First comprehensive UN review of Food and Nutrition Security in Lebanon published

Triangle has authored Lebanon’s first strategic review of food and nutrition security alongside the the United Nations Economic and Social Council for West Asia and the World Food Programme (ESCWA)

May 12, 2016

BEIRUT (Triangle News)—Triangle has authored the first comprehensive review of food and nutrition security in Lebanon, calling on the Government of Lebanon to adopt a comprehensive approach to food and nutrition security in Lebanon which includes appropriate responses to the Syrian and Palestinian refugee crises. The report is the first of its kind published in the country and combines analysis on the availability, accessibility, utilization and stability of food consumption and production in Lebanon and provides comprehensive recommendations to support Lebanon in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 2, which aspires to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” The report was co-authored by two of Triangle’s founding directors, Sami Halabi and Nizar Ghanem.

“This report was compiled with the view to bring the long-standing issues affecting food and nutrition security to the forefront of the policy agenda in Lebanon,” said Sami Halabi, Director of Knowledge at Triangle. “Now that the findings are available for all to see, there is an urgent need to adopt a serious and multifaceted approach to improve economic access to food and nutrition by addressing issues related to oligopolistic behaviour, trade regulations, food prices, agricultural policy and consumption patterns.”

Among the report’s key findings is the need to reform food trade, market regulation and production responses to food and nutrition security in order to increase economic access to food. In addition, the report found that even though Lebanon depends heavily on food imports, the country still produces a reasonably sufficient supply of nutritious food. Nonetheless, Lebanon’s agriculture sector has not reached its full potential, partially due to the lack of land-use planning and value chain development, both of which increase the country’s vulnerability to food price shocks.

“This report is a testament to the increasing need for joined forces at all levels to achieve the second United Nations Sustainable Development Goal in Lebanon: to end hunger, achieve food security, and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture,” said Mohamed Moctar El Hacene, Director of the Economic Development and Integration Division at the United Nations Economic and Social Council for West Asia (ESCWA) at the report launch. “By producing the evidence base required to take action, the UN can facilitate actions that must take place at the policy and grassroots levels to protect Lebanon from deepening food and nutrition insecurity.”

The report found that up to 80 percent of the country’s food needs are imported, thus making the country not only vulnerable to price shocks but also contributing to the high debt-to-GDP ratio.

Photo Credit: ESCWA

Other Key Findings from the Report include: 
  • Despite fertile lands and relatively cheap labour, the contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP is just 4 percent.
  • Population groups are affected differently when it comes to availability and access to food. The report advocates for a review of labour market restrictions for refugees with a view towards improving their food and nutrition security. The Lebanese fare relatively better, though they are starting to show signs of widespread food and nutrition insecurity: due to economic and resource contraints, 49 percent of Lebanese have reported being worried about their ability to source enough food, while 31 percent say they were unable to eat healthy and nutritious food over the course of a year.
  • Partially due to the impact of the Syria Crisis and pre-crisis structural issues, social safety nets remain underdeveloped and the poverty rate in Lebanon remains at around 30 percent.
  • Technological progress needs to be harnessed (e.g. improvement of irrigation) given water scarcity and low yield ratios.
  • The change in dietary patterns towards less nutritious foodstuff increases health risks (e.g. obesity and diabetes) and requires awareness to reverse the trend.
Key Recommendations from the Report include: 
  • Develop a strategic partnership to address food and nutrition security that involves international, national and local stakeholders.
  • Implement strategic actions including the formulation of a national food security and nutrition strategy, such as a national food security and nutrition strategy.
  • Identify priorities for agricultural investment and rural development.
  • Develop, implement and/or expand social safety nets to reduce vulnerabilities.
  • Raise awareness and promote healthy food and lifestyles.