ILO helps Lebanese farming communities hosting Syrian refugees
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ILO helps Lebanese farming communities hosting Syrian refugees


“Here we are very close to the Syrian borders. This area has been affected a lot by the Syrian crisis, and the people who were most directly negatively affected were the farmers in this area, and most specifically the potato farmers.” “There’s been a lot of focus, rightfully
so of course, on the Syrian refugees, however very little focus and attention
has been paid on the Lebanese people, who also need help.” “Rent for land has gone up. For example, the people from Aleppo
(in Syria) plant vegetables. They have now started leasing land,
and they’ve raised the cost of leasing land. I mean this is another problem. So now instead of taking a piece of land for 250
(thousand Lebanese pounds, about US$166,000), now it costs you 500.” “Many investors came in from Syria
and tried to invest here, the price of land rose,
there was high demand for the land, and the rising cost of the land is raising
the production costs for the farmers.” “We used to rent one hectare of land at one and a half million (Lebanese pounds,
about US$ 995,00) or two million, in this area. It’s now six million a year,
so it’s doubled twice. Before I used to be comfortable
with my production, I was at ease, I had no problems. Now I am in debt to this broker
and that guy.” “In order to hire workers, we used to pay for each worker about
1,500 liras (Lebanese pounds, about US$1) and there used to be workers, but today we pay 3,500 liras per hour
and there are no workers. Today we are selling a kilo of potatoes
for 400 liras and it costs 550 from the land, the kilo of potatoes costs 550,
so we lose 150 liras for each kilo of potatoes. We used to harvest 100 tonnes a day,
but now we harvest 20 tonnes or 30 tonnes. The potatoes that remain are going to rot. We call out to the Lebanese authorities to help us. We don’t have workers other than Syrian. Let them open the borders for us
to let the workers in.” “Most of the Lebanese potatoes
used to be exported by land, and with the crisis in Syria, exporting has stopped, so the potatoes are rotting here in the land, and they are being bought for extremely low prices, which are less than the (production) costs of potatoes.” “The borders are closed
and we can’t export it. We can’t sell the potatoes,
and we can’t pull them out of the ground. The potatoes are going to stay in the ground and rot.” “The farmer can raise his voice,
but he cannot do anything. You need someone to respond.” “What we’ve actually found in our research is that there is a market that is practically untapped, and that is the European market. So what we want to do is work
with the exporters, work with the farmers, and with European importers on the other hand, in order to enable some export to get
going for the next potato season in Akkar.” “One of the key issues at stake here
is social cohesion. The longer you wait
with helping the Lebanese people, the more unhappy
they will be with the situation. It will just increase radicalization of,
in particular, youth. It will make the Lebanese blame
the Syrians who are around here, and they will be increasingly unwelcoming
to the thousands of refugees around them.”

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