Under the patronage of the Minister of Agriculture, H.E. Akram Chehayeb, «Akkar Day» was held yesterday on the campus of the Lebanese International University in Halba in the framework of the European Union-funded project «Improved livelihoods of small-scale farmers in Akkar». The event was organised by Mada Association and gathered many local producers.
«Akkar Day» was attended by H.E. Khalad Zahraman, Member of Parliament of the Akkar district, H.E. Nidal Tohme, Member of Parliament, Engineer Mohammed Taleb, Representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Virgine Cossoul, Private Sector Development Attaché at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Dr. Khaldoun Ayoub, director of the Lebanese International University – Akkar Branch, and Nadim Zakhia, Vice-President of Mada association, presidents of Unions of Municipalities, presidents of municipalities, personalities, visitors and the media.
The event inauguration ceremony started with the Lebanese and European Union anthems, followed by the welcome speech of Dr. Khaldoun Ayoub.
Nadim Zakhia said: “Mada decided years ago to focus on the agricultural problematic issues in Akkar because it is the region’s main resource. The project «Improved livelihoods of small-scale farmers in Akkar» currently being implemented has for mission to improve agriculture and give new opportunities to farmers; as the development of the agricultural sector in Akkar benefits the locals because they are in majority either directly or indirectly linked to this sector."
Zakhia also emphasized on the fact that Mada Association and Akkar have become deeply connected in part due to the presence of representatives of the region in the administrative body and as such Mada Association works from and to the benefit of Akkar.
He added: "We organized in October "Akkar Day" in Horsh Beirut as we wanted to raise awareness on Akkar products. We hope that this event will continue to be organized annually and have Akkar products available in the capital, in order to create a relationship between both regions."
He concluded: "We are now developing a new strategic plan to be hopefully executed next year. I would like to stress that disputes are the biggest hindrance to development, whereas cooperation and solidarity are the keys to success."
According to Khaled Zahraman: "Akkar is rich in resources, but unfortunately they are not being properly exploited to provide a developmental leap in raising the living standards of Akkar citizens, and that is due to the lack of a clear policy and developmental vision which will make these resources a source of wealth and well-being. To enhance this sector, a clear plan needs to be adopted by the government at the time where there are many needs and challenges especially that the export of agricultural production has become complicated and expensive.”
He added: "However, we see that there are efforts to provide external funding from donors to support this important sector, and among the many initiatives, the European Union-funded project “Improved livelihood for small-scale farmers in Akkar”, and we are here today to launch "Akkar Day" in order to give hope and make farmers hold on to their land, despite the obstacles and challenges, and to help them overcome the difficult conditions experienced by our country."
Virginie Cossoul commended Mada for the work undertaken under the European Union-funded project in support of farmers in the Akkar area, adding that "the project, and as its title indicates helps to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in Akkar. It aims at reducing poverty and increasing the income for rural communities, farmers in the first place."
Mohammed Taleb welcomed the attendees and said: “This event revives the memory of our ancestors, where local production was always linked to the mother, and therefore contributes to promote food security in households and on the national level.” He added: "Promoting local and traditional production revives the economic cycle of villages and rural areas whose livelihood depends on agriculture."
He stressed on the importance of the project implemented by Mada which will contribute to the involvement of the people living in rural areas, including women, in the family income, thereby developing the social and economic life of women, enhancing employment opportunities and reducing migration to the cities and abroad, in addition to contributing to the use of lands and increase in productivity.”
The event aimed at fostering closer relationships between producers and consumers and at further diversifying the channeling of local products. These products often account for a substantial part of families’ income in the region. In addition to displaying local products, the event also offered the attendees the chance to enjoy food at a traditional restaurant, and the children among them the opportunity to take part in fun activities, including bungee jumping.
The European Union-funded project « Improved livelihoods of small-scale farmers in Akkar», which is being implemented by Mada, provided several farmers with technical trainings and much-needed material, mostly irrigation-related, in order to strengthen the productive capacities of a region generally acknowledged for its know-how in agriculture and food processing.