This year we are focusing on cereals and green manures which we are growing for the first time on an area of 25 hectares! The ambitious idea would be to create a chain from grain to bread that supports local production and highlights the typical cereals of the region such as salamuni wheat and horani wheat, to eat bread, frikee and organic bulgur made in Lebanon!
Since few years now, BuJu team is putting all efforts in testing the different varieties of Soft wheat (for different types of bread, pastries, dough), Durum wheat (for bulgur, pastas, freekeh, etc.) and other cereals (Oat flakes, Barley and Rye for beer, Teff for Injara making, etc.). For two years, the team has experimented different varieties in its own facilities in Saadnayel farm, baking different batches of Soft wheat and flour, with different techniques (Tannour, Saj, Sourdough bread…) , or processing Durum wheat into important quantities of bulgur and freekeh. Products from these experiments were either distributed to food insecure families, eaten by the BuJu team, or sold in local markets. During the project period, BuJu will now create connections with external suppliers eager to test local varieties of cereals. The objective, during the project period, is to have tested and identified potential outlets for 10 varieties of cereals.
Since 2017, BuJu has gathered more than 60 varieties of cereals from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Tunisia, etc. via exchanges with farmers, research centers or seed producers from all around the Mediterranean area. Some of these varieties are very rare and have disappeared from the fields for decades ; others are mixes of cereals, the result of decades of intense work from cereals passionate experts like Salvatore Ciccarelli (Italy), Jean-Pierre Bololigni (France) or the Iranian Cevardha.
From a fistful, or a few grams of each, BuJu has patiently multiplied and studied these varieties to reach the sufficient volumes to spread them back into the region’s fields.
In November 2022, BuJu significantly upscaled its work on the conservation and multiplication of local heirloom wheat varieties. For the first year, a total of 25 hectares of wide crops, with 8,8 hectares of wheat only has been sown (representing 2,5 tons of wheat seeds sown, from 45 different varieties). The expected yield, for July 2023, is more than 40 tons.
As you probably know, the Lebanese cereal sector is currently suffering from the crises and Lebanon has very weak value chains. The country depends almost exclusively on imports to meet its needs (about 30,000 tons of wheat per month in Arabic bread). It imports 90% of the wheat consumed, of which 80% comes from Ukraine and 16% from Russia (WFP, 2021). The country's capacity to import and store wheat was successively impacted by the explosion of Beirut port silos and by the war in Ukraine; causing a crisis of wheat, flour and bread, impacting primarily the poor and the vulnerable host communities and refugees (World Bank, 2023). Since 2019, the prices of foodstuffs and especially bread are soaring and represent an increasingly important part of household expenses. The bread price has increased more than 1 391 % (WFP – VAM, 2023). The few local wheat producers suffer from a lack of outlets and their production is competing with imported wheat, subsidized by the State.
SO, in the long term, our objective is to multiply these ancient local cereals in large quantities, to
1) convince local cereal farmers to grow them,
2) develop local value chains for these cereals, by working with local millers, bakers, and processors.
Through this project, we will be setting one more stone on the path to food sovereignty, especially in terms of cereals and wheat.
Since few months, we have been in contact with a lot of different bakers in Lebanon, who have tested our ancient wheat flours in their recipes (bread loaves, mold breads, pies, cakes, etc.). The results are very promising, and some people would like to order specific flours in the future. This type of collaboration have started with Tusk bakery, Mavia bakery, Masa Madre bakery, etc. We also have the chance to work with a high quality mill to process our ancient grains, a tyrol mill, located in Zahle. The millstones are made of stone, which preserves the quality of the grains and does not crush them.
To put a light on this project, we organized a “Ancient cereals Festival” on May 28th, 2023 to gather all the actors of the sector, from bakers, to farmers, processors, experts. The idea was to encourage the creation of a cereal and ancient wheat sector in Lebanon and to raise awareness about ancient cereal seeds. We organized a bakery workshop so that bakers could test our different ancient variety flours; as well as a discussion between bakers and a presentation of our collection. Then, a bread tasting workshop, a visit of our plots of cereals and a debate were set up with testimonies of farmers, international experts on wheat, and bakers.
Natural Treatments !
The seeds, vegetables and everything else we produce at Buzuruna Juzuruna is made without the use of any pesticides or synthetic chemical inputs. Our objective is to be able to give our plants enough strength to develop and defend themselves effectively against pests. To reach that goal, we combine several organic agriculture principles such as using resilient seeds (all our seeds are reproducible peasant seeds), crop rotations (in order to preserve soil fertility and reduce the risks of diseases), the recycling of organic natural materials (for developing our homemade compost), the use of natural manures and fertilizers (with our fermented extracts, macerations and plant decoctions), beneficial cultural associations (among vegetables, but also with flowers and aromatics) and the organic challenge (the use of living organisms to prevent or reduce the damages caused by pests, notably by encouraging biodiversity and beneficial insects).
Pest and disease management is made possible by these numerous complementary actions. Our management practices are long term, aiming mainly at preventing the development of pest populations. This requires tackling the root of the problem rather than the symptoms, which entails regular and methodical inspection of our parcels, to intervene before the crops are damaged by pests or diseases. This philosophy, summarized in three words, has became a mantra here at Buzuruna Juzuruna: Observe, Prevent and Treat.
In the current crisis, farmers are more and more struggling to get access to fertilizers and other agricultural inputs. Indeed, the economic crisis and dire inflation had made the price of such products skyrocket in the last months - as 95% of agricultural inputs are still imported; thus in USD. Prices have been multiplied by at least 10 for farmers to purchase inputs, while the prices for selling their products cannot follow the same inflation on the local vegetables market.
On another aspect, most of the farmers used to spread heavy doses of chemical fertilizers on their land. This intensive chemical agriculture is the opposite of sustainability, as it destroys the whole organic life and soil, making it poorer and poorer, and polluting the soil; atmosphere and underground water. Thus, the quantities of fertilizers to be spread have to be increased every year to compensate for the soil’s impoverishment; diving into a strong vicious circle. Oppositely, using natural compost is regenerating the soil, while ensuring the same levels of productivity. If adopted by the farmers and used long-term, it can turn back into a virtuous circle in which farmer’s land keeps increasing productivity proportionally to their good care and soil enrichment.
Since 2017, the farm is producing its own compost (both with domestic wastes, all the carbonated material from the garden, and added animal manure), and using it on our own land. In addition to this practical experience, one of the team members, an agricultural engineer, has previous experience in conducting feasibility and technical studies about compost in Beqaa.
Since 2019, BuJu is trying to extend the capacity of production to much more important volume, and thus to make it available for surrounding farmers, and answering to their lack of local alternatives to imported chemical fertilizers.
A dedicated land is being rented; on which fresh stocks of animal manure and green material are added, stocked and piled regularly; following the “thermal compost” procedure.
Small quantities of compost are thus now used in different distribution projects runed by BuJu; and available for sales (per 50kg bag ; or by the ton). Transportation of it (rental of truch) has to be covered by clients though.
Every nature lover knows that we have to give back to the land what we have taken from it. Green manures are excellent in this case, because in addition to adding organic matter to the soil, they protect the soil and improve its structure. The main benefits of green fertilizers are:
*Supplying organic matter, nitrogen and minerals, for the next season of plants.
*Breaking the weed cycle by occupying the spaces where weeds might grow. Many green manures can grow and outcompete noxious weeds, effectively replacing them.
*Improving soil structure. Well developed root systems of most green manures build the soil structure, for better aeration, water retention…
*An excellent addition to the diversity of crop rotations. Certain green manures (phacelia, buckwheat, grasses) belong to families that are not closely related to the common vegetables grown, which provides a tool to break many disease and pest cycles.
*Protecting the soil surface during periods of erosion and harsh weather. A bare soil does not live well, and green manure also stimulates microbial life in the soil.
Green manure can be ground and spread on the soil, incorporated in the compost, or lightly incorporated in the soil. Keep the following considerations in mind:
- Cutting the Crop: the best time to harvest green manure is often at the flowering stage. An earlier incorporation is also possible if prioritizing the nitrogen supply. If harvested later, the carbon supply will be more significant. In all cases, always cut the crop before seed formation in order to avoid it invading the next culture.
- Decomposition: The decomposition should be well-developed to avoid inhibiting the germination and growth of the successive season. Wait 3 weeks to 3 months between the soil incorporation and the successive sowing (varies depending on the quantity of the organic matter, sun exposure, temperature, etc.).
All the aromatic plants are decorative. They can find their place outside of the vegetable garden, provided that they are preserved in a dry and sunny place, such as a border or rocky spot. Lightly manure your aromatics: a very rich soil harms the finesse of their aroma, and do not water them intensely. Plant starting the month of March in a light and drained soil, in the sun. Better space every seedling at 50 cm, because they often take a lot of place when they are good and healthy. Very often resistant to cold and draught. Mulching after planting reduces the sprouting of weeds. Trim every year, after the blooming, or in early spring by cutting the very dry stems very short, so that your plant conserves a good bushy and compact aspect.
We also support initiatives for food sovereignty that emerged from the revolutionary tents of the October 2019 movement.
We publish educational documents on agro-ecology and, more broadly, on peasant autonomy in Arabic. Material available on request.
We sell our fresh products on order in Beirut every Tuesday at Hostel Beirut and in Zahlé every Thursday at Bar Brut.
We take part in the farmer’s market in Badaro (at the St-Sauveur school) every Sunday.