Revival of Hima Creates A Homeland 

Editorial | SPNL ANNUAL REPORT 2022

By | Assad Serhal |SPNL Director General, Birdlife International Global Councillor

Four years ago, the Lebanese parliament adopted a new law related to natural reserves in Lebanon. This long-awaited legislation is one additional step in the 1000-mile journey for protecting biodiversity in Lebanon and proper land use to preserve nature and biodiversity sources, considered the vital capital of Lebanon that is diminishing slowly day by day. Lebanon has an impressive track record of land protection 1992, but economic development still poses several challenges. Protected lands play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance. The help to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. And they are home to a diverse range of plant and animal species.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement concerned with the conservation of nature and sets guidelines for countries to protect biodiversity. During 2022 the Conference of the Parties on Biological Diversity (COP15) was the fifteenth meeting of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity since its launch at the Earth Summit in 1992. Under this agreement, each country agrees to achieve more than 20 environmental goals by the end of the decade, the main condi- tion being the so-called 30 x 30 plan to protect at least 30 percent of land, inland waters and coastal areas by 2030, and that forms the basis for the agreement, which is similar to the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Since more than 30 years, SPNL decided to revive the Hima approach. That decision was a historic step in promoting the conservation of biodiversity and the preservation of nature and its resources through a traditional approach that was adopted by Arab peoples and practiced by Lebanese villages and towns as an inherited tradi- tion of land use, ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources, i.e. the rational exploitation of resources and the preservation of nature’s capa- bility to replenish its resources. This is known the “Hima approach”, based on the traditional classification of land according to its usages.

Today, there are 28 natural Hima sites in various Lebanese regions.

These did not need a law to be issued by the Lebanese Parliament, in spite of its importance, especially a law that considers the Hima as one of the 4 categories of protected areas. But this needed perseverance and a strong and determined will, long-term dialogue and partnership with municipal councils, which are considered the strongest and most sustain- able link in the protection of nature if their deci- sion-making lies in the hands of a homogeneous group convinced of the importance of adopting and developing the Hima approach.

From Ebeles-Saqi through Kfar Zabad, Anjar, Qoleileh, Mansouri, Andeket, Menjez, Maabour Alabiad, El-Fakiha, Kherbet Kanafar to Anfeh, Aakoura, Tarshish, Jbeil, Aitnit, Kafermata, Chemalan and Keifoun, the Hima sites are spread in different areas of Lebanon. Their uses range from grazing, sustainable hunting, water manage- ment, organic and responsible agriculture and protection of biodiversity and forests. It worthy to note that the Hima approach is supported by Birdlife International, which has adopted the Hima approach in its strategy by linking it to the world’s most important areas of birds. International recognition of the Hima approach is enshrined in a resolution adopted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as one of the historic achievements in the protection of nature, i.e. the rational exploitation of natural resources and the pres- ervation of nature’s capability to replenish its resources. The resolution includes different names for society’s contribution to the conser- vation of natural resources such as: Hima, Al Mahjar, Akdal, Koruk, Adat and other similar systems run by local communities in West Asia and North Africa. All of these are considered a comprehensive approach that strengthens local knowledge, culture and heritage and also includes preserving natural resources and enhancing the livelihoods of local communities.

Why can the Hima approach contribute to creating the homeland we all dream of and aspire to?

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon decided to answer this question by involving young people in the Hima approach through “Homat AL Hima” initiative. Dozens of young people from different villages and towns volun- teer to participate in the conservation system and to attend training sessions on the rational and balanced management of the Hima. They receive training as well as scientific and other material necessary to develop their capacities in order to become truly the protectors of nature and the source of its sustainability for future generations.

This option promotes a strategic partnership with the private sector, allowing the exchange of experiences, promotion of innovation and opening of sustainability prospects, especially that international assistant for environmental projects, in general, and for conservation projects, in particular, is dwindling. This part- nership has been expressed in more than one promising project, mainly the Homat Al Hima Center in Kherbet Kanafar in West Bekaa and Mount Lebanon Hima Center in Kaifoun, which connect the various Hima sites on the Lebanese territories through a network that will allow the promotion and sustainability of this concept. The “Revival of Hima creates a Homeland” is not an empty slogan, but rather a group of projects implemented on the ground and progress steadily towards achieving the long-awaited development and change process.