Contributing writer: Jameel Dabbagh
Land is versatile, its power lies in the way that it is harnessed. In response to the local economic crisis which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a loving and imaginative gesture to honor the wishes of her late grandfather Salman Aboul Hosn, Lamis Jawhari decided to reclaim the land that she inherited from him to empower the local community of Qalaa in the Baabda district.
Lamis’s land is being upgraded and repurposed through a sustainable farming project called Ard Jeddeh which is being implemented by FHF with the support of ESDU in the framework of the Ardi Ardak National Food Security Initiative.
Ard Jeddeh is a community-based project that will serve as a model for sustainable food production and will also create employment and networking opportunities for the local community and neighboring farmers.
Abandoned for years, the land was previously used for the cultivation of olive trees and various kinds of fruit trees. Following the land assessment by a team of FHF and ESDU agricultural experts, it was decided to develop a berry farm. The berry farm will include: strawberries which will be grown in a high-tech greenhouse with controlled climate and soil conditions, local mulberries and blackberries on the terraces, raspberries which will be cultivated on a trellis system and grapevines for wine production. At a later stage, the farm will be complemented with a processing unit to make jams, dry fruits and syrups among other products, which will add value to the fresh produce. A small-scale winery will also be established.
In keeping with the sustainable mission of the project, the FHF and ESDU team will establish a compost unit on the land to enrich the soil with nutrients as a way to sustainably improve the quality of the fruits that will be grown. Land waste will also be turned into compost. Additionally, aromatic plants will be planted across the land to serve as a natural pest control and organic mulch consisting of straw will be spread on the soil to retain its moisture and temperature and to suppress the growth of weeds. The sustainable farm will also have a high-tech irrigation system with sensors and an automated system which is rarely found in local agricultural areas.
FHF spoke with Lamis Jawhari to further shed light on the deeply personal story of her land and her future plans for the project.
Tell us about yourself and the story of your land.
Growing up, my cousins and I watched my grandfather grow most of our produce in his garden. He made it a point to visit his garden/in-home farm every morning and come back with a basket of fresh produce for us to all enjoy. Before passing away, he left my mother a piece of land and told us it was a dream of his for us to use it for agricultural purposes instead of building anything on it. When the economic crisis began, I decided that it was the best time to invest in the land and begin an agricultural project that can help support the community by offering employment opportunities and the agriculture sector in general. I spent summers in the mountains and felt it was extremely important to remain connected to my roots and to keep my grandfather’s story alive through this project.
What was your involvement in the Ard Jeddeh project and why did you decide to repurpose your land?
Ard Jeddeh is a project I have created to hopefully impact the community with sustainable jobs and to create the goodwill of an authentic brand name with my grandfather’s values. We are aiming to set up a state of the art yet authentic farm, while hiring the right local talent along the way. We will be starting with a berry farm – since berries are highly nutritious and are not commonly available in large quantities in the area.
How do you think introducing the concept of sustainable food production will impact the community and what kinds of jobs will this project create?
While waiting for our own crops to grow, we will be working with other local organic berry suppliers to create jams and dry goods to sell under “Farmboise” – our brand. Our aim is to play a community enabling role based on three partnership circles – associates involved in the value chain (plowing, planting, harvesting, jam making), customers (including distributors), and community influencers (NGOs, municipalities, collaborations).
The collaboration with the FHF/ESDU team started back in July 2020. The implementation of the Ard Jeddeh project began on January 4th, 2021 and is expected to be completed by the spring.