With funding from USAID/Leahy War Victims Fund, the WRF launched in October 2001 a program that aims at expanding economic opportunities for war-affected families and individuals through establishing income generating agricultural and food production programs. By March 31, 2007, 194 grants were provided benefiting more than 1,560 war victims and landmine survivors as direct beneficiaries.

One of the major income generating programs of the COOP has been “The Poultry Raising for Egg Production Program”. This program assists war victims and landmine survivors in raising a small number of egg layers (200-300) in a “natural” way, in their backyard, using the “free-range” technique where the layers are fed with natural feed (free of any chemical or animal additive and based on international norms for such types of rearing) and have free access to an open air area where they can roam and feed on herbs, vegetables, minerals, and other natural products to produce “free-range” eggs. In addition, the farms and layers are also followed up regularly through veterinary control and quality assurance visits and the farmers are provided with all necessary rearing tools and techniques.

The produced eggs have been marketed under the brand name “B.Balady®” (a brand designed and owned by the COOP). Since its launching in the Lebanese market, B.Balady® egg has gained an expanding market share of the (very competitive) premium quality “natural” egg market. Currently, B.Balady® is believed to be the number one brand selling premium (natural) eggs in major supermarkets and special stores in Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and South Lebanon. B.Balady® egg is also currently sold at the highest price among similar products.

Within this context, and in spite of all the challenges that faced the sector during the last two years, particularly the bird flu scare of 2005 and the effects of the war of July 2006, B.Balady® egg sales increased from a weekly average of 1,900 6-egg packs (distributed in 102 market outlets) in December 2005 to a weekly average of 3,700 6-egg packs (distributed in 182 outlets) in December 2006. Moreover, and during the last week of March 2007, B.Balady® egg sales maintained a weekly average of 3,620 6-egg packs in spite of the Easter fasting season, while at the same time expanding the market to around 200 market outlets.

A major factor in the success of the Poultry Raising for Egg Production Program is the record ‘farm-to-shelf’ time that B.Balady® eggs take to reach the consumer. In spite of the fact that the currently producing 48 farms are scattered all over the district of Jizzine, with all logistic challenges, the COOP has succeeded in minimizing the farm-to-shelf time to 2-3 days, including collection, cleaning, packaging, labeling, and delivery; thus, ensuring the freshness and high quality of the B.Balady® egg.

This is believed to be a major achievement of the Project and the COOP, which is mainly due to: (i) good planning and systems development, (ii) appropriate capacity building of all concerned, (iii) strict follow-up and quality control and assurance, (v) effective marketing and sales, and (vi) appropriate crisis management.

This program is currently ensuring income to more than 48 war-affected families with more than 350 beneficiaries with an average additional monthly income of $319 per family. It also generates additional income to the COOP and provides several job opportunities.

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