Creating Centers of Knowledge and Interaction
Three of our Consortium partners considered or undertook the development of Centers of Knowledge and Interaction. The following case studies from SPNL, MedINA and WWF-NA showcase the opportunities and the challenges of such an approach.
The Society for the Protection of Nature Lebanon
One of the key issues identified was the loss of traditional practices and their proper conservation and management of distinctive landscapes due to the lack of interest of new generations and the out-migration of rural areas. This issue was highly reflected in Lebanon and solutions sought in the management of Hima and by the initiation of the Homat Al Hima programme. Today SPNL has seen some major accomplishments as noted in a previous Part of this document.
SPNL is upscaling the programme with the development of the Homat Al Hima International Park. The centre and park will serve as a place for empowering youth, aiming to raise the capacities of the new generation on the general concepts of conservation, biodiversity management and the preservation of landscapes and cultural practices.
Homat Al Hima Interntional Park is a land donated by the West Bekaa Country Club to SPNL (2000 m2). The centre has an indoor auditorium, butterfly garden, conference room, Souk El Hima shop for selling local community products, a place for gadgets and science boards. The surrounding landscape has been designed, to serve as a park for hiking, biking, animal and bird watching, rides in nature, photography of nature, and the appreciation of the beautiful landscapes of the West Bekaa area/ Hima Kherbet Kanafar.
On the national level, the centre will serve SPNL’s different Hima Programmes, namely: Homat Al Hima, Souk Al Hima, Hima School, and Hima to Hima programmes. It will expand Homat Al Hima program to other Hima sites/protected areas and establish a Homat Al Hima’s network to exchange knowledge and skills among them. Furthermore, the centre will support poverty alleviation to local communities by providing jobs in ecotourism and biodiversity management in Hima sites, thus incorporating both young males and females in political, social, and economic life as the core of sustainable development.
On the regional level, the center will also serve youth and women empowerment, aiming to socially and economically upgrade their livelihood and raise their capacities on concepts of conservation, biodiversity management, sustainable development, ecotourism, and the preservation of landscapes and cultural practices, through exchange of knowledge and expertise between youth and the different Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) through different workshops, conferences, trainings, and site visits. And it will work on adapting the experience of Homat Al Hima capacity building programme to other Mediterranean countries through regional training of trainers, providing mentoring support for adaptation, collating lessons learned, and dissemination.
The Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos
Creating a Multi-Functional Fishing Hub in Messolonghi was explored as an activity that could have major benefits for the area and for traditional fishermen. The creation of such a centre of knowledge and interaction would be a product of collaboration by a variety of local agents from businessmen to local authorities to traditional fishermen. The Multi-Functional Fishing Hub in Messolonghi would place the area’s fishing heritage at the heart of the endeavour and would attract visitors through an exhibition, a restaurant and small shop with local products while at the same time support traditional fishermen with facilities and infrastructure. A feasibility study was undertaken to assess the potential of creating and sustaining the centre not least through discussions with potential stakeholders. The results of the first phase of the feasibility study clearly demonstrated that such an endeavour is premature for the area, with bigger problems taking precedence and little interest from key stakeholders. For this reason, keeping traditional fishermen in the epicenter of the project, it was decided to change the scope of the feasibility study to assess the potential of creating a single fishing cooperative for the area’s traditional fishermen. Improving the positioning of the fishermen was deemed to be a necessary first step with more potential for making the practice robust enough to stand its ground in the 21st century.
Feasibility study: Undertaking a feasibility study as a tool for assessing the potential for success of an endeavour is a necessary first step before embarking on an activity that requires heavy infrastructure and wide local collaboration. Thinking in the long term is crucial for creating sustainable centres of knowledge and interaction as well as making sure the area and its stakeholders are interested and able to support it.
The World Wide Fund for Nature, North Africa
The MCNC’s project was an opportunity to have continual presence in Ghar el Melh, which helped WWFNA to not only continue the work of lobbying to open the Wetland Center to the public, but also engage new partnerships to better understand the needs and aspirations of the practitioners and implement wetland city accreditation.
Lobbying for the Opening of the Center
Since 2013 (the center’s official opening date), the center of Ghar el Melh has been closed due to administrative issues. However, thanks to the project allowing WWF to work in Ghar el Melh once more, the national Wetland Center “Dar el Bhira” was able to open its doors to the public at the start of 2017. The Center showcases all the cultural practices of the region to the public and is the only educational center in Ghar el Melh. It received 6000 visitors over the course of the year.
This was achieved by:
- Organising meetings between the Director of the National Institute of Heritage, local authorities and the Directorate of Forests in order to open the center to the public, secure the site, etc.
- Supporting the local authorities in the process of approaching ministries to unblock the situation.
- Providing training to guides of the center through Consortium activities.
Engaging New Partnerships
Engaging key stakeholders to become a force for change for the conservation of cultural practices required numerous meetings with FAO and PNUD, in order to discern the criteria needed for wetland city accreditation, and SIPAM (“Système Ingénieux d’Agriculture Mondiale”) to find synergies between the two types of accreditation.
WWFNA continued to work to better understand the aspirations and needs of the practitioners by establishing a survey for Needs Analysis in collaboration with MedINA and implementing it in Ghar el Melh. 3 university students were hired to complete an internship where they implemented the questionnaire on cultural practices by interviewing 30 fishermen and 10 artisanal farmers.
The project was an efficient way of finalising the process of Wetland City accreditation by linking the accreditation with conserving the human values of the region.