Hashish Harvest in Bekaa: The People Behind the Plant

Photo Blog by Alia Haju

The cultivation of hashish (cannabis) in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley is a centuries old practice. Local Pashas in Ottoman times encouraged it. Hashish was used as a form of currency and was a household staple. Hashish was banned in 1926 under the French mandate and remains so today. The Lebanese government’s official practice is to trash the substance. But it is far from eradicated. Cultivators of hashish are subject to all sorts stereotyping about their 'mafia' and 'crude' lifestyle.

When I arrived to shoot the harvesting of hashish in the village of Liah (not its real name), the people I met did not seem to fit these stereotypes. They were keen to educate their children, and had an air of calm and decency. They take great care of the plant that sustains their livelihood. Most are upset with the government's handling of hashish cultivation.

"It’s all this global influence on Lebanon that is causing this trashing of the hashish! The Americans, the Zionists, and Syria want to keep Lebanon a poor country," says one of the farmers."The Lebanese blonde hashish is a local plant, one of the best in the world. We have the best conditions to plant it; it doesn't need chemicals or fertilizers and we barely water them. If they stop trashing our harvest every year I can promise you that we can pay the government's debt in no time." Knowing that in 2009 an acre of hashish that cost about US$100 to produce could be easily sold for US$4000. Whereas an acre of potato costs about US$400 to produce and would make only US$100 of profit. Prices since then have surely flourished, especially with the supposed scarcity of cannabis in the market.

Cannabis is usually planted around the end of September and is harvested the following September.
After the harvest, the stash is dried up on the rooftops of farmers' homes and then stored in cool, dry rooms for a duration of two weeks.
The next step is sifting the plant to discard any twigs and stems. This process involves five sifts with varying degrees of fineness, ultimately producing a very fine powder.
Nothing gets thrown away, as the stems are utilized for making hemp ropes and the leafs are used to replenish the soil.
The powder is then kneaded until its rich oil infuses the dough-like portion of hashish, ready to roll.

With files from Ghadi Francis

(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)
(Photo: Alia Haju)

Comments

This is great stuff, even though it was 2 years ago. An update on the situation would be well gratified , atleast by me

Such a nice article :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about hate. Regards

Nice pix, but the article is not documented enough... 1/ "Cannabis is usually planted around the end of September and is harvested the following September." This is wrong. The harvest is in September, but Cannabis is (always) planted in Spring, and if it is in the mountains, it is even late spring, once the snow has completely melted. 2/ Starting in 1992, the Lebanese army systematically destroys most of the plants. They usually do it well and miss very little of it, using GPS etc. The pressure comes from the US mostly. I don't know the details but the LB army does it in exchange of something. The army usually come just before the harvest. Although this year (2011) they did it just before Ramadan somewhere by the end of July. After the yearly destruction, the few crops that survive make a very bad hash that is sold in the local market.

amazing article... nicely put... cheerz

It was banned under UN request at the time in early 90's and Harriri's quick response to please and comply with white man orders. I wonder if the legalize it in the west, will these same people forget about the whole ordeal.

Nice article and nice pictures. Thank you.

great article!
just wish you added some history about the laws and why they changed/got stricter during the 90s.
someone told me before the 90s, it was decriminalized to own one plant for one's own consumption in Lebanon for instance..

so true and great job alia... loved the pictures.

Excellent reporting, thank you for attempting to break the stereotyping of Hashish.

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