Contributors: Sara Ramadan, Jana El Oud, Wael El Aridi, Mohammad Mohsen, Mahdi Mohammad, Amir Bazzi
Food insecurity, described as a situation in which a household suffers from disruption of food intake or of eating patterns given limited funds and other resources, is a major nutrition and economic issue worldwide. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as the lack of consistent access to adequate food for an active, healthy life.
Lebanon is currently facing marginal food security and low food security where households are facing anxiety over food sufficiency or shortage of food, as well as the reduction in quality and variety of food. This phenomenon is caused due to poverty and the lack of adequate resources.
Since 2019, Lebanon has been facing an economic crisis which has led to the deterioration of the Lebanese Lira. The World Food Programme reported a 340 percent increase in the price of the basic food basket by May 2021. This has left many Lebanese households unable to afford the essential food items.
We are tackling three strategies that can be implemented to reduce Food Insecurity in Lebanon:
- Distribution of Food Parcels
Food parcels are parcels of food prepared and sent , especially by charitable organizations, to people in need. NGOs can aid the Lebanese people by distributing these parcels that contain items that are sufficient to provide the required daily nutritional values.Handing out weekly food parcels with nutritionally balanced products for households can decrease the burden of securing food. We determined the optimal items to be included are bread, pasta, rice, milk, oat, beans, lentils, tuna, and biscuits.
- Supporting the Agricultural Sector
According to the world bank, 64% of the Lebanese land is cultivatable and almost 14% is arable. In addition to the abundance of water resources, Lebanon has an average rainfall of 2.2 billion m³ per year. These numbers are significantly higher than other countries in the region which shows that this sector, if used efficiently, can help diversify the economy and increase the resiliency of the people in case of any sudden crises.
Although this sector currently contributes to 3% of the Lebanese GDP, data shows that this sector is severely underutilized. Moreover, the yield for some of the major crops has been decreasing. This is evident from the Total Factor Productivity that has decreased on average by 0.46%.
Supporting this sector optimizes the yield by increasing the supply of the items leading to local price reduction. This will decrease the import dependency for food consumption which averages around 75-80%.
The government and the NGOs can support this sector by encouraging the production of the primary materials used in the cultivation to decrease their imports, as well as asking for some international help to supply the farmers with the latest machinery as most of the farmers are still using outdated techniques.
Also, the government and the NGOs could educate farmers about the proper way of using the chemicals as there have been concerns regarding chemical levels in the products. The government should also take restrictive measures to limit the export of products that do not meet the quality standards required by other countries.
- Supporting the Livestock Sector
According to a study done by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2015, it was found that 1% of the Lebanese population raises livestock. There is a high dependence on imports to satisfy these needs where the imports of sheep and cattle recorded 416,289 and 317,818 heads respectively. On the other hand, only 90,986 sheep heads and 2,997 cattle heads were exported. Thus, the NGOs and the Lebanese Government should increase veterinary services provided, support livestock related research, and conduct training sessions forfor livestock raisers about the food diet of livestock, widespread diseases, breeding, and grazing techniques would play a major role in increasing the productivity of the livestock sector.
Supporting the agriculture and livestock sectors, as well as handing out food parcels does not mean that Lebanon will be self-sufficient when it comes to food, but it will decrease the burden of the current crises and any future disaster that might put the Lebanese people at risk of food insecurity.
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