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Promoting the Domestication and Culture of Aromatic and Edible Wild Plants in the Hermel and Shmostar areas

Background

The Hermel Region is a highly deprived area in Lebanon which has been characterised historically as an outlaw area. The local population resorted to illicit crops for at least two decades that ended up with the end of the civil war. Several international projects attempted to provide a good replacement for illicit crop culture and trade with a limited success. The result was a collapse in a booming local economy and increased migration from the region towards the cities.
Within this picture, some people have chosen to remain in those villages, possibly because of the lack of alternatives elsewhere.
Hermel uplands are home to several species of aromatic and edible wild plants that have been target to some research project with universities. These plants are currently used in a very limited manner to provide small scale kitchens in Beirut. Additionally, the local group of women are currently working on formalising their relationship into a cooperative and trying to strengthen their production capacity and diversity of products.
Several of the edible plants have an aromatic/medicinal nature and are used based on the traditional knowledge to treat some disorders and illnesses.
Another area of interest is in the Central Bekaa namely around Ksarnaba, Shmostar, Taraya and Bayt Bu Slaybi. This area has been identified by the Agricultural Census project as a major location for the culture of the Damascus rose and the extraction of rose water. The same project did not reveal any marketing problem for these producers. On the contrary, much of the rose water that is being marketed in the major cities has a low quality and very low percentage of the natural product itself. Additionally, Rose oil is amongst the most expensive of essential oils due to the low oil productivity of the rose and the various uses of the oil especially by the cosmetics industry.
In both of these areas, the work in these sectors is done by local women.

Aims & Objectives

The aims of this project are to work with two local groups of women on the:

  • propagation and culture of the major edible wild plants to avoid any negative impact on their population due to intensive collection in the future,
  • increasing the culture of the Damascus Rose in the region of Shmostar and introduce modern extraction facilities to improved the production quantity and quality

The principal objectives of the project are to:

  • Provide a local women group in Hermel with technical and financial support to establish a cooperative and start propagating the major edible wild plants in their region,
  • Provide a local group of women in Bayt Bu Slaybi with support to establish a cooperative and with 5000 seedlings of Damascus to be planted in about 1 ha in the village,
  • Establish a mobile extraction unit for Rose water (capable of processing other plants) that would serve the village and neighboring ones
  • Develop and disseminate material that highlight the nature and uniqueness of these two areas and projects,
  • Introduce the principles of organic agriculture and nature conservation to the beneficiaries and assist them in implementing organic methods of production in their operation.

Main Activities

  • Establishment of a nursery for the propagation edible wild plants
  • Planting 1 ha of Dryland in the village of Bayt Bu Slaybi
  • Setup and operational mobile extraction unit
  • 20 women trained on developed extraction methods
  • 2000 brochures on the project and its products produced and distributed
  • 500 brochures on organic production methods and certification (total 1000) distributed

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