Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
In light of the current socio-economic crisis, the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) at AUB's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) launched the Ardi Ardak initiative, in partnership with the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB), the Food Heritage Foundation (FHF), and Ziko House. Ardi Ardak works on offering small-scale producers access to knowledge, resources, and marketing channels; as well as offering urban consumers access to local healthy produce. It also promotes sustainable eco-friendly agricultural practices and innovative food processing linking innovation to traditional authentic production.
During the launching event, Dr. Shadi Hamadeh, ESDU director, described the importance of Ardi Ardak being a self-sustainable initiative fostering self-sufficiency in an import dependent nation. Dean Rabi Mohtar welcomed the attendees at FAFS and highlighted the role that the faculty has been playing on three main levels—production, landscape and nutrition—through its different departments, hence impacting the whole agricultural value chain. LLWB President Asmahan Zein highlighted the importance of investing in abandoned agricultural lands. Dr. Hania Hammoud, lawyer and family business and wealth advisor at Hamoud Law Firm, who was the event's keynote speaker, presented the state of land tenure and access to land under Lebanese legislation and the opportunities that these provide for the agriculture sector. Her talk focused on the factors that hinder access to agricultural lands in Lebanon and the legal means that can help facilitate access to these lands.
During the second session, ESDU Outreach Operations Officer Nicolas Gholam presented the Ardi Ardak initiative, which promotes sustainable agricultural practices, and provides small scale producers access to market channels. Ardi Ardak mobilizes human resources by offering them a crowd-sourcing platform to engage partners, create synergies, build linkages, and provide stakeholders the possibility to support the network. ESDU Sustainability Consultant Patricia Kebbe described the Agri Food Hub model established in Ziko House, which aims at creating an ecosystem for start-ups in sustainable agriculture. The urban agricultural benefits will be put at the heart of the hub mission, offering the public a demo unit for urban agriculture. The hub shall facilitate promoting community wealth through connecting supply and demand, outreach, advocacy, and providing education/learning and technical assistance.
Ms. Sarah Karam described the linkages between Ardi Ardak and ongoing ESDU projects and described how ESDU projects are influencing the management of the agro-ecosystem and the socio-technical system, hence impacting the environment and the livelihoods of small-scale producers. ESDU capacity building activities are promoting new entrepreneurial activities, and ESDU is now working on consolidating, through Ardi Ardak, the formalization of entrepreneurial activities, including the process of developing rules and responsibilities for operating procedures and relationships necessary to gain revenue; as well as the institutionalization of innovation support including building of sustainable supportive structures for entrepreneurial activities previous to market entry.
Finally, Dr. Yaser Abunnasr, chairperson of the Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management Department (LDEM) at FAFS, presented the Community Garden that is being established at the FAFS ECO-UNIT, a showcase for sustainable agro-ecological practices which will be a prototype of integrated agricultural, landscape, conservation, and food practices. The ECO-UNIT will expand the educational, research, and community outreach activities of the faculty within AUB; at the same it will disseminate knowledge outside the university.