By Mohammed Zaatari
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Farmers guard loquat crop from natural hazards

SIDON: The ski season was not the only sector hit this year by Lebanon’s unusually unstable weather. The agricultural sector was affected and the loquat trees, known locally as “Aki Dini” trees, grown in the south seem to be fighting a deadly battle against the radical weather.

The fruit trees have been under constant attacks from flaming heat, pouring rain and heavy hail in addition to being an easy prey to one of nature’s smaller animals, birds.

Nonetheless, Lebanese farmers have found a way to protect their sources of income by placing cloth nets around the struggling loquat trees.

“It’s a defense wall against the attacks of the weather,” said a local farmer.

This wall consists of a cloth net wrapped around the tree to protect the fruit from heat, hail or birds.

However, this fort only needs to be placed around loquat trees grown from imported French seeds because the Lebanese loquat does not seem to be affected by the radical weather.

“Foreign crops cannot survive the violence of nature or bird attacks while local trees can,” commented farmer Hanna Ibrahim, adding simply “Local is better.”

The protection methods of “netting” the trees have become very popular in the south and farmers have even started calling the guard net a “The Uniform.”

“It can be seen that many hectares of land in east Sidon have followed the same strategy of protection. This is smart cultivation,” says Palestinian worker Ahmad al-Asadi.

However, the “enemy” has shown cleverness and craftiness as well. Birds have lately been flying to the bottoms of the trees and going underneath the nets.

“Big fruits tempt the birds and they invade the trees before the fruit is even ready. They make holes in the fruit and they usually cannot go through the net. But the birds are quite crafty and have found ways to pass under the net,” Asadi explained.