The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL)- a member of the MedWet Scientific and Technical Network- has managed in recent years to revive and apply the concept of Hima, a protected area system that combines the use of cultural heritage for the conservation of the environment, community involvement, and scientific assessment tools.
In the beginning of 2013, SPNL initiated a project for empowering women funded by the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality– “Promoting Hima Women Empowerment for Conservation and Livelihood”. The three year project aims at enhancing the livelihood of rural women through the revival of the Hima approach in the sustainable management of three IBAs of Lebanon: Aanjar, Kfar Zabad, and the Upper Mountains of Akkar- Donnieh.
We took the opportunity to take a short interview from Ms Jamal Hamzeh- project coordinator.
1. Can you please explain very briefly what a Hima area is?
Hima means protected area in Arabic; it is a community based approach used for the conservation of sites, species, habitats, and people in order to achieve the sustainable use of natural resources. It originated more than 1,500 years ago where it was spread along the Arab Peninsula as a “tribal” system of sustainable management of natural resources.
It was applied as a system for organizing, maintaining, regulating, and utilizing natural pasture and rangelands in a way fitting with ecosystems and local practices within harsh environment. It evolved with Islam adding to it values and rules such as equity, benefit to the poor,… Hima management and decisions are made by the local communities themselves.
SPNL is reviving the Hima approach in collaboration with municipalities in order to promote the conservation of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and the sustainable use of natural resources. Accordingly, SPNL announced several Hima types in Lebanon; Hima for sustainable hunting, Hima for sustainable fishing, Hima for sustainable grazing, and Hima for sustainable use of water resources.
2. Why did you select women as the target group for this project?
Women have a basic, influential, and guiding role in the communities and in raising up new generations. Moreover, rural women have differentiated responsibilities for maintaining the household (food, medicine, fire, water,..), where many of these activities are dependent on the environment and the sustainable use of its natural resources. Therefore, the state of the environment has a massive impact on women and their role and responsibilities, and affects their health, their labor, etc.
3. What are the goals of this project?
This project addresses the involvement of women in the sustainable management of natural resources, conservation of globally threatened species at IBAs/Himas, and supports the women in generating income to maintain their livelihoods in close connection with protected sites.
The main goal of the project is to empower women politically and economically, thus enhancing the livelihood of rural women through the revival of the Hima approach in the sustainable management of the IBAs of Lebanon and conservation of globally threatened species.
Three Hima sites are involved in this project, and are located in Aanjar, Kfar Zabad, and Upper Akkar. The communities around these 3 Hima sites are rural and depend mainly on agriculture for their livelihoods, but also possess different characteristics such as diverse religions, sects and alienation to different political parties. This programme targets 90 rural women who are residing around the 3 involved Hima sites (30 women per site).
4. What results do you expect by the end of the three years of the project?
By end of the project:
– Women groups should have increased understanding on Hima approach and proactive action on natural resources sustainable use, through organizing different training workshops on Hima approach, sustainable use of natural resources, conservation of globally threatened species, and site local action plans.
– Women groups should have raised voice in the local committee for the sustainable management of the site, through organizing different capacity building trainings on the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and right-based approach, leadership, decision making, and group work collective skills, in addition to initiating women legal cooperatives within the sites.
– Women groups should benefit from new job opportunities and income generating activities within the sites, through developing ecotourism and marketing plans, organizing training workshops on the skills needed for the identified job opportunities and how to start a small business, manage it, generate income, and manage financials in it. Furthermore, women will be provided with the needed tools and equipment for the identified job opportunities and various marketing approaches will be used to support women such as branding, brochures, linkage with SPNL website, festivals etc.
– Rural women and decision makers should show increased interest to involve women in the protected areas management, through exchanging visits between the Hima sites, developing a guide including the success stories and lessons learned, and using different media tools to disseminate these lessons.