The increasing gap between the demand for water against its supply is negatively affecting Deir Al Ahmar. And because of this, water shortage remains a big challenge to the future of the agriculture sector. To support this area, MASAR experts defined 2 main levels of actions:
1- Maintaining and upgrading the irrigation network connected to the hill lakes.
2- Creating an agricultural demo plot to introduce new agricultural crops and techniques.
In January 2020 the project implemented and executed the installation of the irrigation network for the hill lakes in Btedhaii & Bechwat where more than 32 farmers benefited from the said project.
Deir el Ahmar Union of Municipalities, based on a MASAR / VNG International supported agriculture and area resources study by the International & Local experts (Maarten Blokland & Eng. Mustafa D. Haidar), identified three demonstration components for this project:
- Link the three hill lakes of Bechwat, Btedhei and Rweiss regions to the irrigation network while providing a solar pumping system a to the well of Ainata to cut down the fuel expenses
- Generate and secure good operation of an agricultural demo plot to introduce new crops and techniques.
- Introduce and supply an oil extracting machine for the aromatic & medicinal Herbs.
A series of training sessions were conducted and participants were introduced to the efficient Hill Lake management (cleaning, distribution, filtration management), maintenance of irrigation networks, measurement of the Hill Lakes’ capacity, data collection and reporting in addition to safety measures around the lakes.
Then in July 2021, a CO2 super critical oil extraction machine was installed, pressurised and tested. In August 2021, the parameters of the different planted medicinal varieties were set. This process has many advantages for farmers, industrial businesses and consumers, out of which the valuable extracted CO2 essential oils retian their original aromas and charactersitics.
At the beginning of 2022, VNGI started the second phase of the hill lakes project:
- Installing a 1.5km mainline to connect the well in Ainata with Btedhaii and Rweiss hill lakes.
- Equipping the well of Ainata with a solar pumping system to secure the supply of the hill lake of Btedhei with enough water for irrigation during the dry period. Worth mentioning is that a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Municipality of Ainata and the Union of DEA to institutionalize the process.
As a result of this project, 718 beneficiaries participated in awareness sessions related to water use. More than 50 Farmers from the Union of Municipalities (UoM) are aware of the rationalisation of the irrigation model and started using drop irrigation systems.
The investments directly benefited 45 households, the “Ecole Notre Dame de la Tour” school in Btedaai and around 50 smallholders in Bechwat.
Around 35 Syrian refugees and host communities participated in employability, vocational and entrepreneurial skills training programs. Thirty to forty job opportunities have been promoted to implement, operate, and maintain this project.
Towards Project Sustainability
To ensure the sustainability of the Demo plot, the Union signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Sainte Famille Maronite Church responsible for the “Notre Dame de la Tour” school (owner of the plot), under which the Union will manage and operate the plot for a period of 5 years. This demonstration plot will promote modern crops and farming methods, and will serve as the students and the broader agricultural community, ensuring more efficient use of the lands and water.
Starting in 2022, 4 municipalities of the Union can sustain the new and improved municipal service delivery systems through their current resources. With their newly acquired knowledge in project design and financing municipal development projects, the trained staff and volunteers will ensure that new projects are initiated to continue the development in the future.