their property are all available.

The front porch and the hallway were converted into a shop where Khadija made wooden stalls that bear watermelons, watermelons and fresh-pressed grapeleaves.

Self-sufficiency begins at home. Everything I needed was bought at the local shops. Shreim said that all of the vegetables she needs are now available in her home.


His family has grown everything over the past three years: wheat, lentils, tiny eggplants, curled green chili peppers, and even small potatoes.

Plots at lower altitudes have more water and are regularly rotated in order to replenish the soil with nutrients while maximising the harvest.

Shreim was not born with green fingers. He learned to put up greenhouses from YouTube videos, and learned tips and tricks from fellow farmers.

Khadija (39) also uses technology to manage the shop.

Every morning, she sends the daily grocery price to al-Houla women through WhatsApp Messenger Group at 9 AM. They then reply with any questions.

Khadija said, “They call me mayor of this village here. I know everybody.”

She believes sustainability extends beyond agriculture. Customers are encouraged to bring along their own fabric bags in order to reduce the use of plastic bags. Additionally, she researches preservation methods on YouTube.

“I invent new things as the crisis gets worse. So, for example, what was left from small eggplants became jam. It was unbelievable. People would ask me, “What do you mean eggplant jam?” “I couldn’t keep up to orders,” she stated.

However, Shreim’s operations are not completely unaffected by the crisis in Lebanon.

The state provides electricity for one hour per day to their home, while a private generator supplies four hours. This limits the amount of water that they can use in their gardens.

Rains were plentiful last winter but Shreim fears a drier winter this time around could wreak havoc on next year’s crops.

For cost reasons, they have reduced the use of vitamins and pesticides. Înaintea crisis, many farmers used to truck their produce to Beirut so that they could sell for higher prices.

Shreim explained, “Today, it is different – If I want products to Beirut’s Wholesale Market for Fruits and Vegets, and assuming the car does not break down, the cost to fuel would be the same amount I earn over an entire year.”

He runs a tractor to plough his fields on diesel, and counts every second he does it.

Shreim, however, brushed off these worries.

“I will not go back to the same job I had… “I won’t go back to my old job…I want to keep going.” He said that farming has a bright future.