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Farming in Lebanon: “This isn’t a country of dreams”

Portrait of Youmin Nasser Al Khoder

Photo: Kate Crosby/CARE

Photo: Kate Crosby/CARE

My name is Youmin Nasser Al Khoder. I am from the northern Governorate of Akkar in Lebanon. I live in a small village called Berdeh.

Clean and tasty food. It’s my work. When I work, I feel like I own the world.

I plant according to two seasons: summer and winter.

In winter I plant cauliflower, cabbage, winter lettuce, chard, spinach, coriander, parsley. I build a tent for parsley to hide it from the rain and the cold. I do the same for coriander. In summer I plant potatoes. I plant tomatoes, green beans, eggplants, zucchini, and cucumbers. Melon and watermelon. I also plant summer lettuce.

Sometimes, if I have some left, I trade them just to get back the cost of seeds and medicines. And a bit for my labor.

We also have animals: cows, sheep, and chickens. They help me a lot. With their manure I don’t need to buy fertilizers. I benefit greatly from them.

The most important thing is that our vegetables are clean, with no chemicals or sewage.

I only put manure as fertilizers.

I am very happy with my job, and I love it. When you don’t love your job, you’ll be unproductive.

When you love your job, you’ll be productive, whatever that job may be.

Woman feeding a cow
Photo: Kate Crosby/CARE

School Days

[Growing up], I was in a public school in Aaidamoun (North Lebanon). I gradually began to discover that I have a talent for basketball. When I was little, I tried building a team at school to play in tournaments, but it didn’t work out. Society here is a bit tough, it didn’t allow us to start a girls’ team. It was very tough on us.

But I had a dream: to go to university and become a sports coach to establish a girls’ basketball team. They told me about a trainer at the Safadi Club. I went to him, and I told him I wanted to practice basketball to become a player; to join a team at the national level, and then play in world championships.

He started talking and made me feel like I wasn’t up to it. He demoralized me. My spirits were at their lowest.

So I left, but I was depressed and didn’t want to do anything anymore. Then I thought about going to university to become a sports coach. I started working so I could go. When I went, I was surprised by the very high fees. I couldn’t afford it, so I left and stayed at my job.

Portrait of Youmin Nasser Al Khoder holding a tool, in a field
Photo: Kate Crosby/CARE

Building a Family’s Farm

During that time, I met a friend, Jalal. He told me that he works in agriculture, that he has greenhouse projects, and that it’s good and profitable. So, I put in my mind that I want to work and he encouraged me.

He stayed by my side all the time.

Whatever I needed, I could call, for example, to tell him about a disease. He would advise me and say: “go get this medicine from that person.” I did as he told me and, little by little, I acquired skills from him. Step by step, I started planting and tending the land.

I didn’t know much. But little by little I did.

Everyone started relying on me for farming. I plant everything as to lack nothing at home. I plant season by season, and I make sure we lack nothing. We are eight persons at home benefiting from agriculture.

Portrait of Youmin Nasser Al Khoder framed by vegetation
Photo: Victoria Chan-Frazier/CARE

Climate Change and Power Cuts

We are facing a lot of challenges. Climate change is a big problem. We also don’t have electricity for me to water and plant in large quantities.

We can’t plant when the power is completely cut off. If we had electricity, I would have mustered up the courage and sold in the markets to get some revenue.

We have electricity only two or four hours a day, so I couldn’t plant anything. I had nothing this year. I have to buy fuel and turn on the generator to fill the well and water the field. If we had electricity, I could have planted large quantities and sold them in the market. But in small quantities, only for our home.

Honestly, here in Lebanon, we don’t think about our dreams.

This isn’t the country of dreams; it’s the country of misery. Really. We are without electricity, medical care. We are deprived of everything. There’s nothing.

So, my dreams for my country? For it to become a just country among all the Lebanese people.

A pair of hands holding chicken eggs
Photo: Kate Crosby/CARE

Hoping for Growth

A CARE project provided us with many services.

They held a course for us every month in the Dreib area. They give us information about farming, the diseases we might encounter, what we should do, and how to fight harmful insects, beneficial insects, and diseases. How to use pesticides the right way; not in large and excessive amounts as to not be harmful. They also provided us with some seeds and equipment. They helped us and are still supporting us.

It’s a bit slow but I am very grateful to them because they helped farmers and supported them in this difficult crisis.

I would like to grow my farm. I would like, for example, to export abroad. I hope the government will stop importing from abroad, especially importing vegetables. And that it will support Lebanese farmers. To not let Lebanese farmers lose a lot because of the failure of the government. This is what I wish for.

My dream for women is for them to become liberated.

That they become the masters of themselves – independent. For women to reach positions reached by men, like the president of the republic or the head of the government and the parliament.

That’s what I wish for because some women, by their way of thinking, are worth a thousand men.

As told to CARE staff. Interview edited for clarity. For more information about CARE’s work in Lebanon, please visit our programs page here.

Youmin's Story

Portrait of Youmin Nasser Al Khoder
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