Zaher teamed up with the Lebanese NGO SOILS Permaculture Association Lebanon to conduct our first full scale pilot project in 2016. The project took place at the Educational Center Baraem Almoustaqbal ran by Syrian NGO SAWA for Development and Aid, in the city of Bar Elias in the Bekaa Valley. The center enrolled students from 9 surrounding refugee camps.
The project succeeded in training 8 young Syrians (half girls, half boys) as garden ambassadors, and engaging the ambassadors and 25 Syrian children from the school in the entire process of creating the learning garden – from the very beginning of planning what to grow and prepare the soil and compost, then making plant beds and putting down seeds, planting flowers and trees, and taking care of the crops and plants until a beautiful garden was blooming and they could harvest a big portion of radishes.
Ghassan Alsalman from SOILS was in charge of the garden implementation and educational program with assistance from volunteers from SOILS and Zaher. Every workshop had its own theme: 1) Agricultural history 2) Flora 3) Soil and compost 4) Water 5) The environment 6) Holistic Conclusion and consisted of a theoretical part in the classroom and a practical part in the garden.
The pilot was initiated by a pre-workshop for children and youth from the surrounding camps and staff from Baraem Almoustaqbal to bring local perspectives and ideas into the project. To sum up the pilot project, all the involved children, youth, teachers and their families were invited to a ceremony on December 24th to celebrate the learning garden.
As we were conducting the first workshops in spring 2017 to prepare the garden for next season and start planting, the educational center of Baraem Almoustaqbal unfortunatly had to close down, and the learning garden project was put to an end. Luckily the children and youth can keep their new know-how and experiences from the project to bring with them for their future.