Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI)
“Grow Forests, Change Lives”
This slogan was used and disseminated by the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI) as their main motto. It summarizes the achievements of 10 years of work in the forestry sector for a group of dedicated young professionals that compose the LRI. In 2010, the US Forest Service launched a USAID-funded project with the name of “Lebanon Reforestation Initiative” with the objective of supporting Lebanon in improving its reforestation efforts, developing native tree seedling production and increasing public awareness on the importance of forests. In 2014, the project team decided to register a local non-governmental organization with the same name, to sustain the activities started on the project and scale -up practices learned and experience acquired.
Today, the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative is the leading NGO in the forestry field in Lebanon. With offices in Jdeideh, Qaraon and Ehmej, the NGO works over the whole Lebanese territory, from far North to far South. Under its landscape restoration program, the NGO works with local communities to expand existing forests on a well-defined forest connectivity corridor through reforestation efforts. Youth, elderly, retired officers, women, scouts, and almost all social groups have been participating in volunteering and paid reforestation work, planting together more than 1.2Million trees in the last 10 years. While driving or hiking through the Lebanese mountains, it isn’t rare to pass by a newly planted forest here or there, with a sign specifying the number of seedlings planted, and always ensuring to mention that they were planted by men and women from the local community. Thousands of families are currently living from their work in forestry with LRI and other NGOs working in the field. With the current economic crisis posing its poll on all of us, this support is helping families put food on their tables while building a culture of respect for the forest and a better understanding of what it means to sustainably manage natural resources.
Aside from normal planting, LRI has worked with 5 communities to restore abandoned quarries. The old sand quarry in Qlaiaa, Nabatiyeh is now a growing pine forest promising to supply the municipality with an additional source of income and provide the community with a safe recreational space for their outdoor activities. In Mdoukha and Ayta el Foukhar, sand quarries are being gradually restored as rangelands and rural tourism spaces. Most importantly, the NGO has shown that the damage caused by quarrying activities can be reverted with good will and well-designed projects.
And because protecting our existing forests is as important, if not more, than planting new ones, LRI has adapted the Firewise ® approach from the National Fire Prevention Association of the United States and implemented it so far in more than 100 towns, mostly in the watersheds of Nahr el Kalb, Zahrani and Qadisha. Under this approach, community leaders come together to define the values at risk and fire risk factors and set together an action plan to prevent fires in their forests. With 2,691ha of forests lost in 2019 and more than 7,000 ha lost in 2020, it is crucial for all Lebanese to be aware of forest fire risk and act early enough to reduce it by cleaning their forest edges, avoiding burning in the high risk days, and reducing human activity in natural dense forests. LRI has been conducting yearly awareness campaigns on fire and reforestation in the summer and November, respectively.
With more than 17 projects ongoing and seven programs, including Landscape restoration, Climate Change adaptation, Environmental Education and Awareness, Advocacy and lobbying, Research and Development, Urban Forest and Rural Tourism, it is hard to summarize everything happening at LRI in one article. However, the NGO team has summarized it in their motto: Grow Forests, Change lives.
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