Eggplant is an important ingredient in Lebanese cooking. Processing and marketing of eggplant preserves is well-established and an accessible occupation for women living in the rural farming community of El Qaa Village in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Due to water scarcity in the region, production of eggplant is challenging and farmers need improved water-saving irrigation technologies to produce such high-value agricultural products.
Through the Water and Livelihoods Initiative (WLI), USAID has supported the work of a team of field researchers from the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) who are implementing field experiments and demonstration sites to encourage the local community to increase water productivity through available technologies, such as drip irrigation systems. The WLI research team is led by Ms Randa Massad, who is identifying and exploring new and different ways in which her extension team can work with the local community to improve water management and develop livelihood strategies for women.
According to Ms Massad, working with local female farmers and female-headed businesses to boost the quality processing and marketing of their eggplant production is one way to further enhance both water productivity and local livelihoods. This new approach for the local agricultural research and extension services is just starting to take hold, but it could open up new marketing and agricultural production opportunities for the women of El Qaa Village.