No-Till Conservation Agriculture in Lebanon
Conservation Agriculture literally aims to conserve soil & water: the backbone of agriculture, towards a more sustainable rural livelihood.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
American Univ. of Beirut
Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Secondary Focus Area
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Lebanon: Bekaa, Akkar, Mount Lebanon
Tilling causes the structure of the top soil to lose its natural integrity. Rainsplash and runoffs cause the erosion and loss of the ecosystem foundation. It also causes agrochemicals to wash into watersheds and contaminate reservoirs.
Cover cropping requires planting two cover crops in winter and summer, which requires irrigation. Grains when used as cover crops can compete with rain fed trees for water. Vetch is an early winter crop, it provided a suitable cover crop for rainless summers in Lebanon.
Excessive tilling changes the porosity of the top soil, and under the weight of heavy machinery a phenomenon called compaction takes place. It is a hallmark of land degradation. The water capacity of the field is impacted. It eventually leads to declining crop yield. It is like an inflamed scrape that delays the healing of the skin.
The No-Till replaces the plow by a cover crop and adopts a special seeding technique consisting of cutting a narrow grove in the soil, through the cover crop, enough to insert the crop seeds and the fertilizer
The loss of earthworms in excessive tilling may be related to the inability of the creatures to restore the habitat at the same rate of the needed tilling, and possibly the effects of agrochemical use, needed to replenish lost nutrients. Both practices are dispensed with in No-Till Conservation Agriculture.
The organic cover crop keeps moisture longer into the dry season, and the water requirements are less. Allowing the gradual replenishment of aquifers.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
The major factor causing soil degradation is intensive ploughing which exposes the field’s top soil and reduces its moisture. Dry soil is thus lost to runoffs and wind erosion. The traditional tillage consists in plowing at least twice, and requires more fuel and labor. The weight of machinery causes soil compaction which inhibits normal surface dynamics and predisposes the soil to runoff and wind erosion. Loss of soil to rain and wind erosion only adds to the panoply of factors that contribute to food insecurity.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
No-Till is a Conservation Agriculture method whereby sowing is alternatively done with minimal disturbance to surface soil, it focuses on the bases of Food Production in Arid Regions; soil health and water scarcity. No-Till allows surface soil to regain its porosity and to host the insects and microorganisms that are characteristic of the upper crust, and where vegetable life normally thrives. Seeding in No-Till takes place by cutting through the organic crop cover and placing the seeds directly into the grove made in the surface soil. The method saves on seeds as well. The introduction of No-Till starts with cutting seed preparation costs. Ploughing, sometimes done twice, is eliminated. Tilling causes the structure of the top soil to lose its natural integrity. Rainsplash and runoffs also cause agrochemicals to wash into watersheds and contaminate reservoirs. No-Till redresses soil compaction, reverses the loss of biodiversity, cut labor costs, and reduces agrochemical use.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
The impact of No-Till lies in replenishing the soil in nutrients and protecting it from erosion while it's being farmed. Tilling erodes the field, so instead of tilling, No-Till mitigates land degradation by planting a cover crop like wheat or vetch, then leaves it unharvested in the field for the purpose of creating an organic cover to protect the top soil from the elements. Almost like placing a Band-Aid over an exposed scrape. The success of experimental No-Till farms led to a dramatic rise in CA adoption by Lebanese farmers: from 4 to 560 hectares by 2009, relinquishing the plow. The introduction of No-Till to fruit and olive orchards was another success considering the importance of these crops to Lebanese agriculture. This initiative instills a sense of capability in the face of imminent threats to agricultural self-sufficiency. The saved fuel on tractor plows and decreased pollution from burning stubble are yet another environmental gain.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
The initial funding was a grant from the German cooperation council (GIZ: Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit). It helped initiate the CA project and reach 50 farmers, leading to more than 500 hectares of arable land converted to CA. The Ministry of Agriculture operates 28 extension centers in Lebanon, where the ministry employees conduct CA activities as part of their Terms of Reference. When the program is applied on the municipal level, the CA liaison and when possible, the CA committee members will be paid municipal employees. The main source of income to continue the funding of the program will be generated from the rental of specialized No-Till seeders, which will amount to 320,000$/year if the goal of 4000 hectares of converted lands is reached in 2 years.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
What sets us apart is the unique position of AUB as research center and extension hub. The intermediate position between the Ministry of Agriculture and the farmer has led us to gain the trust of both parties. The Minister knows we are dependable and our state of the art labs and teaching facilities are reliable, but the farmer also knows that we have no political stake, except in scientific truth. Rural development, Food Security and Sustainability are intrinsic to our mission and ethos.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
Agricultural practices are not mere habits but a creed, especially in old cultures like the cradle of civilization's. Tilling symbolizes what once made the Fertile Crescent the breadbasket of the known world. Abandoning the plough, cannot make it to farmers’ ethos without hard proof. The "Aha" moment came when upon an experimental plot, and after trying several crops we discovered that a vetch-barley mix is symbiotic! Allowing a crop yield increase from the first year, in comparison to the projected 2-year benchmark. The precariousness of farmers’ livelihood had led them to override warnings about exhausting natural capital; a lesser evil compared to economic ruin. Asking farmers to abandon traditional methods without an incentive is a lost cause. Our discovery that vetch can be planted once only not two like European style CA, with barley, made it possible to implement and disseminate.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Participated in previous CSV Prize competitions