ILO project provides financial support and education for Lebanon’s agricultural sector

The project incorporated financial education courses and business management trainings alongside a credit scheme providing financial support to farmers and farm workers.

Press release | 07 December 2023
A group of workers from the agricultural sector attend training course provided by the ILO project. ©Elisa Oddone/ ILO
BEKAA, Lebanon – Around 400 Lebanese and Syrian trainees have completed the ILO Financial Education (FE) training curriculum across several areas in Lebanon.

The programme was conducted in the Akkar region and a number of other northern areas, as well as the Beqaa and the Baalbeck-Hermel regions by nine financial education trainers.

The trainers had completed the final stage of a certification process run by the ILO and its implementing partner, the Lebanese Association for Development – Al Majmoua. The trainers, mostly from local financial institutions and training organizations, had undergone a rigorous process to become nationally certified on ILO’s FE training in Lebanon.

The project integrated financial education courses and business management training, such as 'IYAB - Improve Your Agri-Business,' through which around 800 farmers and businesses in Lebanon have been targeted so far. Over two hundred beneficiaries were also supported through an ILO financial credit scheme, delivered by Al Majmoua.

The FE training programme falls under a broader ILO initiative that promotes access to finance in the agriculture sector within the framework of the PROSPECTS partnership in Lebanon, supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Shaza Al Jondi, ILO PROSPECTS Chief Technical Adviser for Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. ©Elisa Oddone/ ILO
“Our efforts in addressing the limited financial literacy and the financial challenges, spread across Lebanon’s agriculture sector, have proven instrumental in creating a sustainable and impactful solution,” said Shaza Al Jondi, ILO PROSPECTS Chief Technical Adviser for Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. “By combining these two approaches, the project equips Lebanese farmers and Syrian refugee workers with the needed skills and knowledge necessary for long-term success while also supporting their immediate needs.”

The coaching of the financial education trainers began in October of last year and comprised three distinct phases. It started with a direct Training of Trainers (ToT) programme, followed by three separate training sessions that future trainers are required to conduct for attendees. This is intended to establish a national pool of financial education trainers to ensure the sustainability of the overall intervention.

Financial education trainer Lara Hassoun conducts training for a group of beneficiaries. ©Elisa Oddone/ ILO
“I joined the ILO financial education trainers' program to enhance my expertise and share updated information,” said Lara Hassoun, a candidate financial education trainer with over 15 years of experience in local microfinance. “The coaching demanded time, commitment, and solid knowledge. The initial session I delivered was challenging due to the rich content lasting five days. Now, the enthusiastic response of trainees has confirmed the rewarding impact on their financial education.”

This view was shared by another financial and Improve Your Business trainer, David Alsaddi, who has a banking and finance background from his native Syria.

"I initially applied the prescribed exercises to my own activities to master the content, preparing to deliver it to Lebanese and Syrian refugee course attendees,” he said. “Engaging in discussions with fellow trainers, many from academic backgrounds, proved instrumental in enhancing my own skills as a trainer. Maintaining contact with training graduates’ post-sessions, I was happy to witness a tangible boost in their financial capabilities through the newly acquired education."

Given Lebanon's severe financial crisis, businesses, especially those in agriculture, have faced substantial challenges over the past few years, particularly in securing credit. Acknowledging this pressing need, the project integrated the financial education preparation along with the provision of financial support to Lebanese and Syrian applicants.

The targeted credit scheme has been specifically tailored to the unique needs of farmers and agricultural workers in Lebanon. The primary goal was to provide financial assistance for crucial investments, such as the purchase of greenhouses, solar systems and other business-related inputs, to boost productivity, income, and the creation of more and better job opportunities.

Trainees, trainers, and members of the ILO and Al Majmoua pose for a photo at the end of the training session. ©Elisa Oddone/ ILO
So far, the 205 loans disbursed in the past seven months amounted to some 650,000 USD. Over 70 percent were allocated to men, approximately 30 percent to women, and some 22 percent to Syrian refugees.

The project will run through the end of September 2024. The extended phase has set new targets, including a total of 325 disbursed loans and 1,500 graduates, comprising 750 from business management and 750 from financial education training programmes.

PROSPECTS is a global partnership, which brings together the ILO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the World Bank (WB).