Over the course of a week, the ‘Almazara’ program has been carried out in several locations in southern Lebanon, within the Spanish area of responsibility of UFINIFL’s Eastern Sector. Staffs from the Spanish contingent of this United Nations mission alongside professors from the Universities of Extremadura and Zaragoza have been working on it.
The ‘Almazara’ program started in 2018 with the aim of assessing any need that might exist in the agricultural sector in this area and help to improve the existing agricultural techniques. An agreement was signed between the Ministry of Defence and different Spanish universities and with the collaboration of the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture these activities were launched.
From the University of Extremadura the following professors have participated in the project: Rodrigo Alonso Pinzón, director of the School of Agricultural Engineering, whose collaboration has been focused on traditional and ecological pruning; Gonzalo Esteban Sánchez, professor specialized in Rural Engineering II, Agricultural Machinery and Renewable Energies, who has given training on pruning techniques during the program. Juan Ramón Morillo Barragán, professor at the University of Extremadura, whose lines of research are GNSS networks of reference stations, has carried out the installation of a weather station at the Miguel de Cervantes Base, training farmers in the exploitation of their resources and enabling cooperatives to have remote access to the station, benefiting from the capabilities implemented in it.
The following professors from the University of Zaragoza have also participated in the project: José Casanova Gascón, specialized in fruit growing who has dealt with soil characteristics and fertilization during the program; María Videgain Marco, assistant professor in the area of Agroforestry Engineering. During the program she has been dealing with the structure and development of agricultural cooperatives while Ana Cristina Sánchez Gimeno, professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, has been advising on the quality and tasting of olive oil.
The program has consisted in a combination of theoretical and practical sessions focused on the olive tree, on pruning, treatments against pests and diseases, waste treatment, improving the quality of olives and oil, and oil tasting. A round table was also held with regional representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture, from which conclusions were drawn for future collaborations.
Cooperative members and farmers from Deir Mimes, Hasbaya, Kafer Hamman, Kafer Chouba, Ett Taibe, Houla, Majdal Silim, Kawkava Nabatiye, Bint Jubail and students from the Khiam Technical College have participated in these workshops,.
The Spanish Ambassador in Lebanon, Jesús Ignacio Santos Aguado, accompanied by General Melchor Marín Elvira, head of the Multinational Brigade of the Eastern Sector, attended one of the workshops. The ambassador, who witnessed the pruning and oil tasting classes, showed great interest in these activities.
The workshops have been very well received, as evidenced by the large attendance of cooperative members and farmers. With this type of programme, that supports the local economy, and which are highly valued by the Lebanese population, Spain shows its support for the Lebanese people by actively participating in the development and progress of the country and contributing to building lasting peace in the region in compliance with United Nations Resolution 1701.