Jenny October 16, 2012

If you’re a reader of Denmark’s Politiken or Finland’s Hufvudstadsbladet, you’ll soon read a report I wrote about hashish production in Lebanon. Together with Karim Mostafa (who took these pictures), I visited the hashish-producing village Yammouneh a few weeks back.

Half an hour’s drive from the Roman ruins in Baalbek, at the end of a winding road that leads across the mountains in the Western Bekaa, lies Yammouneh.

The small village looks like many others in the Lebanese countryside: the houses, made of cement, are low and have small gardens outside. There’s a dekkaneh selling cigarettes, ice cream and bread; there’s a guy serving coffee and tea in small plastic cups from the back of a parked mini-van.

But, the village is different from many others in the region. Here, most people live off of growing cannabis and selling hashish.

Most residents of Yammouneh grow cannabis – some own large fields; others are small-scale farmers who grow in their gardens.

Like much agricultural work in Lebanon, the crops are cared for by Syrian seasonal workers.

Yammouneh is small, with few activities for the kids. The village school closed a few years ago. This football court was set up in the early nineties, as part of a project to make Bekaa free from drugs (“They first did it as a court for basketball – which we don’t play here – so we made it into a football court,” says Nooh, a Yammouneh resident in his early twenties).

Initially, the project was a success, and almost all of Lebanon’s hashish was eradicated. But, as funds promised by international donors failed to materialize, farmers returned to growing cannabis.

Today, Lebanon is among the world’s top five hashish producers.