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