Round Table Discussion on Creating a Sustainable Eco-System for the Zaatar Value Chain in Lebanon

Known for its multiple notorious benefits, as well as its use in a wide range of medical and cosmetic products all over the world, Lebanese Zaatar has always been a key component of the agro-economic cycle of Lebanon. Originally picked from the wild, Zaatar farming has grown exponentially in the past decades that a complete ecosystem started taking shape around it in the whole country. This ecosystem is constituted of farmers, processors, middlemen, producers, and traders working together to provide the ever-growing demand for Zaatar in the market.

Being greatly involved in boosting the capacity of agro-alimentary food production in Lebanon, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and with funding from Italy has been working on building and sustaining the Lebanese Zaatar ecosystem as part of CELEP (Community Empowerment and Livelihoods Enhancement Project). Support activity revolved around providing asset-based and technical assistance to Cooperatives and SMEs who are involved in the production and sales of Zaatar from 4 Lebanese regions; South, North, Beirut, and Mount Lebanon.

During the period from June to December 2021, UNIDO and its partners executed a comprehensive project to build the capacity of 16 Zaatar Producers, connecting them with potential local and international buyers, and securing the key enablers for a vibrant Zaatar ecosystem in Lebanon.

In this context, an extensive Round Table Event was organized on November 2nd, 2021 as a celebration of the Lebanese Man’ouche Day. This event aimed to bring the Zaatar ecosystem stakeholders in Lebanon together to exchange thought and discuss various means for building a sustainable Zaatar ecosystem in the country. The main objective was to discuss how to realize a stage where the Zaatar Value Chain is self-reliant and ever-growing, with minimal or no support from donors and third parties.

The webinar was attended by Zaatar growers, producers, and processors, as well as officials from the Ministries of Industry, Agriculture, and Economy and Trade, along with experts and researchers in agriculture and agro-foods.  It revolved around 5 main discussion points, namely Zaatar production and volume, Quality and Safety Issues, Visibility, Accessibility to national and international markets, and the options for creating a legal framework to govern the Zaatar Value Chain in Lebanon. 

Initially, participants addressed the challenges that are being faced by the Zaatar ecosystem

In this respect, several recommendations were proposed in the webinar to identify potential solutions for the challenges.

This Round Table Event was organized in partnership with HR Works s.a.l. under the project “Strengthening job creation and creativity in the agro-food sector in Lebanon through technology transfer and skills training” funded by Italy and implemented by UNIDO in partnership with the Ministry of Industry and collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon.