Presently, the UNDP through the “Lebanon – Support to Economic Recovery, Community Security and Social Cohesion in Lebanese Communities Affected by the Syrian Crisis” project is mobilizing implementations under the response to the impact of the Syrian Crisis in Lebanon, in particular the Lebanese host community. As an integral part of that project, PV solar systems funded by the kingdom of the Netherlands have been installed in sites throughout the country that have been deemed important due to their notable impact on the management of the Syrian refugee population, as well as their implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Arc En Ciel (AEC) is a Lebanese non-profit organization that exemplifies the sustainable application of these values and holds them at the forefront of their mission. As of July 2018, a PV system producing upwards of 85,000 kWh a year with an estimated impact over 97,000 people have been installed in the AEC community centre in the Taanayel District, Bekaa.
In the Bekaa, an area where over 300,000 Syrians are currently registered, AEC is profoundly involved in alleviating the refugee crisis by offering social services and sustainable alternatives to integrate marginalized populations. As such, the organization has made it a priority to improve in parallel the living conditions of the Syrian refugees and the Lebanese host communities, by offering inclusive services such as medical and psychological consultations, child education, day care for working parents, after-school activities, and care for the disabled, where over 40% of people served are Syrian.
AEC also prides itself on being a major employer in the region- the Taanayel centre employs 17 full-time and 30 part-time workers, as well as approximately 120 seasonal agricultural workers at a time, all of which are Syrian refugees. They work in all activities run by the domain, such as tourism, ecotourism, agriculture, waste management, etc. The centre’s senior manager, Elia Ghorra, also insists that contrary to popular opinion, “We always believe that the Syrians are taking the jobs that the Lebanese won’t, but that isn’t true at all. In our centres, the Syrians and Lebanese both work many types of jobs all together.”
The PV panels will save the centre up to $10,000 USD annually in electric spending, which will all be reinvested into their diverse activities and programs, designed to benefit the Syrian refugees and host communities of the area. The centre invests most heavily in agricultural activities, most especially in programs relating to water. Over the past year, water preservation, storage, and quality have been new major projects. Pilot projects also include the implementation of new irrigation systems. The organization believes these will create a positive impact from a humanitarian perspective in addition to promoting sustainable livelihoods in agriculture and hence improving economic empowerment.
The goal of strengthening a sustainable educational and social network in Lebanon for the most economically vulnerable populations goes beyond directly serving the local inhabitants – for example, included in the 55,000 people served in 2017 by AEC are 1,300 farmers from all over Lebanon who were educated and empowered. Focusing on education and providing such trainings is key to ensuring the present and future impact of the activities invested in today.
All activities taken upon are sustainable and fit in the framework of social support, economic empowerment, and environmental preservation. As such, the organization continues to be a huge proponent of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, the totality of the activities run in Taanayel and throughout Lebanon directly impact 15 of the 17 goals. By continuing to promote sustainable practices and energy efficiency, AEC will be able to positively engage the Lebanese and Syrian local populations over the coming years.