Lebanon – Supporting Local Economies
“We used to sit on rocks and walk in mud during winter season. But now the road is paved, so the market is accessible and clean.” For Amira Bou Zeid, a Lebanese citizen from in the country’s Bekaa Valley region, the renovation of her local market through a UNDP project funded by UNHCR has made a real difference. “The changes made by UNDP have been very useful”, she says.
The Al-Marj market has been a trading post for produce and other goods for decades, but had, until recently, fallen into disrepair. Customers like Amira worried about a lack of hygiene caused by all the mud during the rainy season. The market lacked electricity and proper stalls for traders to display their products. One vendor, Najah Abu Taha, recalls: “The land was full of mud and pebbles. Customers would not come when it rained. There was no sewage system.”
- Problems with the market’s infrastructure are just one example of the vulnerability of this poor community that sits close to Lebanon’s border with Syria
- The project to renovate the Al-Marj market was undertaken as one part of UNDP’s efforts in the region, which are focused on coping with immediate needs, recovering from impacts of the crisis and sustaining recovery through development gains
Problems with the market’s infrastructure are just one example of the vulnerability of this poor community that sits close to Lebanon’s border with Syria. And as the conflict there enters its fourth year with no clear sign of abating, the Bekaa Valley, along with host communities in other neighbouring countries, continues to bear the brunt of the huge migration of Syrians that has seen almost 2.5 million refugees flee to countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
The project to renovate the Al-Marj market was undertaken as one part of UNDP’s efforts in the region, which are focused on coping with immediate needs, recovering from impacts of the crisis and sustaining recovery through development gains over the long term. Renovating the market provided benefits to the host community as well as stimulating the local economy for Lebanese and Syrians alike.
Today, buyers and sellers throng to the bustling site. The mud has been replaced with asphalt, and there is a reliable electricity supply. Vendors now provide goods to support communities from all over the Bekaa Valley.
One Lebanese farmer, Najah Abou Taha, says the renovation has made “remarkable positive changes in the business”. Abed al Rehman Alsayed Issa, a 26-year-old Syrian living in Lebanon, agrees. “The renovation made by UNDP to this market encouraged people from all over the villages to visit it, which increased our income. We are 15 members in this family and we all live out of this business.”
Luca Renda, UNDP Lebanon Country Director, while acknowledging the difficulties faced by host communities like those in the Bekaa Valley, recognizes the generosity of the Lebanese. “The dimension of the crisis is extraordinary, but equally exceptional is the solidarity shown by the Lebanese people in keeping their borders open, hosting such a large number of refugees within their communities”, he says. “I think it really sets an example for the rest of the world.”
With refugees continuing to stream out of Syria at a rate of more than 120,000 each month, UND, alongside sister UN agencies and partners, is seeking US$166.8 million to provide support for host countries in the region.
Amidst the crisis, the renovation of the Al-Marj market offers a sign of hope. “Thank you UNDP for offering this project. The market place now is a model one. I have more customers and am making more profit”, says Najah.