By Assad Serhal – SPNL Director General
Medscapes is a project to demonstrate the importance of landscape and establish a common approach towards its management and conservation in Mediterranean countries. MedScapes Project is funded by the “Mediterranean Sea Basin Programme” which is part of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and its finnancing instrument (European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument – ENPI) for the period 2007-2013. MedScapes links together eight partners from four countries in the Mediterranean Basin for this two-year project: Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and Lebanon. Each country is represented by one non-governmental organization (NGO) and one University, and are led by the Laona Foundation for the Conservation and Regeneration of the Cypriot Countryside1. The project aims to support stronger protection of and reduced risk to the landscape heritage through the introduction of an integrative landscape character assessment (LCA) framework for enhanced and sustainable territorial planning and decision-making.
One of the project tasks, work package 6, promotes the Hima community-based approach for the conservation of distinctive landscapes in collaboration with the local communities. It is led by SPNL-Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon aiming to transfer the experience, where the community and stakeholders play an important role in the conservation,
Management, and decision making on social, political, economic, natural, and cultural Level within a landscape area and to help adapt the Hima approach in the partner countries. This is done through promotion of the Hima participatory framework and its adaptation to the context of the partner countries. As a result of Work Package 6, this text, the Hima Guideline Manual as well as a short documentary are being issued to represent the results and activities in the work package and the case studies of the different Hima sites that were established during the project. This will be useful as a capitalization tool for building on the project and moving from theory to action in the Hima sites in Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, and Lebanon. The manual targets audiences from all fields and sections of landscape activity, including such as environmental, cultural, social, policy-making, planning, law enforcement, and educational sectors.
The Hima Guideline Manual provides information on the Medscapes project, its aim and vision, and highlights briefly the content of the different work packages. The Manual, and as the title inters, focuses on the Hima approach and states the history, functions, and the revival of the concept by SPNL and its adoption by many national and international organizations. The mission and vision of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon is to call for the protection of nature, birds, and biodiversity, the sustainable use of natural resources, and working with communities for achieving the best protection measures. SPNL has been reviving the Hima concept for the past ten years to come up with what is called today the “Hybrid Hima” that meet and adapt to the current environmental, cultural and social situation of a certain site today.
The Manual is the result of the Medscapes Work Package 6. It focuses on the community participative process (based on the traditional Arab Hima concept plus other participatory models and tools) to build on the results of the Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) carried out as the key task of Medscapes. In mapping and assessing the landscape character, there are always distinctive landscape sites of an importance that need specific measures for its protection. The Hima concept has been chosen as the participatory approach of the project as it has proven success over the past years in being able to conserve a site, yet keep the local community involved in the decision making and management of the site. The Hima training framework is composed of a Methodology outlined in Chapter V and its practical application in Chapter IV, as implemented in each project country.
A Hima training workshop was held in February 2015 for the project partners to transfer the knowhow on the implementation of the Hima participatory framework in their countries. The workshop took place in the town of Byblos- Jbeil where the methodology and tools for the implementation of the Hima were introduced. The site was used as a pilot area where all partners worked in groups to establish a Hima in Byblos, studying all aspects of the site. Afterwards the partners started applying the Hima approach in two selected sites per country. The SPNL team visited Jordan, Cyprus, and Greece during November 2015, for mentoring
visits to each of the Hima sites established in the partner countries.
Experience in partner countries has shown that the partners’ protected areas systems, such as SPA, Natura 2000, UNESCO geo-parks, etc, mandates the involvement and participation of the local communities in decision-making. But the current situation is often poorly implemented by informing the local communities only, through open meetings, rather than using an approach that involves the local community in analysing the situation and reaching its own conclusions. Based on the use of the Hima participatory framework during the case studies in the partner countries, the Hima bottom up participatory approaches has proven to be a highly useful methodology to empower the local communities and ensure their engagement in managing their distinctive landscapes. The Hima approach is inclusive, designed to preserve and protect ecosystems for the sustainable use of their resources by the people and for the people, while taking into account the social and cultural particularities of the area.
An account of the lessons learned, challenges faced, as well as recommendations for future implantation, are given in Chapters VII to X.
1 Laona Foundation and the Open University of Cyprus, Med-INA and University of the Aegean in Greece, Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature and the German Jordanian University, and Society for the Protection of Nature of Lebanon and the American University of Beirut.