STONE - Restoration and valorization of traditional agricultural systems for economic development and environmental conservation of the Shouf Biosphere Reserve
The first project undertaken by Oikos in Lebanon aims to enhance the use of traditional agricultural techniques and promote sustainable tourism in order to protect the only green space in the country, the Shouf Biosphere Reserve. This offers a development opportunity for rural populations, whilst also taking care of a key area for biodiversity.
The Shouf Biosphere Reserve in Lebanon has a very significant environmental, economic and cultural value. It covers 5% of the country surface, however, it is the largest protected area not only in Lebanon but in the whole of the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern area. It also constitutes a huge source of wealth for the population of the whole country since it provides water, raw materials, fertile soil and clean air. The region’s economy has mainly always been based on agriculture. The recent phenomenon of abandoning rural areas and the use of unsustainable agricultural practices, however, is seriously damaging soils and consequently the already fragile economy.
Our priority is to reconcile the environmental needs and those of the population living in the Shouf Region by applying the principles of sustainable development in two main sectors: agriculture and tourism. We aim to restore and enhance the terraced areas – a key element of the cultural identity of the entire Mediterranean Sea - through knowledge and experience exchanged with the Cinque Terre Park, in Liguria (Italy). Giving new momentum to this traditional agricultural technique means creating new work opportunities for small farmers, allowing them to strengthen the bond with their own land. It also helps to ensure the conservation of the environment and of local biodiversity: the terraced areas create a fire break space that mitigates fires, and they regulate temperature ensuring the right habitat for many local species such as olive, cedar and fruit trees.
In cooperation with five local co-op farms we will select three local products and promote them in the national and international market.
An additional objective is to boost the tourism sector by identifying two natural and cultural itineraries and training twenty new guides, mainly women and youth.
Inhabitants of the Shouf Reserve play a vital role in this process of rediscovery: the project awareness campaign aims to truly change perspectives, encouraging awareness of the environmental, cultural and economic value of the land on which depends the survival of 116,000 people, 32 species of mammals, 275 species of birds and more than 1,000 species of plants, among which are found the most ancient cedar trees in the whole Lebanon.
This project is funded by