Sandra F. Yanni, PhD
Bassel Daher1, Roula Bachour2, Sandra F. Yanni2, Sasha Koo-Oshima3, Rabi H. Mohtar1, 2
1 Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA
2 Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut, Beirut 1107 2020, Lebanon
3 Land and Water Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Food security in Lebanon is a pressing matter especially under the latest economic, financial, political, and health challenges. Agriculture is one of the few sectors in the country that can contribute to the economy through local production of nutritious food thus reducing reliance on import. Challenges lie in the allocation of scarce resources, namely water and energy, for the production of highly nutritious food while at the same time keeping a low environmental footprint. Recent studies have shown that the plant-based diet and the Lebanese-Mediterranean have a smaller environmental footprint. Another challenge lies in the disconnect between decision-makers within agriculture and the other interconnected sectors and the lack of integrative methodologies that allow for quantifying the trade-offs associated with possible interventions.
Therefore, we aimed to:
1) identify and quantify the interconnections between water, energy, nutrition, and food systems in Lebanon,
2) develop a framework to quantify the trade-offs associated with adopting interventions of water, energy, and agriculture portfolios,
3) evaluate farmers’ willingness to change which reflects the chance of successful adoption of the proposed solutions.
Findings show that enriching the Lebanese food basket with locally produced plant-based proteins (broad beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas), results in cost savings and reduced reliance on foreign markets. In turn, this comes at additional water, energy, land and carbon footprints which needs to be accounted for. One solution is to substitute some of the groundwater used for irrigation with treated wastewater.
Wastewater reuse in irrigation relieves pressures on groundwater thus improving quality and allowing for replenishment of aquifers. The substitution of a proportion of groundwater with treated wastewater reduced energy consumption for groundwater pumping which resulted in the reduction of greenhouse emissions from the agricultural system. It also reduces the effluent outflow into surface water and produces energy through the treatment process, providing a positive impact on ecosystem health. Conclusions from this study can play a role in informing policymaking and planning in Lebanon. The case study could be adapted and replicated in other countries in the arid and semi-arid countries in the region.