Nearly 3 years ago, my dear friend Yasmine Ryan published this article in Scoop about land and land rights in Sinay, my village in Jabal `Amel. In a nutshell she said that the feudal past of the village makes it such tat the people who work the land do not own it. Instead, it belongs to absentee landlords. She echoed the concerns of local people who asked themselves, back then: "what would happen if the absentee landlords sell the land and we get evicted from it? We have been using it for centuries to produce our food and fodder and to construct our livelihoods, But we have no rights over it. We will have nothing left but migration".
Well this year, their worries have become reality: a parcel of more than 2 km2 of farmland was sold to one investor who has kindly asked the farmers of Sinay to stop using the land and who has placed barbed wire and made investments in intensive banana farming under covered structures. The farmland of Sinay has dropped by one third, and about that many farmers have stopped working the land: "It does not make sense anymore to toil when the land can be taken from you any day" one of them told me.
This is what the landscape in Sinay looks like: extensive cereal and olive cropping on rolling hills of marly limestone soil
And this is what they are turning it into: Plastic houses with cash crops intensively farmed on soils substrate transported from the coast to cover the marl
Below is how I want to remember it: The Shawamer (Land of the Wild Fennel), the olive groves that once belonged to my grand father. My uncle still owns a small part, the non terraced plot on the left of the picture. Here they could own because it is in the cadastral zone of Ansar, the adjacent town. Ownership was impossible in Sinai for a very long time because the parcels were too large and hence not affordable to farmers.