Bridging the disconnection between people and nature: a success story from Lebanon

As 2023 drew to a close, a development cooperation initiative implemented by the European Forest Institute Mediterranean Facility, with the support of the Barcelona Provincial Council, reached it successful conclusion.

Forest in Lebanon.
Through the engagement of local municipalities and communities, this project fostered the passing down of traditional knowledge associated with natural resources to promote Lebanon’s natural and cultural heritage. Photo: Lea Kharrat.

The Mediterranean region holds an immense richness in natural resources and associated traditional cultural practices. However, most people are not aware of the profound ties between traditions and local natural resources. To face this disconnection, the European Forest Institute Mediterranean Facility (EFIMED) joined forces with the Barcelona Provincial Council (DIBA)’s Office for Development Cooperation to implement an international cooperation initiative in Lebanon in 2023.

The project, “Empowering local municipalities and communities to preserve biodiversity and cultural heritage in Mount Lebanon, Lebanon”, aimed to tackle the disconnection between people and nature. Activities supported the transmission of traditional knowledge on local natural resources and cultural heritage through intercultural dialogues, capacity building activities, and workshops. The project took place in the Mont Lebanon area, involving the communities of five municipalities (Al Mrouj, Wata Al Mrouj-Bologna Forest, Al Khenchara-Aljwar, Ain el sendyene- EL chweir, Ain El Sofsaf – Mar Mikhayel Bnabil).

The initiative engaged with communities living in five municipalities in the Mount Lebanon area, depicted in these maps. Image: EFIMED.

Through close collaboration with local municipalities, and intercultural dialogue involving resident communities, experts on the ground gathered and analysed traditional knowledge on the natural and cultural heritage of Mount Lebanon. This precious information was used to prepare a documentary showcasing the connection between the environment, the traditions, and the people in the area, with the valuable knowledge also being shared online, including on the Daskara application and Wikipedia.

A series of capacity building workshops for empowering local communities, organised in collaboration with a local NGO, provided tools to develop concrete know-how on how to manage resources to preserve the local natural and cultural heritage. Representatives of the involved municipalities gathered in a first workshop on the topic of fire prevention and environmental governance, while the economic opportunities offered by forest biomass processing and the advantages of composting systems were explored in a further two events, which were open to the public.

Finally, recognising the vital role of passing down traditional wisdom to younger generations, a hands-on workshop was organised at the College des Saints Coeurs in Chweir. Here, students learned more on the interconnection between cultural and natural resources and the importance of using them in a sustainable way. Participants delved into how pine nuts and pine essential oils are traditionally collected and prepared locally watching videos prepared in the framework of the project and actively working on essential oils themselves.

Find out more about the workshop at the College des Saints Coeurs!

Read how DIBA and EFIMED are working together to develop a new project in Morocco!

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EFIMED is the Mediterranean Facility of the European Forest Institute. Based in Barcelona, Spain, it was launched in 2007.