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Lebanon: Best fit practices for reforestation to enhance climate resilience in remote hilly areas

CHALLENGE

According to the most recent forest assessment (FAO, 2005), the forest area in Lebanon is estimated at over 139,000 ha (13.3% of the country) with an additional 108,000 ha classified as Other Wooded Land (OWL). The FAO analysis shows that 85 % of the forest area in Lebanon is considered "disturbed", i.e. impacted by human activities, with about 14% of the forest area affected by past forest fires. About 60% of the forest area is privately owned, compared to 27% state owned and 11% owned by municipalities and communities, with only 3% of the area designated as nature reserves.

Forests play two main roles in Lebanon: (i) they serve directly as income sources for rural livelihoods and (ii) they provide environmental services, mainly soil and water conservation, to rural populations particularly in hilly areas. However war, uncontrolled urban expansion, and frequent forest fires have resulted in the total forest area declining from about 20% of the country to only 13% at present.

Lebanon is interested in reversing that trend. It is embarking on a large reforestation initiative with the goal to replant 70,000 ha, an increase of over 50% over the currently forested area. It is also investing in the extension of irrigation to increase income from high value crops, including substantial investments in the construction of hill lakes to harvest rainwater. Without significant upstream reforestation, some of these hill lakes could become vulnerable to excessive silting and to flooding events that are likely to become more intense as a result of climate change. Such events could cause serious infrastructural damage to vulnerable lakes and reduce their storage capacity.

APPROACH

The proposed study aims to provide the Government of Lebanon, as well as local communities and farmers, with decision support tools to choose and adopt best-fit reforestation practices in a geographically and ecologically differentiated manner, in such as way that is likely to support their livelihoods and long-term resilience to the effect of climate change.

RESULTS

The main findings from the various grant-funded activities, including stakeholder consultations, suggest that the lack of local community participation and the use of imported seedlings has contributed to the limited success of past government reforestation activities in Lebanon. The most successful experiences were when forestry NGOs and municipalities collaborated closely in the planning, implementation, and maintenance of planting sites, with the municipalities’ contributions being mostly irrigation water and protection.

Beyond supporting participatory planning and activities with NGOs and local communities, this activity recommends that the Ministry of Agriculture establish a web-based forestry seed registry and tracking system, linked to a reforestation registry. The likelihood of scaling up findings from this activity is high as they can directly feed into the the Ministry of Agriculture’s reforestation initiative.

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Last Updated : 02-24-2017

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