Using tradition to build sustainable livelihoods in Lebanon

Using tradition to build sustainable livelihoods in Lebanon

Biodiversity hotspot gains protection thanks to community backing for historic 'Hima' land management approach

The shepherds are very proud of their cooperative, which secures their milk production and right to veterinary follow-up with ministry officials. The women are enjoying the revival of their carpet handicraft within a marketing strategy that brings economic benefit to households and preserves ancestral know-how. Above all, the main water sources and streams are today protected by the municipality.

Pascal Abdullah, Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) Project Coordinator


The juniper forests of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains on the Lebanese-Syrian border recharge underground water resources and maintain a habitat that supports livestock grazing as well as rare and unique species of plants and animals, particularly migratory birds. But the watershed has suffered from years of overgrazing, overhunting, logging and forest fires, as well as a climate shift from continental to semi-desert. In response, EU cooperation, through the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, supports a project to revive the traditional practice of Hima, a type of community-based protected area.


  • Project goal: Improve the conservation status of key biodiversity areas in Lebanon.
  • Project Overall Objective: Reduce grazing threat to the Anti-Lebanon Mountain key biodiversity area (KBA) through community-based management. This includes:
  • Adoption by local authorities of community-based Hima approach for sustainable grazing.
  • Development of a zoned plan for sustainable grazing and conservation.
  • Development of a management plan ensuring the protection of threatened species, conservation of natural habitat and sustainable use of resources.
  • Development of shepherd income plan based on traditional practices, and building local capacity on the Hima concept, new employment opportunities, and veterinary services.


  • A municipal decree has established the new Hima Anti-Lebanon key biodiversity area (KBA).
  • A zoned plan for sustainable grazing and the conservation of important plant areas has been developed.
  • A Hima management plan has been developed, including a land use map.
  • An income generation plan has been developed, based on the revival of traditional grazing practices, including capacity-building for women on carpet weaving; for shepherds on herd health management; and for shepherds and young people on local tourist guidance and guest house accommodation services.
  • An ecotourism plan and packages have been developed.


  • 30 women were trained over 30 days in carpet weaving. 30 wooden looms, metal looms, spinning wheels and related equipment, plus 2000 kilos of raw wool were distributed to the 30 beneficiaries.
  • 65 meetings were organised with different groups from the local community - municipal board, mayor, key persons, religious leaders, youth groups, ministry representatives, shepherds, craftsmen.
  • 15 people received a two-day training on tourist guidance. 20 people participated in a two-day training on local guest house reception.
  • 35 women took part in a three-day training on women’s rights.
  • 23 shepherds benefitted from capacity building and vet visits, over six days.
  • The shepherds' cooperative was founded, following 10 capacity-building meetings with the shepherds.
  • Studies were conducted on local flora, fauna, socioeconomic situation, grazing management, ecotourism strategy, management plan, zoning plan, land usage map, trail maps and carpet-marketing.
  • Two community events were organised for sustainable grazing and hunting: hiking with the shepherds in the Anti-Lebanon and a day with hunters on the plain with overnights in the guesthouse and visits to the carpet workshops.
  • A carpet weavers meeting was held with the weavers of Aarsal, with a carpet weaving ceremony and certificate distribution.
  • Publications: 1 brochure (carpets); 1 booklet (Hima el-Fekha); 1 book (Fauna of el-Fekha)


Conservation efforts must support the needs of local communities: Tony Nasr, villager

I live here in Jdeydet el-Fekha and have been active on the municipality board and with international associations such as Caritas Liban, and have seen many other projects in the region. This is the first project that realises tangible results such as support to the craftswomen with the distribution of new equipment and linkage to the real market; and on the other hand the evolution towards solutions to over-grazing problems in coordination with the municipality and the shepherds. This resulted, with the foundation of the cooperative, with a group of shepherds who adopted the grazing management strategy. The coop was officially accepted by the ministry of agriculture and has rented a centre for milk collection and forage storage.

And this is the first time that a project respects the main heritage in our village besides carpet weaving, such as the water sources, the historical canal and the local agricultural features (apricots, anise, grapes, figs and pomegranates) represented in the ecotourism strategy. A guesthouse in our village called Al-Rashid guesthouse used to be the only local attraction, and we believe that in addition to this heritage left by artist Rashid Nasr, the ecotourism packages will add more credibility to our Hima1 project.

We need the project to be sustained because we need to implement the hunting strategy which we believe is a very lucrative long-term activity as long as it is well balanced with the biodiversity conservation and socioeconomic support that the Hima concept is based on.


[1] Hima is a traditional approach for the conservation of natural resources that has been prevalent in the Arabian Peninsula for more than 1,500 years. It started with the tribal system and the need to secure livelihoods in a harsh environment. The Hima approach evolved with Islamic culture, which added to it values such as equity, common good, equal opportunity and shared decisión making.