New Wine, New Hope For Lebanese Farmers
Visiting Lebanese wine cooperative les Coteaux d’Heliopolis, I’m struck by the beauty of the area. Small vineyards are dotted across the landscape, from the Bekaa valley up to the steep mountain side, where snow still lies on the tops, even though it’s 25 degrees in the valley. The high altitude, combined with the virgin, unpolluted soil, give the grapes their unique taste and aroma.
But it’s not just the quality of the wine that makes Heliopolis so special. It’s also the story of the farmers who produce it – and their determination to build a better future for the region through Fairtrade.
Georges Fakhry is one face of this story. Georges tried cultivating a number of different crops over the years. Like many farmers in the region that also included cannabis. But it’s only after switching to wine grapes that his fortunes started to change.
“Finally, a crop that grows well here and can help us”, says Georges. “Wine doesn’t need much water, so it is perfect for here. With cannabis there was no transparency, no visibility. That’s different with Fairtrade. We know exactly what is expected of us and what we can get out of it. Everything is clear.”
Demand for both the wine and the grapes is on the rise, so Georges is branching out into new varieties – like the Sauvignon blanc he showed us on our visit.
The cooperative is growing and now has 250 members. Currently, almost all of them nearly all the members are over 45 years old. Many young people have left this area, or are involved in illicit drugs. But through Fairtrade, the farmers want to show them that there is a future for this region – and it doesn’t have to be in cannabis.
Vicky Pauschert from our Communications team and Regional Coordinator Chiraz Shkiri visited Lebanon for the country’s first Fairtrade Fortnight – bringing together Fairtrade Lebanese producers, and consumers. Read all our posts on the trip so far here.