Whether flat or hilly, land needs water. This year the rainfall was below half the normal annual level. Irrigation is critical in this land. Another ongoing project for Pontifical Mission engineers is the repairing and extension of irrigation canals. And, whether dry or wet, land has to be worked. Again, CNEWA has helped with the building of agricultural roads.
Young Lebanese who graduate with degrees in agricultural engineering find their skills in high demand. As a result, young villagers are rethinking their fascination with the city and returning to their villages.
The Lebanese government has initiated a new Green Plan and is heavily involved in reforestation. Carob, oak, cypress, evergreen and indigenous trees are being planted in areas where the soil is poor and likely to erode.
In addition, CNEWA Pontifical Mission has distributed 5,500 fruit and olive saplings to farmers living in the cluster villages.
Delivery day is always marked with a red letter. In anticipation, soil is tilled and holes are dug. Farmers carry the bundles of trees-to-be over their shoulders like seasoned skiers. Then the sapling roots are unbound and the little trees are placed in the ground.
These trees require a commitment from the farmers. Years of care are needed before any apricots or olives are harvested. But commitment is the farmer middle name it is one he will pass to his sons.
Following the tour of Merkebta sewage treatment plant was a tour of the village. Storytellers seemed to breathe more lightly as they described pre-sewage treatment days: sewage would overflow the individual septic tanks and run through the streets.
At the far end of the village the tour paused. Faces turned serious. Then all fingers pointed to the village well, the only source of drinking water for the entire community. It a one-spout affair with a not-so-clean basin. And, judging by the awkward position of a man filling water containers, this was not an easy task to perform. With fingers still pointing the men announced, This is our next project.
Through these projects, the residents of all 121 villages involved in Pontifical Mission village restoration program have developed a sense of community pride and respect. And something else has happened. Before this project the villagers were afraid to approach their government representatives. Whom would they ask for help? And what exactly did they want, other than a better life? As part of implementing the sewage treatment project, committee members had to deal with their local deputies. Building permits had to be secured and electrical hookups arranged. But this time they knew what they needed and felt secure in their requests.
The villagers had become empowered. They had the plans in their pockets and their list of needs was neither excessive nor unreasonable. And with Pontifical Mission assistance, the deputies found it advantageous to cooperate. After all, good projects work to everyone advantage.
Now the citizens of Merkebta have all the confidence they need. There no doubt the men of Merkebta will someday know the halls of the Lebanese Parliament in Beirut as well as they do the streets of their own village.
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Marilyn Raschka is a frequent contributor to Catholic Near East.
Tags: Lebanon Village life Revival/restoration