The world is urbanizing continuously and at a vast rate. The United Nations predicts that by 2030 more than half of the world population will be living in cities. About thirty five percent of Lebanon’s inhabitants live in Beirut and its suburbs. This dense city that continues to densify at a rapid scale raises several concerns one of which is food security.
Food security has taken the forefront in many debates recently and has also been placed in the millennium development goals. Yet except for some student interest and a few workshops and course work funded at the American University of Beirut this debate has not been addressed and no clear action or government proposals or initiatives can be found.
To address food security for Beirut planners, policy makers, and municipal officials need to reevaluate the potential of urban agriculture.
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Beirut’s urban agriculture
Beirut had a long and eventful history which makes its city plans and growth difficult to study in detail and categorize. Yet taking a set of maps from different periods shows a growth of the city that can be characterized as unplanned especially from 1980s onward during which the city’s political problems were exacerbated by a civil war that over‐densified the city and caused the over‐taking of the agriculture zone.
Beirut is compromised of 60% of the urban population of Lebanon and almost five times the population of the second largest city in Lebanon, Tripoli. Its estimated population has reached 2 million, however, only a century ago the population of the city was barely 6000.
“The scale and scope of urbanization has overcome the city's resources and ability to effectively supply the increasing demand for urban space “(macalester.edu, 2010).
This unplanned expansion took over Beirut’s outer suburbs and informally urbanized them. The few urban agriculture plots are located in Chouifat and extend into hay al selloum , the Nahr Beirut area, the "Metropolitan" hotel area and Daychuniyyeh Valley. The largest of which is Hay al selloum/ chouifat edge.
Beiruts Southern suburbs
Hay El Selloum, a neighborhood in the southern suburbs of Beirut which is an informal settlement that grew from an olive grove to one of the densest neighborhoods in Lebanon. The area houses about 15 percent of the population of Beirut today.
Hay al Selloum: evolution from a productive land to an ‘unhealthy’ dense urban fragment
Phase 1: INDEPENDENCE (1943) TO 1970
Hay al Selloum is located in Beirut the capital of Lebanon. Lebanon’s history is unique in that its independence from the French rule in 1943 did not introduce a process of nation building characterized by planning agencies and welfare state promises that most post colonial societies attempted on achieving. Instead, the state committed itself to ultimate liberalism with total disregard to the public sector (Gaspard 2004). The historical and blind faith in the “free market” has continually translated by the reluctance and weak interventions of the Lebanese government and the provision of services, including the provision of housing (Sadik 1996).
During that 1970s, the olive groves and agriculture land of Hay al Selloum were being transformed into an area for low-income shelter for refugees. The area is between the airport and the industrial zone of Choueifat. A 15-minute car ride takes the residents into the central district of Beirut. The area was mostly controlled by Druze and Christian families that owned the land or inherited it. As land value in the area rose the agricultural land was transformed into one of the most congested residential areas in Beirut, with a density of 1400people\ha in 1999 (Fawaz, 2005) .