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Fayy - فَيّ Urban gardening solutions

Increase food security in Great Beirut via urban agriculture, as communities can benefit from healthy and locally sourced food.

Photo of Maria Al Kayed
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

"Fayy" by arcenciel Lebanon

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large NGO (over 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

http://www.arcenciel.org/en/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Beirut

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Lebanon

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Beirut and Mount Lebanon (Metn region)

What country is your selected Place located in?

Lebanon

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

arcenciel is a Lebanese NGO founded in 1985. Since then, it has been working with and for vulnerable people, and promoting sustainable development all over Lebanon. We chose to start our urban agriculture project in Beirut and Mount Lebanon because those regions are the heart of the country. Most people are living or, at least working in there. Also, arcenciel’s head office is in Beirut. The great majority of the team’s members are Lebanese and currently live in these regions. We want to work to improve food security in Beirut because, regarding all the challenges the Lebanese People is currently facing, we consider it our duty to do our best to find out solutions for a better future for us and the next generations. Most of us have spent a great part of our life here. We are working towards making our city a better place for everyone to live in, but also to ensure a better future for the coming generations.  

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Lebanon has been inhabited for thousands of years. Beirut, the current capital and Mount Lebanon have played a vital role in the history of the region, being the melting pot of different civilizations. In fact, almost all the civilizations of the old world, have spent some time in Lebanon. Resulting in different ethnic and religious communities coexisting within this small unique country. Nowadays, the main languages spoken are Arabic, French, English and Armenian. 

Located on the Eastern Mediterranean coast, Lebanon benefits from a Mediterranean climate. Topographically, it is divided into 4 regions: coastal strip, Mount Lebanon range, Bekaa valley, and Anti-Lebanon Mountain range. Historically, it has been part of the Fertile Crescent, aka the Cradle of Civilization, where farming bloomed. Agriculture is still important as Lebanon can grow different field crops, vegetables and fruit trees, many being native to the area, and some are even endemic. 

Yet, the agriculture sector is suffering from ambiguous policies and bad practices affecting both farmers and consumers. Problems include but aren’t limited to overuse of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, lack of trust between the different stakeholders, increasing prices and food miles, high rate of harvest and food waste, since food must travel long distances to reach consumers. 

Lebanon is highly centralized, most of the population living in the coast, mainly Beirut and Mount Lebanon, making rural exodus a sad reality as many youth and families have left the countryside to find better job opportunities in the cities (hosting up to 89% of the population according to some estimates). Still, these newcomers remain rooted in their former villages, where they often visit their relatives, thus they know the value of nature, that they miss in the city. 

The Lebanese cuisine is famous for being one of the healthiest. It requires few ingredients, many of which are easy to grow, it is extremely varied and can be adapted to any diet, as the same dish can be made with or without meat. The food rich in different kinds of grains (e.g. wheat, lentils, beans, chickpeas); vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, potatoes), and leafy green vegetables (e.g. parsley, spinach, chicory, purslane, chard) with a moderate use of spices. Fruits are also very important in the Lebanese cuisine (e.g. watermelon, apple, cherries, strawberries). 

Currently, Lebanon is amid an economic crisis, worsening the food security situation. Many can no longer afford healthy and good quality food. Many can no longer afford healthy and good quality food as prices are increasing. Organic food is not affordable for a middle-class household so junk food becomes an alternative out of spite while people would love to keep cooking traditional fresh meals for their children and themselves. 

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

140

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

3000000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Today, 80% of the food available on the Lebanese market is imported which increases food miles, and the Carbon footprint of food. This is due to the recent Lebanese people’s habits of consuming products that aren’t naturally available in the country, and the inability of the sector to be self-sufficient. Also, Lebanese winter is known to be harsh with strong storms causing losses during agricultural season. Food safety is also threatened by 2050 because of climate change as we are already facing colder winters (with stronger storms and floods) and summers getting hotter and hotter, in addition to shortened autumn and spring seasons.  

Demographic pressure in the city worsens the land scarcity that the country is facing, and the intensive urbanization considerably reduces the natural space available, therefore negatively affecting biodiversity. Thus, increasing green areas in the cities is urgent as they lower the temperature and provide shelters in the city, especially considering that the number of people living in the area is expected to continue to rise until 2050 and afterwards.  

There is a lack of trust between the farmers and the consumers because of the intensive use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers by the former. At the same time, organic fresh produce is too expensive for an average household thus creating inequalities in food access. And as junk food remains affordable, the malnutrition issue, already existing, is expected to increase. Without any change in the current Food System and if the economic crisis (further increasing the prices of inputs and fuel for transportation among other issues) will continue, food security in the urban areas will be threatened.  

The continuously ongoing urbanization, out of any mandatory legal framework, led to the conclusion that we must go back to basics, and establish smart cities. We think that the high advanced and energy consuming technology will worsen the current situation in food access in the region. By 2050, the most important challenge will be for public institutions to work on legal frameworks and open dialogue with the communities in order to change the Food System and facilitate the access to healthy food for anyone in need. To do so, they must work on the use of pesticides and on the land scarcity. A better regulation of the conventional agricultural practices could help improving the quality of produce already available on the market and incentive frameworks in the real estate field could help to design ‘smarter’ urban areas.  

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our Vision is about urban agriculture is Great Beirut and answers land scarcity, carbon emissions, and people mistrust in local food. We propose several models of structures forming personalized urban gardens. Our structures are movable and made using sustainable materials ensuring a 50 years life expectancy. The crops are calculated to fit people’s needs, decreasing food waste. Excess food can be sold to ensure complementary revenue and we offer help in accessing the demand network and guarantee a high ROI with minimum upkeep. People choose their best and most nutritive fruits and roots vegetables to grow, thus decreasing their junk food consumption. Our project aims at enabling everyone to be part of the locally sourced food process, regardless of their social background and their gender and the religion they belong to.  Our Vision is also beneficial for the environment, as it increases green areas in cities. It improves the air quality air with CO2 sequestration. Our system also improves food quality as it aims to grow food far above the heavy metals generated by the intense traffic of Beirut. Our structures have already been ground proven during local winter’s rainfall and storms, as we plant crops adapted to Lebanon’s climate. To do so, we work with experienced architects and local suppliers. In our internal team, we are backed up by 15 years experienced agronomist. Our structures are 100% made in Lebanon and we minimized the price because we want them to match every budget especially during the current crisis. Without using highly advanced technology, our structures are efficient and easy to use thanks to an automated and water-saving irrigation system. In Lebanon, municipalities have enough legal prerogatives to ensure change.  To spread our Vision, we need to be backed by a legal framework that is inexistent today. We aim to get public institutions’ support to draft a new law that compels the real estate developers to integrate a green space, that could be used to grow fresh produce, to every new real estate project.  The system we propose is complementary to the regular Lebanese food system. We do not aim to compete with it. Our Vision helps small farmers to decrease the production pressure they suffer from in the countryside, pushing them to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers to make sure they provide the consumers with the same quantity and variety of food.  In the end, every consumer, from the countryside and the cities will benefit from a better quality of food. Our proposed solutions will open brand new activities for urban farmers while solving the equation between land scarcity and food demand.   We are not into creating a new industry but rather connecting stakeholders smartly by creating a network with people who own space in cities with people who are interested in cultivating their own local and traditional fresh produce while preserving culinary tradition. Our technologies are quite easy, yet efficient and field-proven.  

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Our proposed Vision will allow a balance in the capacity of growing fruits and vegetables between cities and the countryside by 2050. Thanks to this balance in food producing, producers will considerably reduce (or even halt) their usage of chemical fertilizers and communities will trust again the quality of their local food as they have direct control on it. The proposed Vision satisfies the three pillars of sustainable development. Indeed, our Vision creates new opportunities for every person whatever their social or ethnic background to generate revenue from their urban garden. On a social aspect, we reconnect people to nature and offer them access to fresh and locally sourced produce which will be competitive with junk food. The air quality in Beirut will be improved thanks to the increase of green shelters all over the city that allow CO2 sequestration. Birds and bees make a comeback as they are attracted to the new green areas and the biodiversity in general is restored in a healthy urban ecosystem.  Both the private and public sector are engaged. This engagement will manifest through private initiatives in homes and buildings, and public-private partnerships as municipalities partner with landowners to make sure that the available lands are optimized for the communities' benefit. On a political level, partnerships with relevant authorities will allow to frame a new law to make the real estate of tomorrow smarter. More and more people will benefit from urban agriculture thanks to our very easy to use, yet highly efficient structures provided with automated irrigation system to ensure working people minimum upkeep.  In the end, within our food system, people will improve their quality of life through consumption of fresh and locally sourced produce and less polluted air. They are also empowered as they learn to grow their own food. Our proposed food system allows for more social cohesion as different communities cooperate in a perspective of land sharing.  

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Our Vision contributes to a regenerative and nourishing food future for Beirut and Mount Lebanon considering the all six interconnected themes.  

First, we consider that our food system doesn’t need high advanced technology as it addresses every single citizen, company or public institution as active stakeholders and not only as simple consumers. So, we don’t need to invest on high technologies to benefit from economies of scale. Looking at 2050, we believe that we should rather provide people with the efficient tools so that they can become almost self-efficient with the aromatics, fruits and roots vegetables they need. These tools are our proposed structures of urban agriculture, the local amendments and our trainings during the settlement phase to teach people the basics, in addition to tips and best practices to optimize the use of their structures of urban agriculture. Instead of automation, we believe that it is important for people to understand how to grow fresh food to empower them in the global food system. We use technology to improve the efficiency of our structures and the automation of the irrigation system to always guarantee minimum upkeep.  

Once settled, the structures, that are the technological part of our Vision, ensure possibilities of new income for the households, private or public institutions that use them. Indeed, a structure’s owner can decide to use their urban agriculture solutions either for their own consumption or to sell the harvest to the communities. Fayy can manage the network of offer and demand and be the price maker because we have capitalized on the food market during the past years and we are familiar with the selling prices for fresh, healthy and locally sourced food in the Lebanese market. It is important to note that although our Vision is expected to spread in the coming years, it will never become competitive with the sustainable conventional agriculture and the farmers. Our Vision is much more focused on improving the quality of life in urban areas while ensuring food security, as climate change threatens conventional agriculture. This vision creates a better balance between local production and consumption and so allowing farmers to decrease their use of chemicals products. Fayy’s solutions also doesn’t compete with the global food imports as these are mainly varieties of meat and plants not existing in Lebanon and we only propose to produce aromatics, fruits and vegetables from home, focusing on local varieties. We expect also that several stakeholders will be interested in investing on a wide space of urban agriculture. If so, they will need maintenance support that Fayy’s team can provide. This will create more jobs opportunities for people, especially people with difficulties. Indeed, as the initiative is supported by arcenciel, we will follow the NGO’s HR policy and give the priority to people with difficulties to get these new jobs. The upkeep of the gardens is to be simple enough that the new jobs created for maintenance will be open to anyone regardless of their gender, or previous experience in the field.  

Concerning the environment, our Food System is all about adapting to climate change and remaining resilient. Indeed, by contributing to greening the cities, we help to increase CO2 sequestration and improve the quality of air in the urban areas. Now, the expected environmental change by 2050 is mainly about temperature increasing during summer and deregulation of seasons in general. It is already affecting the current harvests in conventional agriculture and that is why our team is constantly working on testing what varieties are better coping with climate change in Beirut’s environment. Our current proposed structures have been already field-tested during Lebanese strong rainfalls and we noticed that most of our crops resisted the harsh weather conditions during winter. Also, contrary to the conventional agriculture in the countryside, we try as much as possible to work through permaculture system so that if one variety doesn’t survive to a disease or bad weather conditions, others will, and we will still have food to harvest. Additionally, the communities living within our food system can easily live more sustainably as the food mile is greatly reduced. They reduce their food waste as the communities themselves are responsible of what they plant so they can adjust the quantities and sell the excess food, instead of buying food in bigger quantities and throwing most of it. Furthermore, as people are producing food at home, they will need less packaging, and we will work on ensuring sustainable and biodegradable packaging of the food that will be sold in neighboring communities.  

Our Food system not only priories but guarantees to provide healthy and nutritive food to the communities as it is all about aromatic plants, fruits and vegetables. The strength of our Food System is that ordinary people are the main stakeholders, backed up by Fayy’s experienced team. The undernutrition which is already a truth for some poor communities living in Greater Beirut can be solved thanks to our Food System since people are themselves empowered and become part of food process. More generally, our food system helps providing crucial micro-nutrients needed for human health because as it was explained before, traditional Lebanese food is known to be one of the healthiest in the world.  

On the policy and governance scale, we hope that by 2050, relevant public institutions would have been successfully mobilized to adopt an ambitious incentive legal framework that encourages the real estate actors to integrate green and productive spaces in the new urban building projects. We also hope that more and more municipalities will provide the communities living within their boundaries with shared productive gardens, accessible for anyone in need like existing project within many Western countries. In Lebanon, shared productive garden would be something totally innovative and would receive a warm welcome from communities because the country is living in a period of solidarity within the communities, and even between different communities. Considering the conventional agriculture, we don’t need it to be changed to promote our Vision for a thriving food system in 2050 as we are not competing with it, however, we expect that it will be more sustainable than it is now with less use of chemicals, as explained earlier.  

We consider that our Food System enhances traditional culinary practices in Lebanon. Back to the basis, it implies that people start again to cook fresh produce instead of over consuming junk food. The expensive price of organic food is no more a pretext as they can harvest all they need directly from their rooftop or balcony. Women are fully integrated in our proposed Food System and can become just as men the new stakeholders of urban agriculture. We can finally close on the cultural scale saying that our Food System suits any religious diet without impacting any spiritual celebrations in Lebanon. These last points ensure our Vision to be the most ethical as possible toward our beneficiaries and be suited for Lebanese diverse society.  

To conclude, we trust our Food System as it allows to interconnect communities between them and with public institutions, while both honoring Lebanese food traditions and creating new synergy in cities that answers a real demand of reconnection to nature among the concrete. Our Food system is flexible enough to let people free to get the benefit they want to from it (direct fresh food for their household, incomes from sales, or donation of food for people with difficulties). No doubt that our Vision largely contributes to protecting and regenerating the environment in addition to improve human health with trusted produce.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Funds for NGOs website

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Spam
Photo of Ekaterina Egorova
Team

Hi Maria Al Kayed 

We’ve developed this Pocket Guide to support you through the final days of wrapping up your submission.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1o8WGMus6-V8GywWdlNwmCpk7I1fMVzcQ/view

This will give you the most important bullet points to keep in mind to successfully submit your Vision.

Go ahead, review the check-list and final words of advice before the deadline.

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