Lebanon: Banned Pesticides on Dinner Tables

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Jordan

Publishing organisation: Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ)

The Investigation was also published by an Arab media outlet ; Raseef 22 ( in both languages English & Arabic)

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-03-27

Language: English

Authors: Zinab Muhsin


Freelance Investigative Reporter from Lebanon. She is interested in reporting on the Environment using Data Driven Investigations. Mohsin is also a data analyst.

Project description:

Farmers in Lebanon use banned and smuggled pesticides excessively, which undermines food safety as well as risks the health of the consumers. Weak monitoring by government agencies on these chemicals makes the situation worse.

Impact reached:

The Investigation won bronze at the ARIJ Award 2022, for which 133 investigations from 23 countries competed.
A researcher uses the data collected by the journalist in a research paper about controlling pesticides. The Research Paper entitled “ Monitoring of pesticide residues in tomatoes and cucumbers, and risk assessment for the Lebanese consumer during economic crisis” was presented in CIMEE22 conference on September 2022, which was held in Beirut. The researcher is working on the paper and will submit it to a specialized journal.
While working on the investigation the journalist found that a major commercial store was displaying banned pesticides on the shelves. She contacted the Ministry of Agriculture, the latter confirmed that the offered goods were smuggled, and that the owner of the establishment did not have a license to sell them. An action taken by the Ministry.

Techniques/technologies used:

– Excel sheet: to organize, clean and analyze data. Pivot tables and formulas were used. Many excel sheets were used, one to collect the results of testing samples ( crops). Public data sources were used. Also the news archive was beneficial to collect information about illegal and smuggled pesticides collected and by the authority.
– A survey was used to collect information from farmers about using pesticides. Google’s form was used.
– “Google Maps” was used during field visits to the farms to find the Latitude and Longitude of the sites where the samples of crops were collected.
– Map developer was used to measure the boarder distance between Syria and Lebanon (north frontier) this was important because the most suspected site for smuggled pesticides was located on the northern boarders.

Context about the project:

It was a hard mission to collect samples from different farms in the governorates and to find the farms that have the crops included in the data analysis. No public data is available about the agricultural lands in Lebanon, so it was very difficult to find the sites in a way that helps to collect the samples needed.
While working on the investigation, Lebanon suffered a fuel crisis, so moving from one governorate to another was a very difficult task.
Adding to this, the protest and unrest in Lebanon make the situation more complicated to move from one place to another without feeling threatened.
Also, it is important to mention that environmental investigations about agriculture in Lebanon are limited. The lack of data and the need for a huge effort in paying field visits and collecting data, make it discouraging for journalists to go through this. But the journalist find it a critical topic to report about banned pesticides, as food safety is an overlooked topic in media.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

The lack or the absence of data should make the journalist give up, instead he should search more and think in an unusual way. When he reaches a dead end, there are always alternatives.
Data stories are not only about numbers. Storytelling narration is essential to engage the audience, rember the numbers reveal human stories.
Use your hunch as a journalist, after doing a very good research, and do not take the expert’s’ talk for granted, alway check everything.
If you are working in Science related topic, read enough research and try to simplify the facts for the audience, put it simple and accurate.

Project links: