International Day of Biodiversity: HIMA Revival to Stop Nature Bankruptcy and Promote Sustainable Livelihood, Human Wellbeing and Human Rights

Hima, literally meaning “a protected place” in Arabic, is a traditional system of resource tenure that has originated in the Arabian Peninsula 1500 years ago and spread all over the West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region. In response to the harsh environmental conditions and resource scarcity characterizing that region, tribes announced resource-rich areas as Hima, customarily held and managed. In general terms, they have regulated the use of available resources, mostly natural pasture and rangelands, to secure their livelihoods. Remarkably, still standing traditional Hima comprise the best-managed rangelands in the Arabian Peninsula. As such, Hima is believed to be one of the oldest long-standing models of protected areas.
With the emergence of Islam, religious ethics and values reshaped the governance and management structure of the Hima. The system was further enhanced with a social justice dimension, acknowledging that natural resources are common good and shall serve the public welfare, especially the poor and the vulnerable. Further, Hima got anchored as an instrument of conservation, as all Earth creatures are equivalent communities to Humans’ and shall be caused no harm. As such, Hima was governed by multiple principles including i) being established in the “Way of God”, that is for the public welfare; ii) avoiding to cause people undue hardship, depriving them of essential resources to their subsistence; iii) and, realizing greater benefits to society than detriments. Practically, Hima were managed through consensus decision-making, upon which different groups held specific responsibilities. Allocating direct benefits from resource conservation, communities were incentivized to invest in maintaining and protecting natural resources from abuse. Those principles have granted Hima wide social acceptance and economic viability, contributing much to its application across the WANA region and sustainability throughout the past 15 centuries.
The Society for Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) has been working for 40 years to protect the biodiversity of Lebanon, resulting in 15 declared IBAs and KBAs across the Lebanese territory. Since 2004, and upon the discovery of a documented proof of Hima pre-existence in Lebanon, SPNL has evolved its mission to revitalize the Hima approach, through merging the traditional knowledge and practices with modern scientific research. Along with a network of partners and donors, SPNL adopted the Hima Revival approach to promote the conservation of IBAs, through the sustainable use of natural resources, while empowering local and traditional knowledge, culture and heritage. A total of 25 Hima, representing 6% of the Lebanese territory, have been established in collaboration with respective municipalities (Annex I). Those include Hima for sustainable hunting, sustainable fishing, sustainable grazing, and sustainable use of water resources. Throughout 16 years of partnership, empowerment and advocacy, SPNL has trained hundreds of women and youth, guides and guards as well as school children and scouts, and has created hundreds of job opportunities for local communities across the Hima. In parallel to setting successful examples of Hima Revival in Lebanon, SPNL has been promoting the approach across the region and beyond, receiving national and global recognition. Two milestone achievements are the adoption of the Hima internationally as a form of community-based conservation in IUCN Resolution 122 (2012) and nationally as a fourth category to the protected Areas of Lebanon (Law 130/2019).

Here is Hima timeline (2004-2019).

Hima certainly contributes to achieving a more sustainable, equitable and liveable world. It represents a holistic approach which embraces the three pillars of sustainable development, economic viability, environmental protection, and social equity. As such, while conserving and promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial and marine ecosystems, Hima contributes to alleviating poverty from marginalized rural communities, promoting sustainable agriculture, reducing inequalities among targeted groups, empowering women economically and socially, providing job opportunities especially for marginalized groups, ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns across Hima sites and thus allowing communities to become more sustainable and resilient to global changes.
More than ever, people around the world are coming to realize the interconnectedness of human survival, wellbeing, and nature conservation. As a community-based approach to conservation, Hima has long-established this harmony between Man and Nature, which became rooted as a way of life. Within the Hima, communities have embraced the notion of sustainability, long before its acknowledgment, to safeguard their resources and secure their livelihoods, for generations to come, building resilience to harsh climatic conditions. Nowadays, as the WANA region suffers at the front lines of Climate Change, adopting the Hima Revival concept would be one of the effective strategies to cope with and adapt to the actual and expected drastic consequences of a changing climate.
By all means, Hima is founded on the right of local communities to a healthy environment. Success in achieving conservation management objectives has been all the way lined up with respecting and fulfilling people right to life and livelihood. Below are cherished stories from different Hima, reflecting their contribution to nature conservation, cultural preservation, and livelihood development.

Also here are some pictures from the below mentioned Hima.

Hima Fekha (2013) and Women Empowerment

At Hima Fekha, the extension of Ras Baalbeck Important Bird Area (IBA), SPNL and UN Woman Fund for Gender Equality have worked to empower women through the revival of an almost extinct cultural handicraft, carpet weaving. The traditional artisanal skill, which was spread all over the village, in the past century, has rested in the hands of only one woman. Mrs. Nahla Succarieh weaves carpets from natural wool and dyes them with natural colors extracted from plants, trees, leaves, and fruits, such as walnut, onion and pomegranate. With the help of UN Women and SPNL, Mrs. Succarieh has trained many others on the techniques of this cultural handicraft, provided by needed equipment, tools and marketing strategies.

Hima Ras el Metn (2018) and Youth Capacity Building

As part of the protection cooperation between BirdLife partners of Sweden and Lebanon, four Lebanese youth form Homat al Hima of Ras el Metn were selected for a training opportunity in one of Europe’s most famous bird stations, Ottenby and Falsterbo. They have been previously involved in school seminars and field work on migratory bird migration, when Birdlife Sweden visited Ras el Metn Hima. As such, and in partnership with the municipality and a local NGO, two boys and girls, from different socio-economic status, were chosen to go on this two-week trip, summer 2019. They had been successfully trained on how to protect migratory birds and related topics, promoting youth ornithology in the country.

Hima Hammana (2018) and Sustainable Agriculture

Hima Hammana, lying on the bird migration flyway and representing a significant eco-touristic site, is becoming home for a pilot study on Hima Farm. The farm aims at promoting sustainable agricultural practices among small-scale food producers in rural areas, thus helping to maintain ecosystems, improve land and soil quality and build resilience to the global climate and health crisis.

Hima Upper Akkar (2009) and Conflict Resolution

Akkar Hermel region is an area with high biodiversity value, being a bottleneck for soaring birds’ migration with diverse plant life. Having the highest national forest cover, Akkar region ranks among the most deprived areas of Lebanon and has been facing deforestation and land degradation, exacerbated by climate change. The Ministry of Environment, Qobayat municipality and a local NGO, attempted to declare a nature reserve in one of the villages (Karm Chabt) without prior consultations with the local communities, namely Al-Jaafar family/tribe. The latter responded with forest fires, logging of trees, quarrying, intense grazing, and uncontrolled construction. However, SPNL, due to its credibility and recognition, was accepted by conflicting parties to act as a mediator. Successfully, SPNL resolved this deeply rooted conflict, where parties realized the importance of the site and its linkage to their culture, heritage, and livelihood. Accordingly, they agreed to establish Hima in the region where ecotourism and rural development projects were initiated. Indeed, those projects have supported the local communities in the Upper Akkar Region and improved the status of their livelihood, in parallel with conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

Hima Qoleileh-Mansouri (2006-2008) and Livelihood Development

Qoleileh-Mansouri Marine Hima, is a spot for sea birds and globally threatened sea turtles (green and leatherback), and a recreational site in southern Lebanon. Thousands of farmers and fishermen depend on the site’s natural resources to secure their living. SPNL has worked on empowering and supporting the livelihoods of local communities, namely fishermen, women and young scouts, encouraging commitment to biodiversity conservation. Upon declaring the site as Hima, SPNL work contributed massively to stopping illegal fishing methods, and finding solutions through creating jobs in the fishing and eco-tourism sectors, for livelihood development. Community empowerment focused on fishing equipment provision and capacity building. Fishermen were provided training on seabird identification and traditional skin dive fishing. Rural women were also trained on hosting and food-making skills, which provided them with a viable source of income. Initiatives, as such, were identified as key criteria for instigating the local community of Qoleileh village to secure the Hima and promote sustainable practices in favor of nature conservation.

Hima Anjar-KfarZabad (2008-2004) and Social Cohesion

Anjar-Kafarzabad Hima, situated among wetlands, woodlands and agricultural fields, is a declared IBA and habitat for globally endangered species like the Syrian Serin, River Otter and Wild Cat. However, the site was highly subjected to ecosystem degradation and habitat destruction, exacerbated by the social and political disputes between the two adjacent villages, Anjar and KfarZabad. Upon the declaration of the site as a Hima, SPNL initiated work for municipalities and mayors to join efforts and for the two communities to gather through capacity building workshops and events on eco-tourism, agri-tourism, sustainable hunting, and conservation of habitats and species. Maximizing local support and ownership, farmers, hunters, women and youth groups were encouraged to contribute toward minimizing the drastic impacts on the ecosystem.

SPNL, along with partners and donor agencies, was able to bring these communities, struggling with ethnic and cultural differences, to cooperate over managing their natural and cultural heritage. Hima Anjar-KfaZabad has survived through community ownership and collabor ation, without which biodiversity conservation could have not been effective, or even possible.

Finally, below are links for some of the prizes received by SPNL in recognition for its efforts towards Hima Revival nationally and internationally.

The Midori Prize in 2018

The Silver Lebanese Order of Merit Medal by Lebanese president in 2019

Nomination for IUCN conferral of honorary membership at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in January 2021, in Marseille, France.


A Comprehensive Summary on Hima Revival Prepared by SPNL


Annex I. Hima and IBAs distribution on the Lebanese Territory

Check Also

Local Empowerment Hima Community Based Programme

HIMA is a traditional community-based approach to sustainably manage natural resources in a way that …

%d bloggers like this: