Lebanon has witnessed changes in dietary habits over the years. Its traditional diet is fading in favour of a less diverse westernized diet. At the same time, rural ecosystems are deteriorating chiefly because of urban encroachment, water pollution and land abandonment. These combined factors are contributing to the worrying increase in new and different health challenges facing the rural poor such as micro-nutrient deficiency and under-nutrition and a steep rise in non-communicable diseases , a reflection of the emerging “nutrition transition”. These health issues may be further aggravated by the recent rise in global food prices and the overall global financial crisis which is affecting food quality, food quantity and health.
Results from a first phase project entitled Wild Edible Plants: Promoting Dietary Diversity in Poor Communities of Lebanon painted a bleak picture of both the health status of the rural population and the deteriorating ecosystems which support the poor and marginalized communities in Lebanon. Through its successful participatory approach to research and community based interventions, this phase emphasized the importance of exploring the social, economic and environmental determinants of health in improving rural livelihoods, particularly for the vulnerable segments, the women and their children. It also emphasized the importance of local biodiversity as well as dietary diversity in promoting food security in the communities.
This present work proposes to build on the findings of the first phase to further analyze the relationship between health and the environment through an in depth analysis of the benefits, viability and risks of rural ecosystems to support healthy people. The program of work proposed combines research and intervention as well as capacity development to provide the basis for informed public policy change which is based on understanding and acting upon the importance of healthy local ecosystems in maintaining and promoting the health of individuals and communities in the context of a changing global food security environment.
It will contribute to the improvement of health and wellbeing through the systematic exploration of the social, economic, cultural, and environmental ecosystem determinants. The project will also map the food environment in terms of local production and import of foods in order to identify the elements contributing to the increase of ill-health and their risk factors in the studied population.
Goal and Objectives
To reduce the vulnerability of poor rural communities to human health problems caused by ecosystem and global food market changes by promoting ecosystem approaches to human health.
To develop practical interventions and provide policy options for improved dietary diversity, food security and health in poor and vulnerable communities in Lebanon
Comprehensively examine and assess the human health and cultural benefits of rural ecosystems in Lebanon.
Assess the environmental and socio-cultural viability of local land-based food strategies as an equitable, ethical and economically possible health model.
Identify and minimize risks associated with rural ecosystems as a base for a viable food and health model