French farmer launches initiative to send wheat to Lebanon
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After the explosion in Beirut on August 4, a French farmer launched an initiative on social media to help collect wheat to feed people in Lebanon. The video has been viewed more than 60,000 times since it was published on August 10, and other farmers have pledged to join. However, despite the enthusiasm, the logistics of transporting wheat to Lebanon and storing it there present complications.
On August 10, Vincent Guyot, who cultivates grain in the Aisne region of France, shared a video on Twitter announcing his initiative. In the clip, he calls on Minister of Food and Agriculture Julien Denormandie, and Leá Salamé, a journalist at France Inter and France Televisions, to help the initiative.
I am ready to donate a ton of wheat for Lebanon. But I am a simple grain farmer in the north of Aisne, and I do not have the operational means to organise this chain of solidarity. Help me organize it so that we can do something concrete for this country.
Chère @LeaSalameGUYOT Vincent (@GuyotVincent02) August 10, 2020
Cher Mr le Ministre @J_Denormandie
Aidez moi, aidez nous, à les aider concrètement, avec du ???? : #unetonnedeblépourleLiban .
Si vous aussi vous voulez donner #unetonnedeblépourleLiban : RT ,
Si vous voulez soutenir cette chaine de #solidarité #fraternité : ????. pic.twitter.com/7vrADs9Tea
“Sending a Tweet is fun and easy. But mounting a humanitarian operation is totally different.”
Updates to the project are shared with the hashtag #UneTonneDeBlePourLeLiban [A Ton of Wheat for Lebanon]. Guyot spoke to the FRANCE 24 Observers team about the initiative.
What I know is that I am a farmer and a wheat producer. This is more concrete for me than donating money. As of today, we’ve started communication, but the operational phase has not started. Next week, I hope. Sending a Tweet is fun and easy. But mounting a humanitarian operation is totally different. It takes longer.
Between 29 and 30 million tons of wheat have been harvested in France [this year], and the French domestic market only consumes 15 to 20 million tons. So it is not a problem for the French market.
Since the project is still in the initial planning phase, it is difficult to estimate how much wheat will be collected. A week after his first video, Guyot is still waiting on government support for his initiative. Transporting many tons of wheat from France to Lebanon is an over 4,000-kilometre journey. Guyot said he cannot launch the project on his own.
This latest video, shared August 17, tags France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian and other top officials.
“I've received a lot of text messages from farmers in my region who want to participate.”Régis Desrumaux is a dairy farmer in the Oise region. After seeing Guyot’s video, Desrusmaux pledged to donate a ton of his wheat to the initiative. He spoke to the FRANCE 24 Observers team about the project.
Partant pour la chaîne de solidarité de @GuyotVincent02 ! Et vous, les agris de l’Oise ? @smessaertluc @60thierry @adupuy60d @LePogamGuillaum @agritof60 #unetonnedeblépourleLiban @FDSEAOise @JeunesAgri60 @ChLambert_FNSEA @J_Denormandie @EmmanuelMacron @JeromeDespey pic.twitter.com/SS65dqTH21Régis Desrumaux (@DesrumauxRegis) August 10, 2020
Régis Desrumaux is a dairy farmer in l’Oise. Desrumaux joined Guyot’s campaign and pledged to donate a ton of his own wheat to Lebanon.
Like many people, I was shocked when I saw what happened in Beirut. When I saw Vincent Guyot's call on social media, I said, we must participate. Our job is to feed people. It’s always easier to donate what we produce. A ton of wheat makes more sense than a euro.
Vincent Guyot has this great idea. And I've received a lot of text messages from farmers in my region who want to participate. We are really in this first phase [of collection]. We’re on the starting block.
L’artiste de la famille @corinnecheroux a apporté sa touche perso’. Bigbag prêt à partir pour le Liban. On attend simplement les moyens d’acheminement ! Tous derrière @GuyotVincent02 ! @EmmanuelMacron @J_Denormandie #unetonnedeblepourleLiban #toussolidaire pic.twitter.com/5yVjEVzgAVRégis Desrumaux (@DesrumauxRegis) August 15, 2020
Farmer Régis Desrumaux shared this photo on August 15. The caption reads, “Family artist @corinnecheroux brought his personal touch. This big bag is ready to go to Lebanon. We are simply waiting for a means of delivery.”
“Aid must also focus on rebuilding means for storing foodstuffs.”Dr. Serge Zaka is a Lebanese agronomist who lives in France. He moved to France in 1991 with his family to flee the Lebanese Civil War. He retweeted Vincent Guyot’s post to draw attention to the project.
It’s an interesting initiative. Wheat is really the staple food in Lebanon. Flour and bread.
The conditions of transport do not worry me because this is France and we are used to transporting wheat. But you can’t just send wheat anyway, anywhere. Many of the silos in Beirut were destroyed in the blast.
One important note: we must provide different types of wheat. Some wheat is used to make bread, and other types are used for pastries. So we must ensure that the donations of wheat [from farmers] are diverse. We can’t just have wheat for making bread. There are other types of wheat that are important to the population.
To regain lasting autonomy, aid must also focus on rebuilding means for storing foodstuffs. And this is a top priority before sending large amounts of inventory. Storage could be done in the meantime in Cyprus.
As a Lebanese person, I am very happy about this initiative. I have a doctorate in agro-meteorology, and I studied in France. At my core, I am Franco-Lebanese. I came to France for my studies and because there was a civil war. Promoting this project is an excellent way for me to give back to Lebanon despite the distance.
Currently, French officials have not responded to the initiative, but Guyot continues to share updates on social media. He shares news of this operation under the hashtag #UneTonnedeBlePourLeLiban. You can follow the initiative and contact Vincent Guyot on Twitter at @GuyotVincent02.
Article by Sophie Stuber