Empowerment through skills development

Lebanon’s green thumb: ILO trains workers from rural communities in landscaping activities across local agricultural schools

The landscaping and garden maintenance competency-based training aims to build capacity and develop the skills of hundreds of trainees in the agricultural sector, eventually connecting them with in-demand jobs on the market.

Feature | 20 September 2023

ABDEH, Akkar Lebanon – A total of 140 trainees joined the ILO’s landscaping and garden maintenance course run across agricultural schools in Lebanon this year.

Lebanese Amana Ghoumrawi and Syrian Mona Ibrahim Hussein were among the participants who joined the course in Lebanon’s northern town of Abdeh.

“I was sitting with my girlfriends who told me: ‘You have to join this course, it looks like it’s made for you,’” Ghoumrawi said. “They were right. The information I have received provides a person who’s passionate about nature like me with the skills needed to open their own activity, and the know-how to run it successfully. This is something crucial amid the current crisis Lebanon is facing.”

Mona Ibrahim Hussein also took part in the training. She was motivated by her passion for nature and the will to find a job matching her skills.

“I joined this course as something I really love. I come from a village in Syria, and although I already knew a bit about agriculture, I did not know about flowers, seedlings nor landscaping,” she said. “Following the training, we will receive a certificate. With this certificate I feel I can get a job for which I have experience.”

ILO trainees perform a series of landscaping and gardening tasks during a practical session in Lebanon. ©ILO/Elisa Oddone

The landscaping and garden maintenance competency-based training was carried out with the agency’s implementing partner AVSI Foundation , in cooperation with Lebanon Agriculture Ministry and funded by the PROSPECTS Programme , a global partnership supported by the Government of the Netherlands.

The goal of the intervention was to build capacity and develop the skills needed in the agricultural sector and connect those with the in-demand jobs on the market.

“We approach the agricultural sector from all angles by developing it and enhancing the skills that this sector requires,” said Shaza Al Jondi, ILO PROSPECTS Chief Technical Adviser Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. “We enhance the workers’ capacities through training and, of course, as ILO, we strengthen decent work across the whole sector.”
ILO trainer Sandra Bitar talks about different landscaping activities and safety measures to be followed on the job with Lebanese and Syrian trainees in the country's northern town of Abdeh. ©ILO/Elisa Oddone

The course provided both women and men with a 35-day practical training spent working in garden plant nurseries and 15 days of theoretical classes inside agricultural schools.

Sandra Bitar, agricultural engineer and ILO training consultant, highlighted that the success of the course has been even greater than initially envisaged.

“Trainees shared their personal experiences in agriculture with one another, thus adding
valuable information to an already dense curriculum,” she said. “A strong bond also emerged between the two communities at a time when coexistence between Syrian refugees and members of Lebanese local communities is not always easy.”

For over three years, Lebanon has been hit by the most devastating multi-pronged crisis in its modern history, according to the World Bank. The unfolding economic and financial stressors that began in October 2019 have been further exacerbated by the dual economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the massive Port of Beirut explosion in August 2020.

Despite the challenges, trainees are now eager to start their careers, motivated by their new acquired knowledge, talking about it with pride.

Trainees take part in an exercise aimed to help them learn about and
recognize different kinds of trees and plants in northern Lebanon
©ILO/Elisa Oddone

“My approach is to seize an opportunity when I see it, making full use of it, like in this case,” said Amana Ghoumrawi. “I learnt the names of 15 different kinds of trees and plants. I used to recognize them from their shape, but I didn’t know their names. Now, I know their names both in English and Arabic. We also discovered what to do in case we need to uproot and move a plant to another spot. We learnt about ways to prune different trees and how to pay attention to safety when on the job.”

For Mona Ibrahim Hussein this training bears a greater meaning that signifies to her the beginning of a new chapter in her life.

“We used to enjoy a fully stable life in Syria concerning our financial resources and surroundings. We were comfortable. We came here and found ourselves in a very difficult situation,” she said. “I didn’t do anything for a long time, but when I heard about this course, I started doing things again, venturing to occupy myself with something new in my life. We have a small space in the camp where I live with my family. I’d like to make a small garden out of it, cultivating and taking care of it. This is a small, but steady new beginning for me.”