Map of Lebanon

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 or provinces.

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.

Water resources

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.

Ecological zones

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.

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