Empowerment through skills development

Bridging the Skills Gap in Lebanon's Poultry Sector

The training programme, run by the ILO and AVSI Foundation, adopted a holistic approach, merging theoretical knowledge with hands-on practical experience for the enhancement of decent working conditions across the sector

Feature | 11 December 2023
AKKAR, Lebanon – In the heart of Lebanon's agricultural landscape, poultry farm business owners face a significant challenge – a shortage of skilled workers with the expertise required to properly nurture their activities.

Recognizing this pressing need, the ILO and its implementing partner AVSI Foundation, in cooperation with Lebanon Agriculture Ministry and funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands through the PROSPECTS Programme , set up and launched a comprehensive training programme for locals and Syrians employed in the sector. This initiative aimed to empower poultry farm workers with a versatile skill set, enabling them to contribute effectively to both chicken and chicken layer farms.

“Agriculture is such an important sector here in Lebanon,” said Jan-Jaap Sas, First Secretary at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Lebanon. “For us, it is a no-brainer. The Netherlands is the second-largest exporter in the world, and we see a lot of similarities here in Lebanon: we observe excellent food and excellent opportunities. However, we still need to support the skills of the workers employed in the sector to facilitate the expansion of good agricultural practices.”
A worker tends to chickens in one of Lebanon's poultry farms. Poultry farm owners have reported an increase in production and productivity following the skills training sessions of their employees ©ILO/ Elisa Oddone

The work-based learning programme merges theoretical knowledge with hands-on practical experience. Farm owners and workers alike were immersed in a curriculum that not only imparts essential skills but also equips them with qualifications that elevate their proficiency in the poultry industry.

“This innovative approach enables participants to simultaneously work on farms while acquiring the necessary expertise, fostering a dynamic synergy between practical application and theoretical understanding,” said Rudy Daou, AVSI Field Officer.

The collaboration between stakeholders, including farm owners, international organizations, and trainees, underscores a shared commitment to bridge the skills gap in Lebanon's vital poultry sector amid the country’s ongoing challenges.
Different stages and activities of poultry farming ©ILO/ Elisa Oddone

For over three years, Lebanon has been hit by the most devastating multi-pronged crisis in its modern history, according to the World Bank1 . 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.

“In Lebanon, 25 percent of the population relies on the poultry sector for their livelihoods, which includes carpentry, transportation, machinery, and labour,” said Khaled Moustafa Cheikh, Poultry Farm Owner at Cheick Chicken. “I own a large chicken farm with hens, chicks, and a hay processing facility. Before the current economic crisis, we maintained around 500,000 laying hens, but now, due to the ongoing economic challenges, we have nearly 250,000. Sixteen of our employees, mostly Syrian with a few Lebanese, underwent training provided by organizations, returning with increased expertise.”
Joseph Jabbour, a Lebanese poultry farm owner plans to grow his business after receiving skills training ©ILO/ Elisa Oddone

One of them is Ammar Abdul Baset, a Syrian who has been residing and working in Lebanon since 2014. His experience during the training proved crucial in boosting his knowledge and increasing his work performance.

“Initially challenging due to my lack of experience, I acquired essential skills such as understanding cleaning and sanitization for raising chickens, as well as the importance of vaccination and disease treatment through continuous practice and training,” he said. “I shared these newfound skills with my family to work alongside me.”

Joseph Jabbour, a Lebanese poultry farm owner in the country's northern region, is also one of the programme’s trainees. He owns a poultry farm that has been in the family for 40 years, passed down from his grandfather to his father and eventually to him.
Scenes from various poultry farms in Lebanon ©ILO/ Elisa Oddone

“We used to maintain a flock of 6,000 chicken layers, but due to the economic crisis affecting the country, our current flock size is 2,000 layers,” he said. “Through the programme, we learned things such as the daily feeding requirement of 120 grams per chicken to ensure optimal egg production, as excessive weight gain can reduce it. We learned about chicken vaccination, with the requirement of vaccination every 27 days.”

Despite the ongoing crisis that is making planning more challenging for both big and small farm business owners in the country, Jabbour has plans for the future.

“I surely wish to expand and grow the farm, but it’s very challenging now,” he said. “I hope this can happen once the situation in Lebanon starts to improve.”