Geography and population
Lebanon, with a total area of 10 400
km², is situated east of the Mediterranean Sea and stretches about 210 km
along the coast and 50 km inland. It is bordered by Syria in the north and
east and by Israel in the south. Administratively it is divided into six Mohafazats
Topographically, Lebanon can be divided
from west to east into four parallel parts:
- a flat, narrow coastal strip parallel
to the sea;
- the Lebanon Mountains chain, the
highest crest of which is just over 3 000 metres;
- the Bekaa Valley at a height of
around 900 metres;
- the Anti-Lebanon Mountains chain,
which rises to 2 800 metres, in the east.
The cultivable area is estimated at
360 000 ha, or 35 % of the total area. During the period 1992-94, the total
cultivated area was estimated at 189 206 ha, of which 104 120 ha consisted
of annual crops and 85 086 ha consisted of permanent crops, mainly fruit trees
and olives. The Ministry of Agriculture is planning to start up a national
agricultural census in 1996, the last one being carried out in 1970. According
to the 1970 census there were 140 000 farm holdings with 63% having less than
2 ha of land, which means that agriculture is characterized by land fragmentation.
However, there are indications of a decrease in the number of very small farms
and in 1985 it was reported that about 46% of the farm holdings had less than
2 ha of land.
The total population is about 3 million
(1995), of which only 13% is rural. The annual demographic growth rate is
estimated at 2 %. The agricultural labour force declined from 25 % in 1967
to less than 9% in 1990. However, agriculture remains an important source
of income in rural areas and although it is difficult to estimate the number
of full-time farmers, most families have agriculture as a part-time activity.
Seasonal labour represents between 30 and 40% of the present agricultural
labour force. In 1992, agriculture accounted for an estimated 8.8% of GDP
and for 30% of total export earnings.
Climate and water resources
The climate of Lebanon is typically
Mediterranean, with heavy rains in the winter season (January to May) and
dry and arid conditions in the remaining 7 months of the year. However, the
influence of the Mediterranean Sea, the topographic features, as well as the
Syrian Desert in the north create a variety of micro-climates within the country
with contrasting temperatures and rainfall distribution. The average annual
temperature is 20°C on the coast (ranging from 13°C in winter to 27°C in summer),
16°C in the Beeka valley (ranging from 5°C in winter to 26°C in summer) and
less than 10°C at higher elevations in the mountain zones (ranging from 0°C
in winter to 18°C in summer).
Average annual rainfall is estimated
at 823 mm, varying from 600 to 900 mm along the coastal zones to 1 400 mm
on the high mountains and decreasing to 400 mm in the eastern parts and less
than 200 mm in the north-east. Above 2 000 metres, precipitation is essentially
niveous and helps to sustain a base yield for about 2 000 springs during the
dry period. Rainfall occurs on eighty to ninety days a year, mainly between
October and April. About 75% of the annual stream flow occurs in the five-month
period from January to May, 16% from June to July and only 9% in the remaining
five months from August to December.
In total, there are about 40 major streams
in Lebanon and, based on the hydrographic system, the country can be divided
into five regions:
- the El Assi (Orontes) river basin
in the north. The El Assi flows into Syria in the north-east of the country;
- the Litani river basin in the east
and south. The Litani reaches the sea in the south-west of the country;
- the Hasbani river basin in the south-east.
The Hasbani, which flows into Israel in the south east of the country, is
a tributary of the Jordan river;
- all the remaining major coastal
river basins. The northern El Kebir river basin is shared with Syria, the
river itself forming part of the border between the two countries before
flowing into the sea;
- all the remaining small in-between
scattered and isolated subcatchments with no noticeable surface streamflow,
like the endorheic catchments and isolated coastal 'pockets'.
Lebanon has a relatively favourable
position as far as its rainfall and water resources are concerned, but constraints
for development consist of the limited water availability during the seven
dry summer months. Annual internal renewable water resources are estimated
at about 4.8 km³. Annual surface runoff is estimated at 4.1 km³ and groundwater
recharge at 3.2 km³, of which 2.5 km³ constitutes the baseflow of the rivers.
About 1 km³ of this flow comes from over 2 000 springs with about 10-15 l/s
of average unit yield, sustaining a perennial flow for 17 of the total of
40 major streams in the country.
The map below shows the ecological zones, as shown on the
FAO global map of ecological zones produced as part of the FRA 2000. Please refer
to FRA Working Paper 20 for
further information on the Global Ecological Zone map.