ARDAC – Assisting Reforestation and forest Development Activities in partnership with local Communities

Environmental sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Poverty and social exclusion, Employment

The Project “Assisting Reforestation and forest Development Activities in partnership with local Communities” (2014-2018), so-called ARDAC which means “your land” in Arabic, worked at promoting social innovation in the forest sector in Mounjiz which is a marginalized rural area of Lebanon. The overall objective of the Project was to address deforestation and local development through conducting reforestation activities and sustainable forest management activities. The Project was considered beneficial for the well-being and empowerment of the local community.

More specifically, this project comprised designing and implementing a sustainable forest resource management plan in a remote rural area. One of the innovative parts of the Project was putting in place a plan to manage non-wood forest products from the biggest laurel (Laurus nobilis) forest in Lebanon. Accordingly, a forest resource management plan was initially developed to collect laurel leaves (for extraction of essential oil) and berries (for extraction of crude oil) in a sustainable way. Essential oil is used in pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries while crude oil is mostly used in soap production. Feasibility and a business plan for the extraction of laurel essential oil were developed. This was complemented by designing and industrializing specific equipment (i.e., unique distiller) for extraction of essential oil. Equipment for extraction of crude and essential oils were provided to the Municipality of Mounjiz. Locals were trained on how to harvest laurel products and process them for oil extraction.

This initiative perfectly responds to social needs as expressed in the results of a conducted census in the village at the beginning of the Project. The census involved surveying a total of 559 residents (i.e., all residents of Mounjiz above 14 years old) amongst whom were 280 females and 279 males. The census was designed in a way to identify socio-economic and environmental needs of residents. Promoting job opportunities as part of an eco-tourism plan was one of the main identified needs in the village. Accordingly, training workshops were designed and delivered in response to these needs. In this context, a number of inhabitants were trained on processing and marketing laurel products and at the same time being involved in eco-tourism activities. It is believed that implementing a successful eco-tourism plan in Mounjiz is of high potential for success (i.e., availability of natural resources in addition to availability of technical and trained human resources) can play an important role in increasing human well-being in the village

The residents of Mounjiz showed a spirit of cooperation in all of the Project activities. Women and men form the village participated in the different trainings on processing laurel oils. Also, the Municipality of Mounjiz was committed to provide all needed support in the implementation of the Project activities.

Training / Teaching, Production of goods, Assistance & Advice, Social media, Public participation, Support (Technical, legal, etc.), Project management, Marketing & Promotion, Evaluation, Action-research
Municipality of Mounjiz and Mounjiz inhabitants

The impacts on the society can be summarized as follows:
– New job opportunities in the sector of oil production from laurel trees.
– New job opportunities in the rural tourism sector due to increasing number of visitors to the village.
– Women empowerment (women actively participated in the training workshops on oil extraction).
– Empowerment of marginalized communities and improved livelihood.

Addressed societal challenges include the following:
– Sustainable forestry including efficient and sustainable use of natural resources and involvement of youth in sustainable rural activities.
– Secure society including empowerment of vulnerable people like women and job opportunities for poor villagers and jobless residents.

The project was financed by the European Union, managed by the Ministry of Agriculture Lebanon and implemented by the Land and Natural Resources Program, Institute of the Environment, University of Balamand in partnership with the Municipality of Mounjiz.

* Information at the level of NUTS 3 or local regions.