Nepal-funded agricultural project in Blida to ease economic strains of residents
UNIFIL’s Nepalese peacekeepers handed over a major agricultural and public garden project this week to local authorities of the south-eastern Lebanese village of Blida. It was their country’s first ever large-scale civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) project undertaken in a United Nations peace operation.
The project, built in an open field close to a section of the Blue Line, will irrigate nearby fields while also serving as a community meeting hub. It will benefit thousands of Blida residents.
Work on the project began in September 2021, when UNIFIL’s Nepalese peacekeepers started working with local authorities to build five rainwater harvesting ponds, three cross-overs, connecting canals, sidewalks, six sitting stalls and a public garden – extending a length of 500 metres.
At a ceremony held at the site on 12 January, UNIFIL’s Sector East Commander Brigadier General Ramón Armada Vázquez joined Blida Mayor Hassan Hijazi and Nepalese Contingent Commander Colonel Kamal Baniya in inaugurating the new ponds and park.
By boosting agricultural outputs, this project is expected to help ease the difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s unprecedented multiple crises have caused for local farmers.
While commending efforts of Nepalese Battalion (NEPBATT) in assisting host communities, Brig. Gen. Vázquez said the latest Blida project is “a great example” of cooperation between UNIFIL and residents of Blida.
“This project is a demonstration of the effort that UNIFIL is making in Lebanon, by implementing our mandate under Security Council Resolution 1701, and by seeking to improve the living conditions of a population that currently suffer the economic and financial crisis,” he said. “We will be here for the people who want peace, who want stability, and who want to be able to live full, and happy, and productive lives.”
Colonel Baniya said the successful completion of the project has further strengthened “the symbiotic relations” of Nepalese peacekeepers with the local community.
“NEPBATT has been able to foster cordial relations with the people of Blida owing to its effort towards maintaining close coordination, cooperation and collaboration with the local authority and the Lebanese Armed Forces,” he said.
Mayor Hijazi said the project assists local farmers to cultivate and irrigate their lands, and reap crops.
“This project has enhanced and strengthened the friendship and relationship between UNIFIL and the locals, since these kinds of projects will show that these troops are here to support the locals,” he said. “This enhances the trust between UNIFIL and the people of Blida.”
The Blida Municipality Secretary, Ali Ghazi, said the water flowing in the Ghasouna River can now be diverted for agricultural purposes. With the workers as well as raw materials for this project coming from Blida itself, it has already eased economic strain on the locals, added Mr. Ghazi.
Nepalese peacekeepers have been in Lebanon since 1958 and with UNIFIL since 1978. Their operational activities, along with all of their activities to support local people and the community – like the latest project – have helped maintain peace and stability in their vast area of operations, covering 96 square kilometres and including a 15 kilometre stretch of the Blue Line.
Since 2007, UNIFIL and its troop-contributing countries have conceived, planned, and built 24 different projects to help the local population in Blida, in the areas of power, water, education, youth, and sports.