Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) - American University of Beirut
Lebanon suffers from severe food insecurity, with the country being dependent on imports (80% of its consumption) and with around 31% of the population unable to consume healthy food throughout the year. These harsh conditions are further aggravated by the current socioeconomic crisis increasing unemployment, exacerbating poverty and widening inequalities. In light of the ongoing crisis, ESDU in partnership with the Lebanese League for Women in Business, the Food Heritage Foundation and Zico House, launched "Ardi Ardak" (my land, your land), a National Food Security Initiative aiming at reviving the food security sector and promoting the local food system by supporting vulnerable communities.
Ardi Ardak is a community-supported initiative including a network of activities following the seed to table approach. Ardi Ardak offers small-scale producers access to the market and offers urban consumers access to healthy affordable local produce through a network of marketing channels including a Central Community Kitchen in Beirut. The kitchen is linked to and provides its material from ESDU’s network of Community Kitchens in rural areas. The marketing channels include as well: mobile outlets; farmers markets; food trails promoting local producers through rural tourism; online platform promoting climate-smart produce and sustainable producers; and Food and Roots brand that aims at marketing the products of small-scale producers following a clearly defined quality control protocol. Ardi Ardak offers consumers the chance of becoming the producers of their own food by promoting sustainable production, urban agriculture and community gardens which can have considerable impacts on the micro-environment and household consumption hence enhancing food security at household and community levels. To further support these pillars while fostering sustainable development, technical assistance has been provided and assets have been distributed to vulnerable communities. Activities include the distribution of seeds and seedlings and the conduction of land assessments and provision of technical guidance promoting sustainable agricultural practices. In addition, food parcels are being distributed. Food parcels are constituted of traditional mouneh products procured from local producers who have been trained by ESDU on food safety and best agro-food processing techniques.
Ardi Ardak is having an influential impact on livelihoods and food security by: supporting agricultural livelihoods; enhancing yield through mutual knowledge exchange between farmers and researchers; creating cooperative linkages between organizations, cooperatives, and individual producers; enhancing local capacities through training, quality control and market linkage; promoting social cohesion by supporting cooperative relationships between farmers, producers and consumers. Ardi Ardak is having an indirect impact on the environment through awareness raising for alternative energy production, circular economy and sustainable best practices. By guiding farmers on best agricultural practices, Ardi Ardak is spreading know-how and promoting eco-friendly climate-smart production processes. During 2020: - More than 100 lands assessments were conducted - More than 140,000 seedlings and 14,000 seeds-bags were distributed to vulnerable farmers - More than 1,500 mouneh boxes and more than 7,000 hot meals were prepared and distributed to vulnerable households
In light of the current socioeconomic crisis, the importance of the local food system rises today more than ever. In response to the recurrent crises, Ardi Ardak has led various relief activities supporting households highly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Beirut Blast, and the economic crisis. Ardi Ardak follows an inclusive holistic model supporting both producers and consumers while fostering self-sufficiency. Ardi Ardak promotes innovation applied to traditional agro-food productions, aiming at combining between product innovation and authenticity, making production processes more sustainable and strengthening the linkages among producers, markets and consumers.
Through Ardi Ardak, ESDU, LLWB and the FHF are working now on developing a robust mechanism through which they can provide small scale producers with all support needed and provide a basis for new and innovative forms of cooperation. The Consortium is working on developing an umbrella structure functioning as a formal entity providing market access, market visibility, organization of marketing and sales, quantity and stability in supply as well as quality management. It provides certification or rules of conduct in production and channel sales via the development of brands, such as Food and Roots. A first element and potential nucleus for such an umbrella structure was established with the ESDU marketing unit already developing the Food and Roots brand. The umbrella structure provides sustainable innovation support and incubation services for innovation, testing and exploration of new products and services, linkage to the wider network of supportive organization, training and support for conducting market analysis and business planning, as well as access to funds, knowledge and information.
FAFS, ESDU. (2020). Ardi Ardak Updates: https://www.aub.edu.lb/fafs/esdu/Pages/ArdiArdakUpdates.aspx The Main Gate. (2020). Helping Lebanese Farmers get on Track: https://sites.aub.edu.lb/maingate/2020/08/06/climat/
In response to the ongoing crises including the COVID-19 pandemic, Ardi Ardak Initiative has been supporting the most vulnerable households providing them with mouneh boxes and seeds and seedlings to enhance their self-sufficiency while at the same time supporting small-scale producers and farmers in shifting their production to sustainable low-cost production. In July 2020, Ardi Ardak was featured by FAO as Lebanon’s best enabling agricultural innovation system for rural youth and women during the pandemic COVID-19. FAO policy brief: http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/ca9470en.
SDGS & Targets
Deliverables & Timeline
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Ardi Ardak targets vulnerable communities including small-scale farmers and producers with a special focus on women and youth. Ardi Ardak is led by ESDU in partnership with the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB), the Food Heritage Foundation (FHF) and Zico House. This initiative is community-based providing urban consumers, the private sector and the diaspora the opportunity to engage in fostering the local food system and supporting small-scale rural producers through membership programs, investments and in-kind donations.