3 October 2018 was an important day for SPNL welcoming the Union of West Baalback municipalities decree to declare the region of West Baalback as Hima.
Baalback Hermel is classified under the most vulnerable communities in Lebanon1, added to it the Syrian refugee impact on natural resources. Agriculture is the main source of income in the region, which is dependent on water resources.
Baalbeck Hermel region is the only semi-arid region in Lebanon. It is located at the bird migration flyway in spring upwards towards Eurasia. Based on a study done by SPNL, it is characterized by a high number of plant species (around 1650 species), with large endemism. Baalbeck Hermel region is also watershed for Yammouneh Mountain Landscape emanating into natural springs and rivers that serve the surrounding villages.
The whole Baalbeck Hermel was full of cultural practices including sustainable grazing, Hima community-based management of natural resources, sustainable water management, medicinal, edible plants sustainable use and responsible hunting. Further, the region is full of cultural and archeological heritage which lacks support and visibility. Abandonment of these cultural traditional practices and heritage has led to a negative impact on biodiversity and water management.
Municipalities in Baalbeck Hermel are highly interested in reviving the Hima in their villages to protect their natural resources especially water, where some already issued municipal decisions highlighting their municipal lands as Himas for sustainable use of resources.
With the kind support of the Swiss Agency for Development & Cooperation – SDC, SPNL developed several conservation initiatives in collaboration with the Union of West Baalback municipalities. The main achievements were:
Declaration of a regional Hima in the area, aiming to conserve and regulate the sustainable use of the region’s natural resources for the people and with them. As a result of the Regional Hima Decision, a protocol between SPNL and West Baalbeck Union of Municipalities was signed.
A partnership agreement between the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon – SPNL and the Litani River Authority – LRA was established on the 31st of December 2018. This MoU will help in spreading awareness on the importance of water resources and protection from pollution.
Raising the capacity & skills of youth on conservation especially water resources. A curriculum & training material for Homat Al-Hima (HH) has been developed in the context of empowering local communities, especially youth and women on watershed management and water resources protection in Baalbeck Hermel region through the Hima approach. Three days training was offered to 30 youth participants (Homat Al Hima) tackled subjects that would affect the biodiversity such as Game Birds, Sustainable Agriculture, Biodiversity: Value and Conservation, and Water Management. In addition to sessions that tackled the focus of income-generating activities such as Basic Eco-tour Guide, and Basic First Aid & Safety, and sessions on Basic Photography and Basic Communication to enable the local community to monitor all aspects of their natural resources management and reach out to the biggest population. The workshop ended by distributing certificates of participation to the participants as an appreciation to their commitment to the conservation sector.
Linking the villages together through trails (Hima to Hima). A trail connecting the ancient ruins of Qsarnaba and the ancient ruins of Tamnine Al Fawqa was highlighted with the mayors and SPNL team on Google Earth, with the different landmarks. Several trails were established: Easy, Middle, and Sloppy. Every trail was named after a story that the local villagers shared and passed on from generation to generation. The idea was to develop trails that would host all groups: Students, Families, and Professionals. The trails were then supported by informational and directional signs as needed.
These are the first steps for a long partnership in the region, where municipalities & youth are interested in collaboration in order to ensure the conservation of their region natural resources.
1 Government of Lebanon. 2018. Lebanon crisis response plan 2017-2020 (2018 update)