Philippe Germanos, the irresistible call of the earth

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At the age of thirty, Philippe Germanos abandoned a promising career in the world of computer programming and chose to return to his native Lebanon. According to our correspondent in Beirut, “In the beginning, it was family considerations that dictated my choice to take over the four-generation farm. Then there was this call of the earth, which drew me irresistibly. In his leafy garden bordering a generous river in the hollow of a valley surrounded by rocky peaks, Philippe Germanos exudes a sense of peace, harmony and tranquility. About ten years ago he chose to leave the city to go to the countryside. This bachelor, however, had all the assets to claim a good career in the great capitals of this world, like thousands of other Lebanese. With a degree in Computer Science from the Lebanese American University in Lebanon and another from Insead in Paris, the job market was wide open for him with interesting opportunities in perspective. He also worked for five years at the Lebanese branch of Murex, one of the big three French software companies, as a “farmer, peasant, the noblest profession”. However, his doctor father, a large landowner in the village of Akoura in the high mountains of Jbeil (Byblos) in Mount Lebanon, had never introduced him to agriculture. “In my childhood, Akoura represented for me the summer holidays, the river, the family, the ritual of picking apples in September,” he recalls. When his father died in 2007, he felt compelled to take more interest in the family farm. of apples, cherries and plums, in charge of management to a man from the region. “The ground felt sloppy to me and the performance was pretty mediocre,” he explains. But since someone was taking care of it, it wasn’t an emergency. “Over time, his attachment to agriculture grew. “The land called me, but I wasn’t aware of it yet,” he says. I looked forward to weekends and holidays to get out of the city, go up to Akoura, put on my boots and look at the mountains and orchards. “This life shared between the city and the countryside lasted five years which Philippe Germanos calls “the years of apprehension”. Five years, however, which he took advantage of to obtain a diploma from Insead in Paris. After this time of uncertainty and dilemmas, the young man decided in 2012 and decided to devote himself fully to his new life “The call of the land and the beauty of nature took me away from my computer,” he explains. I realized that the earth wasn’t getting the attention it deserved and that bothered me. »Years of loneliness and uncertainty This change of career at the age of 30 was not the result of a whim or caprice. “I gave myself time for this transition. I had the cleanest water, the purest air and the heavenly landscapes. I realized that I did not want to continue working all my life. “The young man left the hustle and bustle of the city ​​and the race behind a console for connectivity with nature and symbiosis with the land. In 2012, he took direct control of the management of his agricultural heritage. Plant new trees, improve the irrigation system , modernize the production circuit and explore new markets. Despite the encouraging results, Philippe Germanos admits to having gone through difficult times. “It was very difficult for me to go from city life to rural life,” he confides. During the first three years , he suffered from the loneliness and sometimes the misunderstanding he encountered with some of his friends. In 2014, the collapse of the Egyptian market, the main outlet of the Lebanese apple, and the poor production that did not exceed 15% of the volume of previous years constituted a “financial shock” for him: instead of giving up, Philippe Germanos will move forward. “I was not satisfied with the agrochemical monoculture model harmful to nature, I was more in favor of permaculture”, respectful of natural ecosystems and integrating my way of life with the earth. The concept of agrochemical tourism was at this time. that in his mind germinated the idea of ​​an agrotourism project. With the support of his mother Guita, he transforms the ancestral family residence into a guest house. “On a personal level, it allows me to diversify my financial resources. On a professional level, I create a community around the land and educate people to cultivate the fields well and to live in the mountains,” he says. In 2015, Guita Bed&Bloom welcomes its first two customers, an American couple who came from Jordan. to participate in a walk organized by the Lebanon Mountain Track (LMT). Philippe Germanos quickly understood the importance and interest of collaborating with this association that has created mountain hiking circuits that go from the north to the south of Lebanon. Six years later, the guest house is always full. It welcomes Lebanese or diaspora residents, but also foreigners settled in Lebanon or elsewhere. It hosts young people from overseas as part of woofing, socio-agricultural volunteering.Between the guest house and his farm, Philippe Germanos has created a dozen permanent jobs, put Akoura on the national tourist attraction map and has promoted the traditional cuisine of his native region. His next challenge is to share the values ​​he believes in: simplicity, connectivity with nature, promoting agricultural practices that respect the earth through gardening workshops. His greatest achievement, however, was to demonstrate to an entire generation of Lebanese that a return to the land, so long abandoned, is also a way to resist the unprecedented crisis that has brought their country to its knees. a generous nature, we almost forget that Lebanon is suffering.

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