Last week, three technicians of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) who were in Lebanon, on a mission to help recover the country’s agriculture in the wake of a war, returned to Brazil with an in-depth survey of the visited regions.
They had five days of intense work, during which they visited small farmers in four areas of the country.
According to Carlos Reisser Junior, of Embrapa Temperate Climate, based in the city of Pelotas (in the southernmost Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul), the trip enabled the three technicians, each in their own area, to get acquainted with the peculiarities of local agriculture, so they could elaborate projects for improvements.
Reisser, who holds a doctorate in agrometeorology, explains that Lebanon is an oasis amidst the other Arab countries. "They have plenty conditions for developing agriculture. They have appropriate soil, topography and, more important, they have water," said the technician. "Anything, from bananas to cherries can be planted there."
The four visited regions were the south of the country, one of the zones most affected by this year’s conflict, the north (Tripoli and surroundings), the Bekaa Valley, and Mount Lebanon, the high part of Lebanon in which grapes, apples and other fruits are produced. "There, farmers use thawing water for irrigation," says Reisser.
All of the visited properties belonged to small farmers who employ only family members. "These were lands of one, one and a half hectare at most," Reisser claims. The largest property they visited was a 300-hectare one, in Bekaa Valley.
On the last day of the mission, the three technicians, Reisser, Flávio Gilberto Herter and Wanderlei Ferreira, of Embrapa Dairy Cattle, based in the city of Juiz de Fora (southeastern Brazilian state of Minas Gerais), met at the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture to hand in the report to local technicians. According to Reisser, the next step will be for Lebanese technicians to come to Brazil.
"The idea extends much farther than just helping rebuild the country. We intend to establish an exchange among technicians," explains the manager of the project, researcher José Madeira Netto, of Embrapa Brasília.
The three Brazilians arrived in Lebanon during a turbulent week, when the Lebanese minister of Industry, Pierre Gemayel, was murdered (on November 21st). Nevertheless, Reisser claims he did not see or experience any tense or risky situation.
"On the contrary. We were always very warmly welcomed everywhere. They simply receive Brazilians very well. Everyone, without exception, claimed to have a cousin, an uncle, a distant relative living here," says the Embrapa technician.
"They want to know everything about our country," he says. Reisser believes that this relationship only tends to open more doors for bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture.
The trip of the Embrapa technicians was the first concrete result of a project under development by the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), an organization under the federal government.
In October, ABC sent a mission to Lebanon, including representatives of several government and private sector organizations, in order to obtain a diagnosis of the areas in which Brazil could help. The director of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Mustapha Abdouni, was also on the mission.