Chargé d’Affaires Ambassador Richard Jones spoke at the completion of the Ainata Cold Storage activity on December 5, 2015. The Building Alliance for Local Advancement, Development, and Investment (BALADI) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Caritas Lebanon, sponsored the Ainata Cold Storage, one of a series of community-driven activities implemented by the BALADI project. USAID Mission Director Carolyn Bryan, President of Caritas Lebanon Father Paul Karam, Head of the Ainata Municipal Council Fawzi Rahme, key officials and members of the local community and neighboring villages were in attendance. The project supports community members, local groups and agricultural cooperatives to fight urban poverty and promotes the socio-economic decentralization of the Baalbeck el Hermel region, working to increase the main income of small farmers and their families.
The Cold Storage facility, which has the capacity to accommodate 15,000 crates of apples and fruits and will primarily serve 1,200 farmers from Ainata and other nearby villages in the upper part of the Baalbek district. The project will give these farmers the opportunity to capitalize on their cultivated land and sell their preserved products at better prices, which will create tens of additional seasonal and permanent working opportunities, increase income of local households, and lower the economic pressure on these host communities.
USAID currently invests over $166 million in targeted economic growth projects. The five-year, $25.9 million BALADI project will continue through 2017, supporting 17 municipal-led development activities in 58 municipalities and improving the livelihoods of more than 100,000 people throughout Lebanon. In 2015, 42 additional community activities were selected for funding under the project. Additional information on BALADI can be found at: http://baladi-lebanon.org/en.
Below are Ambassador Jones’ remarks from the event:
Well, good morning everyone, distinguished guests, Bishop Hanna, representative (Shant) Janjanian, Mayor Rahme and members of the municipal councils, our partners, ladies and gentlemen. We are here today to inaugurate a cold storage facility that will represent a stepping stone for farmers in this region to improve their incomes and livelihoods. Unfortunately we learned this morning that two workers at the facility tragically perished last night, as the previous speaker mentioned. The circumstances of these deaths are not yet known to us. We also have heard that a suicide bomber this morning in Deir Ammar took several lives. We grieve for this loss of life and our hearts go out to the families of the deceased. Out of respect for them we have canceled the festivities that we had planned for today to celebrate this opening. Nevertheless I would like to take this opportunity to praise the Lebanese people for their resilience in the face of growing challenges, tragedies like today and their determination to keep moving forward despite everything. Initiatives like the one we are opening today are the building blocks for a more prosperous future for Lebanon.
Much of this positive work is the outcome of long-standing and strong partnerships between the Lebanese and American peoples. The United States has worked alongside municipalities and local communities for nearly two decades to advance sustainable development at the local level and provide essential services to their citizens. We believe that the success of any development program relies heavily on the ownership taken by local communities. This is why we have supported people to people and people-centered development solutions in a number of critical sectors such as water and sanitation, reforestation, agriculture, microfinance, and good governance, of which today’s ceremony is a prime example. USAID currently invests over $166 million in targeted economic growth projects in Lebanon, which increase the capacities of local communities and employment opportunities for citizens.
Recognizing that agriculture is an important sector in Lebanon’s economy, we support farmers, processors and we have supported as well merchants for over a decade. This is certainly the case in Ainata where agriculture is the main economic activity and source of income for local citizens owing to its location in the fertile Beqaa valley. Before the cold storage activity was conceived, farmers in the area traveled long distances to access storage facilities and bore heavy losses due to damaged produce. In response to this constraint, farmers and the municipality worked hand-in-hand to identify the need to establish a local cold storage facility and they came together to plan this facility. With the support of the United States government, through the Building Alliance for Local Advancement, Development, and Investment project, which is known as BALADI, the activity became reality. Equipped to accommodate 15,000 crates of apples and other fruits, the cold storage facility will enable 1,200 farmers from Ainata El-Arz and other nearby villages to protect and share and store their produce longer in order to sell it at competitive market prices any time of their choosing.
The establishment of this facility bodes very well for the growth of Lebanese agriculture. As we look toward the future, we must take every possible step to help farmers achieve their full business and job-creating potential. Agriculture in Lebanon has many existing strengths that we can capitalize on to become more productive and make a vital contribution to Lebanon’s economic growth.
We commend the efforts of Ainata Municipality, the community and all the partners for joining forces to support this development activity. We are confident that the cold storage facility will provide a boost to economic growth and jobs in this rural area. There will be difficulties ahead no doubt, but we encourage you to continue engaging your citizens to respond to community challenges with resilience and determination. You are the primary agents of change and the champions of turning people’s aspirations, their hopes and dreams for a more prosperous Lebanon into a reality. I wish you all the best in your development work and look forward to more initiatives like the one we are celebrating today and hopefully they will occur in happier circumstances. Thank you very much for your attention and congratulations again.