Thursday, June 14, 2007

One ostrich, many poor

"Not far from piles of rubble still being cleared after last year's war with Israel, Mohamad Yassine recently took an important step in his own effort to rebuild. Middle East Ostrich, his first retail shop, got ready for its grand opening.

Passersby peered curiously through the window at his display of delicacies -- ostrich sausage, ostrich mortadella, and a basket of big ostrich eggs. Heat-and-eat ostrich cordon bleu and ostrich Kiev were stacked in a freezer nearby. Souvenir plumes adorned a vase near the doorway.

Before the war, Mr. Yassine planned a much larger business expansion"

This project was going to expand in my village, Sinai, where the inhabitants are landless peasants, and land is owned in large parcels of several km2 by absentee landlords. The project would have prohibited the local people from using the land they have been planting for centuries, and left them without assets or resources. All this for export oriented production, (the Lebanese dont eat ostrich and Louis Vuitton's factories are not in Lebanon) which would have made one man richer (possibly because the economics of ostrich farming are dodgy, as many kiwis will tell you), but it would have made 100s of people poorer.


Bedouina said...

I know that this terrible time will have a silver lining for some. I hated all those luxury developments I saw when I was last in LEbanon (Sept. 2000). Sorry but I don't think that tourism is the best economic engine for the health of a country.

This story about landless peasants. .. why is it that the peasants of Sinai were not able to acquire their land, whereas the peasants of Mieh-Mieh and the coastal villages I know of did? What is the difference?

Owning land has meant that my generation of Mieh-Mieh people are ridiculously successful - they are mostly college-educated, many of them with lots of advanced degrees and working in great tech jobs in the West or the Gulf. Their educations were funded by the land their parents inherited from farming grandparents. My father could go to Girard Institute because my grandfather had enough land to run a cash surplus. I assume that the children of landless peasants don't fly off to America to get Ph.Ds in biostatistics... not too often.

Rania Masri said...

Rami - this article touches on a number of issues, and thus - makes it a perfect piece to be expanded upon for a 500 word article ;-)