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Innovative faith and forest programme starts in Lebanon

February 5 2008:

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that states that: “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago…. The second best time is TODAY”.

ARC’s long-term partner in Lebanon, the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation (AFDC) would therefore like to announce the beginning of an innovative ten-year faith and conservation programme - with the vision of helping the country’s religious leaders improve the environmental management of religious-owned natural resources.

“In the first year we will carry out an inventory of all religiously owned natural resources in Lebanon, and then we will sit down and work out with the religious communities how best to manage and protect a certain percentage of them over the following nine years,” said AFDC’s newly-appointed general director, Sawsan Bou Fakhreddine.

She and her colleagues are also working with the religions to design eco-religious educational activities – a complicated business because they have to be integrated within the widely-varying educational programs of all the religiously owned schools and institutions.

AFDC will also concentrate, early on, on developing two pilot environmental projects - one within the Druze community and the other one with the Maronite Christian Church.

“One area we are potentially looking at is the Jabal El Rihane area in the South of the country, within the villages of Rihane, Jarjouh, Soujoud, and Mlikh.”

AFDC has been working in the Rihane area in cooperation with WWF-Italia and funded by the Italian Cooperation through ROSS program. Through this project AFDC has helped local people, displaced by war and poverty to return to their villages. Their strategy is that restoring the forests is not only important for Lebanon’s environmental future, it is important for the country’s economic and social future as well. Forests are not only critical in the movement to hold back climate change and beautiful in their own right; they can provide livelihoods too.

By 2018 when the programme comes to an end, the AFDC hopes to be able to say, with confidence, that for them the best time to plant a seed was 10 years ago.

The 2008 Reforestation

Meanwhile, every year between December and February when the seedlings are most likely to thrive, AFDC holds a reforestation campaign. Since this innovative NGO was founded in 1994, the extent of the reforestation – the number and spread of the seedlings - has become greater and greater.

This year it is particularly critical, following the broad and devastating forest fires that took place in the country’s forests and on its agricultural land in October 2007 - with thousands of hectares of land burned and millions of trees lost in one day. Link here for a map of the burning.

Anyone who can spare the time is invited to join in AFDC’s “National Forest Restoration and Conservation Campaign” to increase the green cover of Lebanon through reforestation efforts.

This year the team will concentrate on the regions of Akkar in the Norht, Aley, Al shouf and Maten in Mount Lebanon, Hasbaya, Jezzine and Arkoub in the South. Although the majority of the reforestation will be done by technical experts, there will be few days open for public participation such as schools, universities and private sector institutions.

Each reforestation activity will be preceded by an information session for 15 minutes about reforestation techniques. For more information go to the website at www.afdc.org.lb.

Forest Fire Fighting and Prevention:

Parallel to reforestation activities, AFDC is working in close cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and other concerned ministries with forest fires such as the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Interior through an inter-ministerial committee to develop and put into action a plan to increase the preparedness to control forest fires at the national level. In this regard, AFDC will be implementing in 2008 three major projects with the financial support of the Italian Cooperation, the EU and the Lebanon Recovery Fund in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and FAO.



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