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American University of Beirut (2020)

The Political Economy of Agriculture in Lebanon : The Case of Machgara

Kassem, Julia

Titre : The Political Economy of Agriculture in Lebanon : The Case of Machgara

Auteur : Kassem, Julia

Université de soutenance  : American University of Beirut

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2020

Following a tumultuous year of anti-austerity and anti-corruption protests driven by a currency crisis and longtime abysmal political and economic conditions, the Lebanese economy had found itself at the lowest point in its recent history, the lira’s exchange rate plummeting from a 23-year-long stable 1,500 lira to the dollar to fluctuating around 10,000 lira to the dollar in less than eight months. No sector has been as much of chronic casualty to an economic and political history of internal corruption, a high import to export ratio, and low productivity in Lebanon as the agricultural sector. Despite the low productivity of this sector, a product of decades of state neglect in favor of the finance and service sectors, land potential is very high. Evidently, information and literature on agrarian crises and questions in the Arab world, particularly on Lebanon, remains sparse in agrarian studies journals. In this thesis, I analyze how agriculture’s decline in Lebanon can be examined in context of the greater global capitalist transformation, including its effect on small farmer livelihoods. Furthermore, I seek to further this assessment by analyzing how planning is or isn’t effective in helping protect or valorize agriculture. Using a mixed methods approach combining a historical analysis of the long durée, in the lens of a world system analysis, I hone in on farmer oral histories, in the southern West-Beqaa village of Machgara, to better diagnose and identify how Lebanese family farmers respond to agrarian changes. By placing small family farmer testimonies in the context of a greater historical chronology and the world system, I identify and analyze how the themes articulated in their responses reflect the commodification of land and labor alike and how these complications can help planners focus on the integration of local actors and organizations, from an agroeconomic lens, into rural development interventions.


Page publiée le 21 mai 2021