With the generous support of UN Women Fund for Gender Equality (UNW FGE) SPNL launched a special edition of SPNL Magazine celebrating the organization’s 30th anniversary. Founding members Ramzi Kamel Saidi and Assad Adel Serhal wrote an editorial titled ” THREE DECADES FOR NATURE AND PEOPLE”.
In 1983, when the wars in Lebanon were still raging, Ramzi Saidi and Assad Serhal met for the first time. Out of this meeting and others with our founders, was born the idea of creating an environmental NGO to instigate endeavors for protecting, sustaining and, whenever possible, improving the quality of our nature.
Our most engaging concern at the time was to light a glimmer of hope, generate a flame of awareness and action to protect what could be sustained in our environment, even while the devastation of the wars in Lebanon remained unabated. A group of highly motivated and audacious advocates, amongst whom were our founders as well as many others, were brought together to join their arms together and lay the foundations of SPNL. The rest is our history, during which the first group of founders and advocates continued to support SPNL unflinchingly throughout our development.
However, we must say that there was no Ministry of Environment and few, if any, environmental NGOs or fully protected areas in Lebanon in 1983. Our aspiration was to ignite a movement, inspire awareness and create concern amongst people to maintain what remained of our natural resources safe for future generations.
We can proudly say now that we have a highly active Ministry of Environment, scores of different types of protected sites within Lebanon and in the area. Moreover there are scores of local NGOs most of which are tirelessly endeavouring, despite their meager means, to sustain our eco-systems, protect our wildlife, as well as our priceless (inimitable) wealth of bird life!
To be more specific, SPNL has designated 15 Important Bird Areas (IBAs), based on BirdLife criteria which have become globally recognized. SPNL has created 15 Himas on communal lands managed by SPNL and the respective municipalities for the benefit of the environment and people. In addition, there are now 15 nature reserves on government lands, managed under the auspices of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment.
History of SPNL in 30 years
Early Stages 1984 – 1991
In its first few years, SPNL worked on conducting awareness campaigns on the conservation of nature and biodiversity in Lebanon. Along
with the awareness campaigns, SPNL also focused, since its initiation, on the hunting sector in Lebanon that was completely unorganized
amidst the civil war in Lebanon that ended in 1990. Hence, SPNL aimed for developing a plan that would ultimately regulate hunting and
put the random killing of birds under control, especially migratory soaring birds.
During this period of time SPNL achieved the following:
• Helped in initiating the first bird sanctuary in Beirut in 1992, at the campuses of the American University of Beirut (AUB), American
Community School (ACS), and International College (IC).
• Produced TV documentaries on topics such as the Ammiq swamps, islands of Lebanon, and the Lebanese coastline.
A New Era 1992 – 2003
From 1992 onwards SPNL started advocating for the alleviation of the status of the environment in Lebanon and to increase the
government’s attention towards environmental issues after the end of the civil war. SPNL took the lead along with other environmental
NGOs in Lebanon in lobbying for the establishment of the Ministry of Environment, as well as several nature reserves across Lebanon. In
addition, SPNL continued its efforts towards organizing the hunting sector and conserving biodiversity, by introducing the Important Bird
Area (IBA) concept in Lebanon.
• SPNL was a founding member of the Lebanese Environment Forum (LEF) in 1993, an umbrella organization that brings together major environmental NGOs in Lebanon. Its main objective is networking for nature protection, spreading awareness and information, and lobbying for change.
• Lobbying for Ministry of Environment succeeded in 1993.
• SPNL became the 1st National Lebanese Member of the IUCN 1993.
• SPNL, in partnership with the IUCN, campaigned to establish a department for protected areas and wildlife at the Ministry of Environment in 1993.
• SPNL became the national Lebanese partner for BirdLife International in 1994.
• The first four IBAs in Lebanon (Ammiq Wetlands, Al Shouf Cedars, Ehden Forest, and Palm Islands) were declared in 1994.
• SPNL established the Environment Information Center (EIC) in 1996, funded by UNDP-LIFE. The EIC offered environmental education
and awareness, information services, training workshops, and developed educational material.
• SPNL advocated for the establishment of protected areas in Lebanon. Ultimately in 1996, the efforts led to the establishment of three
nature reserves in Lebanon, Al Shouf Cedars, Ehden Forest, and the Palm Islands.
• In partnership with SPNL, Ammiq Wetlands and the coast of Tyre were declared Nature Reserves in 2000.
• SPNL revived the IBA program in partnership with BirdLife International and other local and regional partners, at the Presidential Palace
under the patronage of the First Lady on December, 11, 2002.
A New Vision 2004- Present
In 2004 SPNL embarked on a new journey to promote the conservation of the environment and its natural resources in Lebanon and
beyond. The traditional “Hima” system was adopted and revitalized by SPNL, and merged with modern scientific research to form a
community based conservation approach that is intended for sustainable development by serving humans and nature alike.
Through the Hima approach, SPNL declared several locations across Lebanon as Himas, spread the Hima concept in the region and the
world, and considered the Hima system as the basis of tackling any conservation program that SPNL works on.
• Initiation with the Birdlife International of “Building Capacity for Sustainable Hunting of Migratory Birds in the Mediterranean Third
countries” Project funded by the European Union.
• Declaration of Ebel es Saqi in Southern Lebanon, as the first Hima in Lebanon.
• Declaration of Kfar Zabad wetlands in the Bekaa Valley as a Hima.
• Declaration of the Qolieleh coast as a marine Hima in 2006.
• Building of a green filter bed for the treatment of waste water in the recreational area of Hima Kfar Zabad, through the kind support of
European Nature Heritage Fund (Euronatur) in 2006.
• 1st Regional Hima Revival Workshop at Hima Kfar Zabad in 2007.
• Implemented project “Conservation of the Marine Hima of Qoleileh Village”, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and
Cooperation (SDC) in 2007
• Started SDC-Biodiversity and ecotourism project, Hima Kfar Zabad wetlands rehabilitation plan (2007-2009)
• Declaration of Anjar wetlands in the Bekaa Valley as a Hima.
• Established the Hima Fund, by a one million U.S. Dollars donation by Sheikha Jawaher on May, 13, 2008.
• Completed Lebanon’s IBA inventory, 15 sites were officially approved by BirdLife International.
• Declaration of the Mansouri coast as a marine Hima.
• Implementation of the project (Promoting sustainable agricultural practices in the Hima of Kfarzabad) funded by GIZ in collaboration
with the Lebanon Environmental Fund and CDR.
• As presented by SPNL, the Hima revival concept was adopted by WANA.
• Declaration of the Upper Akkar area as a Hima.
• Started the Fonds Français Pour L’Environement Mondial (FFEM) Hima Kfar Zabad project (2009-2011).
• Initiated educational project “Combating hunting and conserving bird species through public awareness campaign”, funded by the
Royal Embassy of Netherlands.
• Initiated “Mainstreaming Conservation of Migratory Soaring Birds into Key Productive Sectors along the Rift Valley/Red Sea Flyway”
project in partnership with the Ministry of Environment (MoE) and UNDP. The first phase of the project will be completed in December 2014.
• Conducted a regional workshop in Beirut on sustainable hunting in partnership with the United States Forest Services (USFS).
• Conducted a training workshop on Hima revival in Syria, in partnership with the Syrian Society for Conservation of Wildlife (SSCW).
• Initiated with IUCN “Social, Ecological, and Agricultural Resilience in the Face of Climate Change in the Mediterranean Region
(SEARCH)” project funded by the European Union (EU). This regional project was completed in June 2014.
• Revival of the works at Hima Aanjar under the FFEM project.
• Conducted a regional workshop for Hima Policy Brief in Turkey, in collaboration with WANA, UNU and World Justice.
• Collaborated with the Lebanon Reforestation intiative (LRI) to restore Hima Anjar-Kfar Zabad, where 300,000 seedlings were planted.
• Declaration of Andqit-Upper Akkar in Northern Lebanon as a Hima.
• Participated in the Higher Hunting Council for the production of the new hunting application decrees for two terms.
• Under the MSB project, SPNL led the production of the Bird Identification Manual, Soaring Birds Field Guide, Hunter’s Guide, Hunter’s
License Guide, and Soaring Birds Atlas.
• Produced a 5 year action plan for the globally threatened Syrian Serin species in Hima Anjar-Kfar Zabad.
• Produced SPNL new website and utilized social media tools.
• Hima article selected by Birdlife International as one of the twenty stories of achievements for Birdlife 90th anniversary.
• During the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference (COP18) in Doha-Qatar, SPNL took part in the debates relating to Al Hima System.
• Adoption of Motion 122 for promoting and supporting community based resource management and conservation, including Al Hima, by
the IUCN during its 5th World Conservation Congress in Jeju Island, South Korea. The adopted motion was co-presented by SPNL and the
Austrian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water.
• BirdLife International initiated Hima office in Doha-Qatar, managed by SPNL and FEC.
• Initiated the works on identifying and selecting Responsible Hunting Areas (RAHs) in Lebanon, as a continuation for the support of the
implementation of the new hunting law, within the Migratory Soaring Birds project.
• Initiated “Promoting Hima Women Empowerment for Conservation and Livelihood” , a project funded by the UN Women Fund for Gender
Equality that aims at enhancing the livelihood of women using the Hima approach in three IBAs in Lebanon.
• SPNL embarked on several projects to promote sustainable grazing and organize this sector in Lebanon using the Hima approach with
Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).
• SPNL was rewarded “Best Practices” certificate by the UN Habitat as part of improving the livelihood of the locals at Qolieleh Marine Hima.
• SPNL reinitiated issuing a monthly newsletter starting in January 2013.
• Intiated the project «Restoring Hima Ecosystem functions though promoting sustainable community-based water management
systems››, funded by MAVA in Hima Anjar-Kfar Zabad.
• Start of the “Regional Knowledge Network on Systemic Approaches to Water Re-sources Management” regional project led by IUCN
ROWA and funded by European Union.
• Partnership between SPNL and the West Bekaa Country Club for the establishment of the “Middle East Center for Sustainable Hunting”.
• Initiated the project “Safe Guarding Agriculture Based Economy in Anjar” funded by USAID OTI Lebanon
• Finalized the project “Vocational Trainings on Carpet Weaving in Fakiha village & prunning in Aanjar”funded by USAID- OTI Lebanon
• Japanese Embassy supported the project “Water Rehabilitation and Management at Hima Kfar Zabad Wetlands and Springs’’
• Presented “Al-Hima System: a Mean for Women Empowerment” within the UN FGE portfoilio as a modality for south to south cooperation.
• Start of two ENPI EU funded regional projects where SPNL is involved (MEDSCAPE & MEDPHARES).
• Initiated the project “Enhancing livelihoods of Local Lebanese communities in Hima territories; from social, economic and natural perspectives” funded by European Union.
• Declaration of Charbine forest in Hermel as the 15th Hima.
• Identification of 10 RHAs on communal lands.
• Printing of “State of Lebanon’s Birds & IBAs, “MSB Field Guide”, and “Manual for Bird Identification”.
• Start of “Souk Al Hima” initiative for marketing local Hima products.
Visual Concept and Graphic Design | Karim Farah | 3al-khatt.blogspot.com