El-Fekha village has witnessed an intense activity related to the Hima protected area and promoting women empowerment for conservation and livelihood.
More than 150 persons including 70 women have participated in the different activities of the Festival and more than 6 Million Lebanese Pounds have been directly injected into the local economy of the village in a period of one weekend.
Even though most of the participating women were of minimal education and no knowledge about protected areas, the festival was very significant and fruitful; by which women were leading on coordination and group management that play a key role in community based Hima approach.
Hima el-Fekha Festival is another successful SPNL intervention, implemented with the continuous support of the EL-Fekha / Jdeydeh municipality and funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in parallel to the United Nations Women Fund for Gender Equality (UNW FGE).
The festival highlighted the significant role that local communities play in the Hima approach with a special focus on sustainable grazing and sustainable hunting in Anti-Lebanon Key Biodiversity Area, and the economic and social empowerment of women.
The UNW FGE programme aims to enhance the livelihood of rural women and empower them socially and economically through the revival of the Hima approach.
On Saturday 16th of November 2013, the festival started with an opening session including speeches from el-Fekha mayor Me. Antoine Khoury.
Mrs. Rana El-Houjeiri, Programme Specialist for Arab States at the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality, complimented SPNL for the programme ran in the last year and for the achievements it reached. Mrs. El-Houjeiri also stressed the important role played by the Fund for Gender Equality in this and in other programmes throughout the world that the FGE is sustaining since its inception in 2009.
The participants visited Nahla Succarieh a local carpet weaver. SPNL seeks to revitalize this ancient art by supporting women to be carpet weavers with training, supervision, equipment, and supplies. The project will train el-Fekha women to weave beautiful carpets, preserving their ancient traditions, and support women in marketing these beautiful handmade products in order to support themselves and their families.
The festive dinner at Al-Rashid Guesthouse was prepared by 12 local women. The food was chosen from the local traditional dishes of the region; among those local
gourmet dishes such as the “Safsouf”, the “Kousa Mqaddad” and the “Kishk Mabsous”. A group of 22 people coming from Beirut have used the accommodation services of Al-Rashid guesthouse in Jdeydeh and two other houses in el-Fekha village.
The local women have as well prepared a variety of delicious manakish baked on Saj, for the two different groups who hiked on Sunday 17th of November 2013 in the Sharqi eastern mountains along with the shepherds, and in the Sahl plain and Nahr area accompanied by responsible hunters; and participated in the coordination of the festival activities.
The municipality of el-Fekha has courageously declared the el-Fekha lands as Hima el-Fekha Protected Area, and is now closely collaborating with SPNL on the zonation plan for sustainable grazing and the sustainable hunting approach. During year 2014, a management plan for the Hima would be developed based on the different studies of the experts in flora, fauna, grazing, ecotourism and socio-economic status.
The festival is a form of the capacity building for the local community in order to adopt the Hima concept and organize community based events. Such a Festival, participates as well in the awareness level raising of the local community towards their natural and cultural resources, and the sustainable ways to use the resources, and to develop ecotourism activities that supports the local economy.
The shepherds who will receive support on the veterinary and grazing management levels have been very keen in showing the visitors during this weekend their life style and they led the hikers along with their sheep and goats to the fragile pastures of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range.
A group of scouts and young people from the village accompanied as well the visitors and have gained valuable information about sustainable hunting and the importance of birds in the balance of the ecosystems.
On the agenda of Hima el-Fekha activities, there will be several upcoming meetings with the local women, shepherds and hunters.
The 16th of December will be a community service day where the local community of el-Fekha and Jdeydeh villages along with members of the municipality, the scouts and SPNL members will clean the historical water canal called el-Qana. This water canal is featuring in the ecotourism strategy as a main tourism experience component.