Youth in Lebanon produce food and income for families through support of UNICEF poultry project
Both Lebanese and Syrian youth across Lebanon now have the skills to look after poultry and manage their own egg production to increase the sustenance of their families following a UNICEF training program and provision of chickens
Within the sprawling agricultural plain of Beqaa Valley, 25-year-old Manal and her family live in makeshift housing alongside rows of greenhouses in the village of Saraain.
Like many Syrian refugees who fled to Lebanon and are prohibited to own property, they take care of a local family’s crops in exchange for being able to stay on the land.
In order to generate income, increase skills and entrepreneurship, and enhance food security, UNICEF, in partnership with AVSI, provided training in poultry and eggs production as well as business skills to Lebanese and Syrian youth across the country.
There are limited jobs Syrian refugees can work in Lebanon, and the farm work by Manal’s husband only brings in a small income, meaning food can’t always be bought for the family of five.
“The most we take from the land is tomatoes. If my husband can work, then we buy food, but you know the situation here, it means his work is very little,” Manal says as her daughter hugs her tight.
Manal and her family’s situation became harder as the economic crisis in Lebanon further devalued wages and decreased job opportunities, at the same time as food prices soared.
Following the training - from which 510 Syrian and Lebanese youth participated in – 15 chickens, plus feed, egg cartons and essentials such as medication and sawdust were provided to 381 people between the age of 18 – 25 to start their own poultry farm and a further 30 youth were placed in 10 local poultry farms, 100 additional young boys and girls were trained and engaged on eggs collection and distribution.
In total, the UNICEF, Youth and Adolescent development programme supports over 50,000 youth aged between 14-15 years. Among them, more than 10, 800 youth are provided with a package of skills building including career guidance, life skills, occupational training and literacy and numeracy.
A further 4,221 youth have benefitted from employment support services for at least three months and 6, 107 had access to employment and/or income generation opportunities.
“Poultry proved to be very important in this crisis because eggs are a rich protein source and it can easily be a start-up business,” Marwa, the AVSI Livelihood Field Coordinator says.
Manal feels like she is playing a role in her family’s stability now and the two other families which live with them also benefit from the eggs.
“It’s a very nice feeling, I feel like I’m able to provide for my family and kids; mostly I feed my family from the eggs,” Manal says, adding that if she can get more chickens, she will start to sell the eggs.
Manal’s older child Jana who is four-and-a-half also loves the chickens and every day she walks fearlessly into the coup, picking up the hens, inspecting if there are eggs.
“Now we have chickens we have extra eggs as food, which means I’m saving the money on buying two cartons of eggs a month”
In the nearby village of Nabi Chit, Zakaria now looks after both his and his cousins’ chickens, housed in a large pen in the front of a Lebanese family home filled with walnut trees.
Having lived in Lebanon since the start of the war in Syria, Zakaria, now 21, has had to resort to doing daily errands for people in order to make money for his wife and seven-month-old child, but even if he works all day, he barely receives $2.
“Now we have chickens we have extra eggs as food, which means I’m saving the money on buying two cartons of eggs a month,” Zakaria says.
His aim is to sell some of the eggs in order to make the money to buy the feed for the chickens to make it sustainable.
“My main priority is to provide for my family and any extra eggs I have I’ll distribute to my neighbours,” Zakaria says generously.
Walking through an elaborately designed fence and entering the front yard of 18-year-old Mahdi’s house, he explains his father used to host weddings in the garden until the economic crisis depleted his business.
Mahdi had to leave school and, knowing he needed to help provide for his parents and two younger siblings, he joined the UNICEF training.
“I decided we have a location so let’s profit from it,” Mahdi, says as he opens the door to the chicken house, where people once would have sat to smoke nargileh.
Around 3,000 vulnerable families across Lebanon are also benefitting from the chickens on the youths’ farms, as 50% of the eggs produced are distributed on a weekly basis.
“Households are waiting each week for this distribution which proves how bad the crisis is, because they’re depending on it,” Marwa from AVSI says.
“It makes me very happy to be able to give eggs to my neighbours for them to be able to eat, because I understand how difficult it is right now,” Manal says.
“I also like the humanitarian part of the work, I’m happy doing this”
Ali, 22, also from Nabi Chit, is one of the youths being paid to collect the eggs from the farms and then deliver the eggs to families in the area.
“I was unemployed before, but in this economic situation I have to help my parents who can’t work, it’s just me who helps them,” Ali explains.
With the money he’s earning through the UNICEF Cash 4 Work programme, Ali can now buy food for his family.
“I also like the humanitarian part of the work, I’m happy doing this. When I distribute the food people are happy,” he says smiling.