2.SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY
3.CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES
4.RUMINANT LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS
6.OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE RESOURCES
Country Location and Background
Land Area and Land Uses
The inner Bekaa and Hermel valleys and Anti-Lebanon Range suffered the largest deforestation rate between 1963 and 1998 (58%), followed by the Northern coastal region (10%) and the Southern coastal region (4%). On the other hand, forest cover increased in the Mount Lebanon region for the last decades (25%) as forests naturally expanded due to the abandonment of agricultural land, rural land-use practices (including grazing), war or displacement of people The effects of overgrazing in the Hermel and the Anti-Lebanon Chain are shown in Figures 2 & 3.
According to data from the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA), 2010 [FAO-MOA, 2010], forests [i.e. land with tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10% and area of more than 0.5 ha; the trees should be able to reach a minimum height of 5 m at maturity in situ] cover 13.2% of the total land area of Lebanon (136,900 ha). An additional 10.2% of land classified as “other wooded land” (OWL) [ i.e. land either with a tree crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of 5-10% of trees able to reach a height of 5 m at maturity in situ; or a crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10% of trees not able to reach a height of 5 m at maturity in situ (e.g. dwarf or stunted trees) and shrub or bush cover] makes a total of 242 900 ha (23.4% of the Lebanese land area) of forests, woodlands and scrub (see Table 1 and Figure 4, below). This makes Lebanon to be one of the most forested countries by total percentage in the Middle East.
The land use class called “other lands with trees” covers the following land uses:
Although Lebanon is the most forested country in the region, several increasing impacts - mainly forest fires and urbanization, persistent maladaptive management practices (overgrazing and under-grazing, and irrational wood collection), and lack of sustainable forest and range management plans, suggest that Lebanese natural vegetation is nowadays being degraded, fragmented and is less resilient to global changes or combined environmental and human-induced disturbances. This is mainly reflected by the quality and quantity of products and services (including grazing) provided by the different ecosystems.
Woodland ownership in Lebanon is almost equally distributed between the private sector, the public sector and the religious communities, under several tenure systems. However, cadastre is not always updated and surface areas and boundaries are not always clearly set. The different land tenure systems are the following:
The users of forest areas may not be the owners. Rentals, usufructs, customs and agreements are used to regulate this system. Forest workers, private rural companies or shepherds may be allowed to use the space under these usage systems.
The distribution of land ownership among different groups (see Table 3), according to FAO-MOA (2005) is as follows (the lands owned by the religious communities are included in the private group):
The natural advantages of the country in terms of water resources, number of sunny days, geomorphology and climate diversity would allow the development of the agricultural sector, if other socio-economic and geo-political constraints are overcome. Value chains are not properly managed, production is inferior to consumption, and imports mainly from neighbouring countries are significant. Different agricultural censuses undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and FAO have shown the importance of multi-activity (see Figure 5) in rural areas (with the exception of the Bekaa Valley and the Akkar Plains). At the household level, agriculture is mainly a part time activity, complementing other production, or service activities. Commercial agriculture is not very frequent, and when it occurs it must be complemented by other economical inputs.
The average size of holdings is small (see Figure 6), reflecting the structure of this activity and the dispersal of the farms. Fragmentation and small sizes of holdings are characteristic of the mountains and the South. The sizes are a little larger in the Bekaa and the coastal plains. Only 5% of holdings are larger than 4 ha, with 49% of the total Utilized Agricultural Area (UAA), while 30% of the UAA are larger than 10 ha and concentrated in the Bekaa. The legal status and land tenures of the holdings are distributed as follows:
Some farmers still process the milk into cheese and labneh and keep them to strain and mature in the animal skin (Ambriss and Dharfyieh Cheese) following a traditional ancestral technique. The end product, with a very pungent yet highly appreciated goaty taste, is sometimes conserved in olive oil for a longer shelf-life. These products are only sold at the farms and are produced in relatively small quantities. The traditional goat cheese, also called “green cheese” (Jebneh Khadra) or “Baladi Cheese”, is processed with raw milk. Although the end product is exquisite, it is very risky because of all the diseases linked to raw milk and the artisanal use of rennin. Keshek is a powder made from yogurt and burghul (crushed wheat) which requires a long and laborious preparation. It requires days and days of rubbing and sun drying until the dough is transformed into an off-white powder. It is used in several culinary preparations, in soups, stews, pies… the best Keshek was made with goat milk and the local wheat variety, Salamouneh. Goat Keshek is now very rare to find as it is usually mixed with ewe or cow milk that give it a milder and less pungent taste than the goat yogurt alone. It is even harder to find Keshek made with Salamouneh wheat, as this variety is almost no longer planted because of its low productivity, and despite its resistance to drought and diseases.
Sheep and goat meat are consumed raw in many dishes of the Lebanese cuisine, to the extent that it is almost impossible to imagine a Lebanese Mezze without the raw Kebbeh (ground meat with burghul), and the raw liver.
2.SOILS AND TOPOGRAPHY
The figure below (Figure 12) is a cross-section of Lebanon showing the Mount-Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountain chains, separated by the Bekaa plain; it also shows the different geological features and major faults.
On less steep areas, Xeralfs (Luvisols) are the classical mature red Mediterranean soils formed on limestone or other basic rocks. They occupy about 52% of zones with xeric soil moisture regimes. They are in general decarbonated, rich in iron oxides (Haematite, Goetite), with neutral to slightly acid pH, and high clay (from 30 to 50 %) content. These soils have a strong surface structure, with a medium gravel content, compacted subsoil, thus with a moderate infiltration rate (2.0-6.0 cm.h-1).
On level lands (plains, valley floors, foot-slopes) Fluvisols and Vertisols develop from quaternary alluvial and colluvial sediments. The soils are slightly calcareous and non calcareous, with neutral pH, have strong structure and very fine texture with high clay and organic matter content. They have no salinity hazards and possess a high CEC value. Vertic soil types are prone to swelling and shrinking upon drying-wetting which can cause problems to plant root systems due to soil physical properties. Thus, when cultivated they must have special attention to irrigation schedules (Darwish & Zurayk, 1997).
3. CLIMATE AND AGRO-ECOLOGICAL ZONES
The Mediterranean Mountains in their seaward aspects can be differentiated by their altitude into the Thermo-Mediterranean, Eu-Mediterranean, Supra-Mediterranean, Mountainous Mediterranean and Oro-Mediterranean zones. A belt of evergreen maquis and garrigue characterizes the former, while the later are respectively covered by summer-green forests and dwarf thorny vegetation characterizing the alpine and sub-alpine zones. The Thermo-Mediterranean zone, between 0 - 500 m altitude, comprises, at sea level, a coastal strip which once had two plant communities currently severely degraded. Plant community degradation is also shown in the upper vegetation characterized by an evergreen garrigue. In this zone Ceratonia siliqua, Pistacia lentiscus and Pistacia palaestina trees grow along with their accompanying flora. At altitudes ranging from 500 to 1 000 m, lies the Eu-Mediterranean zone, mainly covered by maquis dominated by Quercus calliprinos and Pistacia palaestina. Additionally, Pine forests (Pinus pinea and Pinus brutia) are found in these areas together with associated species to the oak maquis like Cercis siliquastrum, and Styrax officinalis. The Supra-Mediterranean zone (1 000 -1 500 m) situated above the evergreen vegetation is characterized by a deciduous forest. In this zone, the vegetation cover is denser as the population density is lower and major human settlements are more recent. At present, this zone is occupied by Quercus calliprinos and Q.infectoria, Pinus brutia and P.pinea. A higher zone of coniferous forest, ranging from 1 500 - 2 000 m altitude, usually replaces the zone of the summer-green forest. This mountainous Mediterranean zone harbours relic formations of Cedrus libani, Abies cilicica and Juniperus excelsa. Plant communities encountered comprise Quercus cedrorum, Q. calliprinnos, Ostrya carpinifolia, Sorbus flabellifolia, Malus trilobata, Prunus ursina and Pyrus syriaca.
In the high summits dominating the Mount Lebanon chain, lie the Oro-Mediterranean zones where the leading plant community is xerophytic vegetation comprising a formation of cushion-like dwarf thorn shrubs and Juniperus excelsa, the only tree present at this altitude. In these alpine uplands, a high endemism level is marked as the result of the isolation effect.
The Eastern Mount Lebanon foothills are steppic and desiccated. They are either covered by a heavily degraded garrigue or barren, and the sub-desertic soils support a poor, overgrazed rangeland. The pre-steppic vegetation zone between 1 000 and 1 500 m is mainly composed of heavily grazed forestlands of Q. calliprinos. In the Supra-Mediterranean zone, Q. calliprinos and Q. infectoria are found. Then follows sparse Juniperus excelsa stands, which extend to higher altitude and figures as sporadic trees mixed with dwarf thorny shrubs. However, the dominant formation on these slopes is a degraded garrigue used for grazing. On the Western slopes of the Anti-Lebanon chain, the pre-steppe vegetation is similar to the one present on the eastern slopes of the Mount Lebanon chain.
Farming Systems in the Natural Regions
Irrigation is very unequally distributed over the country, with 41.9% of the UAA as an average. The central and northern Bekaa (in the region of the Orontes River), the coastal plains of the North and the South and the fruit orchard zones rich in springs in the mountains are different from the other agricultural zones which are characterized by rainfed agriculture. The irrigation networks were severely affected during the different war episodes and not fully rehabilitated. Irrigation networks from the Litani River, planned for the South were stopped after further troubles in 2006.
The regional agricultural specialties shown below (Figures 14-17) underline the territorial specificities and the broad range of potential products and crops. The agriculture along the coastal zone is mainly intensive with citrus orchards, tropical fruits and horticultural crops. Greenhouse production is intensive around and within the cities, waiting to be converted into towers and urban centres (Verdeil et al., 2007).
The Bekaa plain offers large areas of arable lands planted mainly with cereals and sugar beet. Grape growing is very important in the central Bekaa, thanks to the contribution of large investments and the application of modern production, transformation and marketing techniques allowing the development of an important wine industry. Olive production is very important in Koura, in South Lebanon and in Hasbaya. While apricots are one of the main specialties of northern Bekaa; fruit trees (apples, cherries, peaches) are concentrated on the western slopes of the Mount-Lebanon chain.
Animal production is mainly concerned with ovines and caprines. Sheep production is mainly concentrated in the Bekaa, historical birth place of the local “Awassi” breed. Goats are found almost everywhere, feeding in the woodlands and high altitude formations. Ovine production is not well developed, although some investors are trying to put a milk value-chain into operation.
The preliminary data of the Core Module of the Agricultural Census 2010 (FAO, 2010) provided by the “Lebanese Observatory for Agricultural Development Project”, based on the assessment undertaken during 2010 and on the land-use land cover map of 2005, have shown the following figures (and see Figures 18 and 19):
Areas of various crops are shown in Table 4 and production in Table 5.
According to the preliminary data of the Agricultural Census 2010 (FAO, 2010) based on the assessment undertaken during 2010 and on the land-use land cover map of 2005, the main species raised for livestock production are goats, sheep and cattle (both for milk and meat), distributed as follows:
It should be noted that the production of ruminants is secondary in Lebanese agriculture, with less than one agricultural holding in 8 being involved in animal husbandry. Cattle are mainly raised for milk production with the majority of the stock in large farms of the Holstein breed. The rest consists of smallholders with a few (4-5) head of local (Baladi) breeds, Baladi Friesian crossbreds, or even Holstein. However, it seems that the Baladi breed is gradually being replaced by exotic and more productive breeds. Sheep and goats have always been an integral part of the rural mosaic in Lebanon. Sheep are mainly of the regional Awassi breed with local characteristics, and goats are mainly of the local Baladi breed, and the Damascus or Shami breed. Both sheep and goats are managed under nomadic and semi-nomadic systems, feeding on native pastures, woodland species and crop residues. They are distributed all over Lebanon (Figure 24) with a high concentration in the Bekaa Valley. The economic and heritage importance of these breeds, both at the community and national levels contribute to their conservation, and reduce the risk of losing them through breeding or replacement programs. The wild goat that used to roam in the Lebanese mountains has disappeared and is thought to be extinct.
Changes in land use practices, the shifting from rural to urban livelihoods and the severe fragmentation that the woodlands, rangelands and pasture lands are witnessing because of the urban sprawl, has seen herds (goats and sheep) decrease in number and pastoralism is no longer an important part of the rural mosaic. In some parts of the country, mismanagement practices and overgrazing have lead to the deterioration of the pastures and woodlands. In other parts, mainly in Mount-Lebanon, the severe reduction in the size of the herds and the abandonment of pastoralism have led to a closing of the landscape, an increase in the biomass and consequently an increase in the intensity and frequency of forest fires.
General Situation of the Livestock Production System and Value Chains
Although the production of milk and meat is relatively low, the demand on such products and their by-products remains very high. In 2001-2003, this demand was mainly met by the import of:
The local production of sheep and goat meat suits the requirements of the traditional Lebanese diet. However, despite the important contribution to the Lebanese diet and cuisine, the demand on sheep and goat meat has been decreasing during the past few decades, mainly because of the development of malls and supermarkets and the availability of cheaper imported meat. The demand has witnessed a slight increase again (particularly for goat meat) after the global crisis related to the mad cow disease and the new trends in food habits favouring local and organic products.
Some large investments have been put into the dairy products value chain level. Some are private, with several new dairy plants delivering fresh and UHT milk to the Lebanese market. Other investments are public, mainly through the IFAD project (now phased out) on the rehabilitation of the small livestock producers in the Bekaa. After the troubles in 2006, the dairy sector has suffered important losses, but the private sector has managed to recover and rehabilitate the affected plants; FAO is bringing substantive support to the livestock production sector through assistance projects. In addition to the integrated circuits, milk is commercialized through three main channels: independent milk-men (the hallabas), milk-men appointed by the dairy plants and collection centres, both public, currently facing financial and technical problems while private plants are functioning well.
The dairy sector is composed of many semi-artisanal plants which do not have good control over milk quality and have a low innovation capacity in terms of cheese and dairy products. In order to access the large distribution centres, plants should be able to provide a standard quality over the year, with a standard taste and bacteriological qualities. This requires large investments that small producers cannot afford, and leads to a limited distribution of the traditional “terroir” products or regional specialties.
Cattle meat production remains very limited, with livestock imported from different countries (mainly EU) and slaughtered in Lebanon. Such production provided around 60% of the bovine meat in 2002. High quality meat is mainly imported chilled or frozen. Some low quality meat is also imported and sold at very low prices. It seems that the production of meat and milk from small ruminants is decreasing in parallel with the decrease of the size of herds:
The production of sheep meat and milk suffers from competition from imported meat from Australia, Turkey and Syria. The artisanal production of sheep milk not being constant over the year, the dairy and cheese factories have to depend on other sources to maintain their output. Goat production seems to be suffering as well, although the demand for goat meat and milk products remains large and some 10,000 families have this production as their major source of income. This is mainly due to the following:
Although some NGOs have implemented development projects for the support of goat production, most herders still suffer from the lack of access to services, markets and credits.
The control of zoonotic diseases and hygiene of meat and milk products are not well mastered. Brucellosis is quite frequent with some 13% of the livestock affected in 2002, and a high level of infection of humans. Other sanitary problems are also present and have a serious impact on the livestock population. The “FAO/UNDP Project “Recovery and Rehabilitation of Dairy Sector in Bekaa Valley and Hermel-Akkar Uplands (LRF-OSRO /LEB/901/UNJ)” is a grant from Lebanon Recovery Fund, following hostilities in Lebanon (12th July-14th August 2006). The project started in July 2009 for 24 months, to bring urgent assistance to the dairy sub-sector with emphasis on increasing milk production and hygiene, income generation from dairy farms and improving livelihood standards, especially for the poor small dairy farmers. Although the project was initially formulated to provide assistance to farmers in the Bekaa, Hermel and Akkar, its range was later extended to cover all needy farmers in the Bekaa and the North. In its current setting (see progress report for the period 1 June 2010 to 27 February 2011 <mdtf.undp.org/document/download/5814>), the project focuses primarily on supporting small scale dairy producers and primary milk collection and milk hygiene at farm and village levels, with a particular attention on practical training programs and capacity building of farmers, through the following activities:
The project conducted extensive field surveys through individual visits to 2 131 farmers distributed in 257 villages from the Southern mountainous zones of Western Bekaa and Rashaya to the Northern Akkar along the Syrian borders, and representing almost 2/3 of the total surface of Lebanon. The objective of the surveys was to gather an accurate and realistic database of producers and their livelihood conditions in order to design appropriate activities according to their needs and priorities. As this survey was very comprehensive and has covered a representative portion of the livestock holdings in the country, it is used in this study to provide the characteristics of the different production systems (cows, sheep and goat), the strength and weaknesses, the needs and the priority interventions to put in place:
Social Status of the Farmers
All the sheep and/or goat farmers in the regions surveyed are transhumant, sharing their time between high mountain zones in spring and summer (from April-May till October-November) looking for good quality pastures. The nomadic system allows the children to join schools during winter, when the families move the herds to lower altitudes. During the spring and summer, at the end of the school years, sons and daughters help their parents in the different tasks related to their herds and small farms. Even teenagers and young adults stay with their families and frequently inherit the job from their parents. The nomadic way of living and the freedom of the wilderness run in the blood and cannot be easily changed into a sedentary way of living. The provision of the bare necessities and a slight improvement in the quality of livelihoods would certainly preserve this family structure and this traditional system.
Sources of Income and Living Standards
Milk Production, Marketing and Prices
Milk is usually marketed as follows: 60% of farmers sell their milk to village dealers or “Hallabas”; 3% sell directly to processing plants; 27% retail raw and home processed milk (laban and labneh), in villages and urban centres, using rudimentary utensils with poor hygiene; the remaining 10% is for home consumption and retail. Home processing and retail are being increasingly practiced in many regions, either because of the lack of milk collection facilities or because of the better prices obtained. In December 2009, farm gate milk prices ranged between 600 and 800 LL/kg (LL = Lebanese Lira; 1US$ = 1,500 LL). There are no officially defined standards and quality indicators, however the few farmers who have cooling facilities are able to ask for an extra 50 LL/kg. There are seasonal and spatial variations in prices. Prices are generally higher in summer time and lower in off-season. Spatial price difference is mainly a function of the high demand during summer time (tourist season and home and industrial processing of Keshek).
Milk production varies very much with the seasons. Total milk production in the surveyed areas may reach 4 000 kg /day in May and 6 000 kg/day during the high season (June-July). Milk productivity is very low; the quantity of marketable milk over the lactation period is estimated to be around 60 kg/sheep and 100 kg/goat. At the end of the season (September-October) milk production is very low and almost entirely used for domestic consumption or sold as a processed product (labneh, ghee, cheese). Most shepherds (70%) sell their raw milk to milk collectors “hallabas” at an average price of 600 LL/kg; the price is a little higher (800 or even 1 000 LL/kg) in the Bekaa because of easier access to roads, cooling tanks and other facilities.
Milk handling and hygiene
Artificial insemination services
Fertility efficiency is a major hurdle to all farmers and might be considered as the main cause of low profit in dairying along with the high cow culling rate. Generally speaking, the artificial insemination service is very poor, as only 12% of the farmers are using AI on a regular basis, while 28% use both artificial and natural inseminations, and 60% depend only on the utilization of bulls for the reproduction of their cows (Figure 27). Modern dairy farms depend mainly on AI and have access to good reproductive material and bulls. Artificial insemination is not undertaken for sheep and goats, with the exception of experimental trials in research institutes.
Feeds and feeding systems
The feeding of goats and sheep is mainly based on grazing in natural woodlands, pastures and rangelands (in the mountains) and to a lesser extent on grazing crop residues and purchased barley and other forage crops (see Figures 28, 29 & 30).
Most of the nomadic shepherds do not own the lands. They pay a rent for their grazing rights which are usually calculated on the basis of head per season ranging between 5 000–10 000 LL per head/season. Several communities rent their “Macha’a” lands to shepherds at an average rate of 1 300 USD/Km2.
A summary of the major constraints, their causes and the proposed solutions (from the survey carried out by the project) are listed below; these include the promotion of fodder crops, improved farm management and better feeding systems. Some of these are being directly addressed by the project, in the regions where it is being implemented:
5. THE PASTURE RESOURCE
Among the herbaceous wild plants found in the different ecosystems are the following (Table 7):
While small ruminants are usually raised and fed in the wild (woodlands, rangelands and on agricultural residues) with a minimal supplement of feed, cattle are usually raised in farms and are fed with different feed, most of which is imported as the local production does not meet the demand yet. Some fodder crops are planted (Figure 32) mainly in the Bekaa Valley and the Akkar Plains, as per the table below:
There has been a steady increase in the total area planted from 2000 to 2009, although this is mostly explained by the rise in the area of barley planted.
Small ruminants graze in the different ecosystems of the country (Figures 33 and 34), depending on season, availability of plant material and the availability of land. Several studies have shown the importance of the woody species for the diet of small ruminants, mainly goats (Hajj et al., 2007; Kharrat et al., 2008 and Kharrat, 2004).
Table 9 describes the different ecosystems where small ruminants are raised and allowed to graze:
The different vegetation zones provide different kinds of feed, from trees to bushes to grasses and legumes. Local breeds of small ruminants are well adapted to this kind of feed, even if some concentrates may be provided in winter or when feed is scarce. Table 10 shows the different vegetation levels with the main species that should be found. Unfortunately, degradation, land fragmentation, successive forest fires, unsustainable land-management practices have resulted in the loss or the reduction in the number of some of these species (Figure 35).
6. OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT OF PASTURE RESOURCES
Dairy production: problems and proposed solutions
Pasture and Fodder Crop Research
Trials to improve open pastures, rangelands and degraded lands through seeding of high quality legumes and cereals and the addition of fertilizers were also undertaken in different stations and research institutes (see Table 11). Such marginal lands are used for grazing but provide a minor quality of feed, because of the presence of unpalatable species, forbs and xerophytes. The seeding of legumes (Medicago and Trifolium sp.) as well as selected grasses from wild origins and the addition of phosphates has led to pasture improvement and the provision of a better feed quality in the experimental plots. Such experiments could be replicated in the degraded and desertified lands in some parts of the country, where goats and sheep herds spend part of the year (Haddad, G., Nassar, A. and Kahwaji, J. 2010).
Such studies were undertaken at the School of Agriculture of the Saint-Joseph University (Ecole Supérieure des Ingénieurs Agronomes de la Méditerranée – ESIAM), at the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) and at the American University of Beirut (AUB).
The experiments undertaken by LARI (the Department of Rangelands and Development of Forage Crops) between 1998 and 2001 on the improvement of the rangelands through seeding and fertilizing were interrupted in 2001 and unfortunately never continued. The experiments were supported by several partners who provided different kinds of inputs, such as:
The Ministry of Agriculture has recently established a “Seed Committee” which aims to increase the area of irrigated and rainfed fodder crops such as alfalfa, corn, vetch and barley mixtures. The Ministry is planning to provide seeds and different kinds of inputs to farmers in order to encourage the planting of such crops and to improve the efficiency of livestock production in Lebanon. Some researchers in LARI are currently trying to develop a research line on the improvement of the pastures and on fodder crops.
In addition to the experiments described above, some initiatives were implemented in different parts of the country on the sustainable grazing management of woodlands and rangelands.
Table 11. Summary of activities undertaken between 1998 and 2001 by the Department of Rangelands and Forage Development in the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) in the framework of the project “Smallholder Livestock Rehabilitation Project, Lebanon” (Dr. Georges HADDAD, Ing. Joseph KAHWAJI, Adnan EL-RAMI, Hassan MOUNZER and Houssein EL-BOURJI)
Rangelands, Woodlands and Pastures
Agriculture was born in the Oriental part of the Mediterranean and since man became a grower and a shepherd, his life has been a continuous struggle against wild fauna and flora, favouring domestic plants and animals. He was later able to master the art of irrigation and settled next to major rivers. However, in less favoured areas, he had to deal with a tough landscape. He started modelling the plains, hills, mountains and plateaus, thus creating the specific Mediterranean rural landscape that still survives (Figures 37 and 38).
Witnesses of the human impact, these terraces are now an integrated part of the landscape. The preservation of the ecosystems are only possible through the preservation of the different elements that compose the landscape. The lack of interest in agriculture and pastoralism, and the abandonment of the terraces have not only affected the organization of the landscape but have also modified the biological dynamics by provoking the reappearance of the forest and later by the enrichment of the area with native animal and plant species. With the passage of time, continued abandonment of agro-sylvo-pastoral activities would lead to a progressive closing of the milieu (environment), causing considerable modification of the landscape, an alteration of the biological equilibrium and a loss in biodiversity. This situation usually leads also to an increase in the risk of occurrence of forest fires because of the thick pack of litter and dead biomass accumulating in the woodland. The low income generated by the traditional forest and range related activities is one of the main causes behind the abandonment of agro-sylvo-pastoral practices (Montgolfier, 2002).
Rangelands have a direct use function as grazing lands for herds. In addition, they play an important role in soil conservation and groundwater recharge. In semi-arid areas, such as the Northern Bekaa, intensive rainfall events on degraded rangelands result in flash floods with dramatic on and off-side effects. Range rehabilitation in these areas would greatly improve water infiltration and groundwater recharge while alleviating flood events.
The Hima, a Traditional Management and Conservation System
More recently, but as far back as 1 500 years ago, the Hima came to existence in the States of the Arabian Peninsula and certain other Arab and Islamic countries. The Hima is an ancient system of community-based protected areas and possibly the oldest known organized form of conservation and management in the world. The Hima is a type of common property in which local stakeholders control the use of the common property of a community in order to conserve water and vegetation in times of environmental hardship. Hima is a collective term that encompasses a broad spectrum of areas where living and non-living natural resources are protected and managed by local people for the benefit of the community. In Arabic, the term Hima is a “protected area”, “reserve” or “multi-purpose area” where local people and wildlife are the primary beneficiaries. By preserving such essential resources as forests and grazing lands, the Hima has played a vital role in the struggle to conserve the region’s limited resources. The concept of the Hima system and the pragmatic flexibility inherent in the management of Himas provide an important cultural precedent for the protection and sustainable use of natural and cultural resources.
In Lebanon, until the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War in 1975, municipalities were still managing their municipal lands as Himas, hiring rangers from the local communities to protect their resources, the local farmland and the yields. A large number of areas that were designated as Himas, are not functioning as such anymore. This is due to the migration from rural areas and the abandonment of agriculture. However, thanks to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), and in collaboration with the concerned municipalities, Lebanon is witnessing a revival of this ancient institution, with the creation of Himas in several parts of the country (Figure 39).
The objectives of the management plans developed in the current Hima with the local stakeholders are:
As the initiative is recent (2003) the results cannot be measured yet. The war in the summer of 2006 and the current political crisis the country is going through are slowing down the process and are inhibiting the economic development of the sites. However, the communities are still managing the resources and protecting them, while allowing for a sustainable use of the lands for grazing purposes (SPNL, 2007).
Rapid Grazing Assessment around the Al-Shouf Cedar Biosphere Reserve: an example to be followed
Background. The territory of the Al-Shouf Cedar Reserve runs along the length of the mountain range known as the Barouk Mountain, a southern extension of the Mount Lebanon range. The western slopes of the range face the Shouf region and the eastern slopes face Mount Hermon, forming the western escarpment of the Bekaa valley. The area of the Reserve stretches over 50 000 hectares. It is surrounded by a buffer zone of 500 metres along its borders. It borders on nine villages with a total population of 50 000 whose municipal lands lie within jurisdiction of the reserve. The reserve is exceptionally rich in its biological diversity and is known to be the last remaining sanctuary to shelter an extensive range of wildlife species in the country. Historically, the rangelands and woodlands of the reserve used to provide grazing for a large number of small ruminant flocks from the surrounding, as well as from far away regions, of Lebanon. Transhumant herds used to converge to the Reserve and its foothills during spring and summer. A survey undertaken by Al-Shouf Cedar Society in 1997 identified 37 herds of sheep and goats for a total of 42 000 heads grazing in the Barouk forest, the Maaser Al Shouf forest and the Bmohray-Ain Zhalta forest and its surrounding areas. Since that time and thanks to the strict control by reserve rangers, the number of flocks has declined drastically and is now limited to herders from the adjacent villages. However, the Niha forest and its surrounding used to be grazed by 30 000 head owned by more than 30 shepherds and now it is used by seven herders of goats with a total of 3 200 head. It was therefore crucial to establish a sustainable strategy aiming at integrating the grazing activities of these herders into the overall management plan of the Reserve. Moreover, grazing if properly managed could contribute to the mitigation of forest fires that occur sporadically at the outskirts of the Reserve, and to maintain the landscape mosaic and the traditional land-use practices.
A rapid grazing assessment was conducted in summer and autumn of 2006 to assess grazing activities and to outline an integrated plan aiming at improving sustainable options for the management of the Niha forest, its surrounding and the buffer zones while providing herders with income generating incentives. The assessment revealed an abundance of forage species including grasses, forbs and shrubs with a rich occurrence of forage legumes. Some of the fodder plants identified were:
Water is available in small water catchments scattered in the area in addition to several natural springs that the herders use.
Management Options. An integrated management plan is proposed to include the following:
The grazing management plan has four components:
With the proper stocking rate being the most important part of successful range management.
The actual stocking rate (3 200 head) is adequate and does not compromise the carrying capacity of the areas under study. The overall carrying capacity of the site (the protected area and its surroundings) is of 30 000 head (as in Table 12). However, for management purposes, it is possible to reach the 10 000 head without compromising the objectives of the protected area. As to the timing of use, it is recommended to restrict grazing to late spring, summer and early autumn for a total of 6 months in order to ensure adequate regeneration of the vegetation. The proper distribution of the grazing activities is associated with the selection of the grazing system and the availability of water sources. In the context of the study areas, distribution problems could be avoided by the distribution of the grazing area to be controlled by the municipality to solve the conflict among producers and the risk of chaotic grazing. The grazing system to be implemented is the short duration grazing or rapid rotation grazing. This system has been advocated for all rangeland types throughout the world. Under good management, this system permits stocking rates to be increased substantially. The system involves the movement of animals rapidly from one pasture to another. Ideally the grazing period of each pasture should be 5 days or less followed by one month of non-use. It is recommended that livestock be moved more quickly during periods of active forage growth. The high stock density (number of animals per unit area) is thought to:
The grazing areas under study will be divided each into at least 8 pastures of equal grazing capacity that radiates from a central area (base camp) as described in the figure below:
Each pasture will be grazed 5 days before moving to adjacent pasture. The grazing system will be implemented in coordination with the Shouf Cedar Society and the municipality of Niha.
The short duration grazing system is commonly used to prevent forest fires in Australia and South Africa and is being adopted in Europe and USA. In the context of the Shouf reserve, the grazing could be initiated in the pasture adjacent to the Reserve boundaries and move away gradually to improve on fire risk prevention depending on the season and the climate. Or, if grazing is initiated in spring, it can be started in pastures distant from the Reserve to move gradually closer to the Reserve, as the vegetation dries out and becomes more prone to fire hazards.
Incentive Package. The incentive package for the herders included:
Recommendations. Based on the several participatory workshops involving all the stakeholders (herders, local rangers, municipality and Al-Shouf Cedar NR) and in the presence of technical consultants, the following were recommended:
Since the dawning of humanity, Lebanon has been highly anthropized, so much so that there is probably not a single forest or other wooded land, where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities. The Lebanese landscape is a remarkable example of co-evolution between man and nature. For an optimal conservation, the Lebanese landscapes and the rich biodiversity of their semi-natural milieu require a specific management combining forestry, agriculture and pastoralism (the agro-sylvo-pastoral system of antiquity).
The different ecosystems in Lebanon are subject to several constraints, linked to climate and its irregularities, lands and their narrowness and are strongly affected by the socio-economic conditions. Erosion, drought, inundations, salinization and forest fires add to these constraints. Different solutions were brought to overcome these constraints and difficulties (terraces, collective management of the resources, irrigation schemes…). However, these solutions were very demanding in terms of labour with a relatively low yield. They were therefore not able to survive the 20th century with its demographic, political, technological and socio-economic evolutions.
The abandonment of these good cultural and land management practices, caused by a higher demand under strong economical constraints has led to overexploitation in some parts of the country and to a decrease in agricultural production in some other parts. This had a strong negative impact on the landscape and on the lands: erosion on abandoned terraces, salinization, degradation of the vegetation cover, overgrazing, loss of biodiversity and of landscape diversity, increase in forest fires…however, the abandonment of the cultural practices and the migration from rural areas has also allowed for a “biological recovery” with forests and other wooded lands reinvesting marginal lands and agricultural fields.
Nowadays, the different forms of exploitation have lost their importance in most of the villages. The forest exploitation is no longer viable; agriculture and pastoralism do not constitute a major source of income any more. Pastoralism is no longer perceived as an activity integrated in the rural space, but rather as harm and aggression on the forest and on the natural vegetation. Local inhabitants do not seem to understand yet the importance of ecotourism in the socio-economic development.
The lack of interest in agriculture, forestry and range, and the abandonment of the traditional systems have affected the organization of the landscape and modified the biological dynamics by provoking the reappearance of the forest and later by the enrichment of the area with native animal and plant species. The continued abandonment of agro-sylvo-pastoral activities in the mountains would lead to a progressive closing of the milieu (environment), causing a deep modification of the landscape, an alteration of the biological equilibrium and a loss in biodiversity. The dramatic fires that occur every year and the damages they cause are one of the results of the thick pack of litter and dead biomass accumulating in the woodland.
This situation is only true in part of the Mount-Lebanon Chain. It is the exact opposite in the Bekaa region, in the Anti-Lebanon Chain and in some other parts of the Mount-Lebanon, where overgrazing is the problem, and where this practice has destroyed the landscape by degrading the vegetation cover. In these areas, converting marginal lands into crop production, combined breakdown of traditional grazing rights and the low productivity of the animals have all contributed to overgrazing due to the overstocking of the shrinking rangelands and accelerated the process of land degradation.
In both cases, the mismanagement of grazing and the unsound utilization of the resources are strongly contributing to the destruction and deterioration of this landscape.
Although frequently accused of strongly contributing to the degradation of the natural vegetation in Lebanon, goats have always played an important role in the life and in the survival of the local inhabitants. Unlike sheep and cattle, the local goat is very dynamic and adapted to the landscape. Meat, milk and milk by-products have always provided a good source of proteins to the rural societies all over Lebanon. The fermented goat cheese is one of the countryside products that risks disappearing. Goat meat was the only red meat that was consumed, raw or cooked, until the very recent past.
Both under-grazing and over-grazing are problems of mismanagement, and should be addressed through a participative approach involving the local community groups and all concerned stakeholders, leading to sustainable grazing, utilization and management of the resources. Equilibrium between forests, agriculture, rangelands and other uses should be found in the rural areas, with the integration of some modern dimensions like ecotourism and local industries, and the implementation of social and environmental services. The sound and progressive reintroduction of human activities into the landscape will allow for the re-activation of the local economy while respecting the landscape values and favouring the proper extension of the different components of the landscape.
Recommendations. The progressive disappearance of open spaces and of the traditional agricultural and pastoral practices could cause great losses in biodiversity and agro-biodiversity. The progressive suffocation and the invasion of bushes in the agricultural fields, fruit orchards and open spaces are one of the major causes of the degradation of the landscape. When it is abandoned, the man-built system deteriorates and is no longer able to produce all of its amenities. Man having left and the space being abandoned, a whole page of history disappears, the charm and the mystery of the site deteriorate. The space becomes wild and less welcoming; no one is left to maintain the landscape, cultivate the land and host visitors and tourists.
Managed in a sustainable way, with the participation of the shepherds in the decision-making process, grazing contributes to the conservation of the ecosystems and the promotion of the traditional management. In addition to the income generated by livestock production, the rental of the lands for grazing constitutes a good source of income for the municipalities. Used as a tool for the maintenance of the forest and open spaces, traditional agriculture will allow for the opening of the space, favour the enrichment of the biodiversity and be economically beneficial for a sustainable development policy.
The concept of the Mediterranean garden combining the hortus, ager, silva and saltus allows for the conservation of the landscape and the preservation of the natural, landscape and cultural heritage. Organized tourism, respecting the assets and the richness of the landscape, would valorise the space by adding an element to the functional mosaic. The reintroduction of the traditional management and protection systems like the Hima, would strongly contribute to the sustainability of the ecosystems, combining the forests, agriculture, rangelands and other sustainable activities. This allows for the conservation of the landscape and the preservation of the natural, landscape and cultural heritage (Asmar, 2009).
7. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATIONS AND PERSONNEL
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA)
The National Centre for Scientific Research (NCSR) and the Remote Sensing Centre
Saint Joseph University
American University of Beirut
Holy Spirit University
Lebanese Agriculture and Research Institute
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[Photos are by the author unless indicated otherwise]
Fady R. Asmar
[The profile was completed in July/August 2011 and edited by S.G. Reynolds, J.M. Suttie, and Dost Muhammad in August 2011].