Programs and activities
Over 15 years, CHF has implemented several community-driven programs in Lebanon addressing a broad range of social issues from agriculture to development and education.
Foremost among these programs is the Rural Economic Development Initiative, a USAID-funded program implemented in 86 Lebanese villages with the aim of improving the living conditions of local communities in rural areas. The program focuses on infrastructure projects such as the construction and expansion of irrigation networks, roadways, electricity and dispensaries to name but a few. USD 6,000,000 were spent on the REDI program between 1997 and 2002.
Between 2002 and 2005, CHF launched the Clustering for Economic Development and Revitalization of Industry Sectors - CEDARS Program- in order to strengthen the agribusiness industry and create more jobs. The program identified several target areas and promoted banana and orange production in Saida and the South. Several techniques were introduced to improve the quality of the crops and boost their competitiveness both in the local market and abroad. It is noteworthy that the concept of the net house, a technique popular in the Canary Islands, has enabled farmers to produce eight tons of banana bunches per 1000 square meters. Early harvesting and proper post-handling has generated higher sales and an increase in net profits. CHF shifted to using devices that release ethylene to facilitate the banana ripening process. Bananas were first washed and then packaged in cardboard boxes, which retained their quality and reduced losses during the transport process. The technique has since been used to package many agricultural products, which has translated into higher demand on packaging carton, leading consequently into higher employment opportunities in the industrial sector.
American varieties of apple trees were provided to Lebanese apple growers. The organization helped increase the total surface planted from 40 to 110 trees per donum. US experts from the University of California were employed to train unskilled farmers on harvest and post-harvest practices and several nurseries were set up to produce and look after new seedlings.
In collaboration with local partners, CHF has also come a long way in enhancing the olive oil sector. Efforts were brought together to revolutionize the traditional practices for growing, harvesting, collecting and storing olives and increasing tree yields. Olive presses were renovated and a top-notch centralized storage facility was set up.
CHF’s agricultural footprint was felt everywhere across the sector. Roughly 30,000 saplings of quasi-tropical trees were planted annually benefitting roughly 100 farmers. In cooperation with the Association for the Development of Rural capacities, CHF produced 557 tons of high-quality organic compost from banana peels and 192 farmers were trained on how to use compost. Another project done in collaboration with the Mouawad Foundation focused on expanding forage production in the north by providing modern technical assistance. Approximately 200 farmers were served by the project. Forage prices decreased by 30% and 21 new employment opportunities were created. CHF also cooperated with the Hariri Foundation to develop flower production and marketing. The project included a nursery covering 882 square meters and equipped with the latest heating, cooling and lighting technologies.
As part of the Humanitarian Assistance to Lebanon (HAL) program, which kicked off following the July War and lasted from 2006 till 2007, CHF provided relief and life-saving assistance to the communities affected by the hostility through UNDP funds worth USD 100,000,000. It also built and equipped a solid waste treatment plant in Zahle and the vicinity, which served 28 towns.
CHF was an active player in the TAMKEEN project, a USD 11,000,000 project aiming at transforming 44 municipalities in Lebanon into effective agents for leading local socio-economic development through democratic engagement with the private sector and citizens. Its influence was equally felt in the DIRASATI project which was launched in participation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and other organizations with a view to renovate schools and provide them with modern equipment thus creating a favorable environment capable of keeping up with the times and promoting values such as peace and democracy. Roughly 90 schools were renovated under DIRASATI.
Much like all humanitarian organizations working to bring relief to the needy, CHF is hindered by the mentality dominating local communities, which suspects that grant funds are rarely used for their intended purpose and may be spent on personal agendas. Delay in finishing transactions and paperwork is occasionally caused due to the bureaucratic mazes in the public sector’s departments, not to mention that some municipalities elected during the execution of a certain project attempt at times to change the roadmap set for the project or to prevent its accomplishment. Other municipalities refuse to let committees elected from the local community pitch in as they believe that the decision making is a privilege restricted to them. In certain areas such as Hermel, the lack of zoning can be an obstacle getting in the way of implementing any potential project.