On December 11, 2018, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Forest Service (USFS), celebrated the closing ceremony of their eight-year Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI), a $19.6 million project which promoted a participatory approach to reforestation and forest management. The project reached 68 villages and brought together diverse municipalities, Lebanese civil society organizations, private sector and other environmental actors to preserve and restore Lebanon’s green cover.
The ceremony took place in the presence Mr. Bruce McFarland representing USAID/Lebanon Mission Director Dr. Anne Patterson, USFS Representative Mr. Richard Paton, Lebanon Reforestation Initiative NGO Director Dr. Maya Nehme, along with heads of municipalities and representatives from the Ministries of Agriculture & Environment. Participants also included international donors and agencies, NGO partners, members from the Cooperative of Native Tree Producers of Lebanon, and community members from the Rachaiya, North and Shouf Social and Environmental corridors.
During the ceremony, the achievements of the LRI project were highlighted; from improving seedling production, to preserving national forests and planting more than 800,000 seedlings on more than 1,150 hectares of lands across Lebanon with an average survival rate of 75%. The project interventions succeeded to create more than 1,700 seasonal jobs and improve livelihoods at the local community level. The latest achievements of the project related to climate change adaptation and quarry rehabilitation pilot studies were also shared with the attendees, providing pilot success stories that can be replicated on a larger scale to improve community resilience. Attendees were also inspired by the powerful stories shared by project beneficiaries on how LRI has impacted their lives during the past years. USAID’s support to Lebanon’s forestry sector started in 2008 through a two-year partnership with USFS to promote conservation of forests and biodiversity in Lebanon. USFS implemented many programs focused on wild-fire coordination and response, fire risk mapping, general capacity building, and biodiversity conservation.
Mr. McFarland highlighted the successful implementation of the USAID-funded LRI project that resulted in the establishment of the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative NGO and announced the launching of the new USAID-funded project entitled, “Livelihoods in Forestry” which will be implemented by the NGO over the coming three years. This project is part of the nearly $5 billion dollars in assistance that the US has provided to Lebanon since 2007.
Mr. Paton also affirmed the successful creation of the LRI NGO and the many ways the USFS provided support to transform it into an effective and fruitful Lebanese owned entity. He said, Developing and nurturing strong partnerships has been a key to the success of LRI. The Forest Service appreciates the strong support it receives from the US Embassy and USAID in Lebanon and values the partnerships it has been able to develop with the Government of Lebanon, with municipalities, civil society organizations and other institutions.