Lebanese farmers on pre-alert

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12/14/2009


A pre-alert system capable of detecting diseases and insects in cultivated areas is the objective of the Agricultural Development Project, funded by the European Union and implemented in collaboration with the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute.


Ghada Ezzat - Beirut, Eurojar

Fruits and vegetables are supposed to be synonyms of healthy diet, with benefits for the body, in opposition to fast food, most commonly consumed nowadays. Yet, few years ago, the issue of fruits and vegetables started to strike great fears in the hearts of Lebanese citizens. Studies have confirmed that residues of pesticides were detected in most harvests on the Lebanese territory. The doses of such pesticides exceeded the norms internationally approved due to their anarchic use in plantations; to the absence of awareness campaigns and orientations in the agricultural field and sometimes due to the greediness of farmers who seek fast profit, and jeopardize public interest. This contamination of crops does have tragic consequences, such as possible development of cancerous tumors.

A fast action to ameliorate the quality of production appears to be the only solution to this problem, especially when looking to boost exports; a step that requires producing in conformity with international standards. With the Agricultural Development Project (ADP), funded by the European Union with a budget up to 8 million Euros, efforts seem to be heading in the right direction, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) and the chambers of commerce, industry and agriculture, as well as agricultural cooperatives.

The pre-alert system to detect diseases and insects constitutes the core aspect of the project. It consists of collecting the largest size of technical, climatic and field information in order to alert the farmers to any possible danger as soon as possible. This system will help fighting problems by adequate scientific means at the adequate timing. Results of preliminary tests and researches get distributed to producers of fruits and vegetables in an effort to alert them, as soon as possible, about the oncoming risks and dangers. Such precautionary steps aim at helping farmers stay in their rural areas, living from their produce and increasing their revenues.

The first stage in the execution of the program was launched with forty agricultural cooperatives. The second phase will gather the entirety of producers of fruits and vegetables, whether they are part of co-ops or not.

Exchange of expertise
The responsible of the pre-alert program of diseases and insects, Michel Frem, who is as well director general of the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI), explains that “the project of pre-alert, with a budget of 1.8 million Euros, was executed with LARI and was closed at the end of 2008. Yet, we are still working on this project with our proper budget, because it constitutes now an integral part of our work strategy, based on research and orientation. A budget of 200 million Lebanese pounds is allocated to this project yearly.”

Frem highlights the advantages of the project: “We have launched several tenders in order to buy scientific specimens of diseases and insects, as well as insect traps. The aim is to obtain fruits and vegetables free of diseases and insects, and free of pesticide residues. Thanks to this project, LARI will have the chance to renew its laboratories and acquire the necessary equipment. The project established so far a network of 40 stations of pre-alert of diseases and insects, introduced orientation tips and guidelines to producers, and organized training for scientific executives of the Institute performed by European experts, who came to Lebanon to share their experience or through training trips of the Institute’s officials to Europe”.

According to Frem, the project will start to show its positive impact on exports as of the end of 2010: the cleaner is the production (in conformity with European norms); the greater is the capacity of farmers for exportation.

Faten Raad, administrative coordinator of the Agricultural Development Project in LARI underlines that “the greatest problem that Lebanese farmers face is the problem of exporting to the European Union market, where the norms for exportation are very strict. These countries do not accept on their territories products that are not in conformity with their norms. In Lebanon, most farmers are not well-informed about these norms. Some of them use a large quantity of pesticides to multiply their grains. However, this does a lot of harm to crops. In fact, ill-programmed use of pesticides kills good insects that preserve the eco-system. The same pesticides will appear in the final produce, especially if harvested prematurely”. She stresses that “with the enhancement of quality and productivity, farmers will not need a mediator to export their produce”.

Ambitious missions

LARI’s missions in this project can be summarized as follows:
- The installation of an “agriculture and meteorology monitoring system” within the institute; with a main station in Tal el Amara in the Bekaa, and extension stations spread in Abdé, Fanar, Tyre, Kfarchkhna, Kfardan and Labaa.
- Each regional Laboratory takes in charge the duty of assembling information related to diseases and epidemics. Insect traps have been installed. Regional research offices and agricultural co-ops are endeavoring to determine the manifestations of each disease.
- Distribution of specimens of diseases or digital photos in most divisions. Researchers have the duty of identifying the insects and the diseases.

In fact, LARI has played a major role in the preparation of 15 technical kits for the orientation of farmers on the ways of managing and protecting their crops. The main objective behind technical kits is to provide the necessary information for the production of fruits and vegetables, while defining the ecological needs of crops, as well as the means of protecting them from diseases. Those kits detail the ways of taking care of grains following plantation, with tips about marketing the products according to a specific calendar distributed to farmers. The kit also contains a guide on tools to fight diseases and lists the principles of chemical protection. All this should contribute to educate farmers and raise their awareness, in an effort to produce good quality crops, increase their revenues and develop export capacity.

The technical kits cover so far the following products: olive, apple, potato, cherry, apricot, peach, plum, lettuce, citrus fruits, cucumber, tomato, almond, raisin, strawberries, mushroom, onion, and garlic.

Dr. Elia Choueiri, responsible of the protection of plantations division at LARI and in charge of the agricultural diseases division at ADP explains: “We were able to detect the most dangerous diseases thanks to this project. We also discovered a number of new diseases that we were not aware of, as well as the means of getting rid of them”. Mr. Choueiri stresses on the importance of developing an integrated awareness campaign that details the means to protect the soil in order to help farmers acquire better practices and manage better crops in the coming years.

Refer to the project fact sheet: Agricultural development (Lebanon)






Your reactions
patentsdesigner, Egypt | 12-01-2010, 09.18h

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