The Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism

Restoration activities in Lebanon

Year published: 09/07/2018

The FAO-based Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism (FLRM) in Lebanon has implemented, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), pilot restoration actions involving restoration of abandoned agricultural stone terraces in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve (SBR) and in Kadisha Valley. 

The Kadisha Valley is located within the Becharre and Zgharta districts in the north of Lebanon, in the foothills of Mount al-Makmel and west of the Forest of the Cedars of God. The SBR covers an area of approximately 50 000 hectares, or five percent of Lebanon’s total area, making it one of the largest mountain protected areas in the Middle East. It is home to over 70 000 people living around the core and the buffer zone of the reserve and encompasses 22 different municipalities that stretch over three districts. The area includes abandoned stone terraces formerly used for the cultivation of crops, primarily vineyards. Abandoned terraces are widely distributed in the western slopes of the SBR, and mainly located at altitudes of 1 000 metres to 1 200 metres above sea level. A large number of terraces had been abandoned with significant amounts of collapsed stone walls; they had also been colonized by natural vegetation forming different successional stages: from small scrub to very dense secondary forest stands.

The abandoned agricultural terraces were intensively cultivated with vineyards, plus olive, fig, apple, citrus, apricot and mulberry trees. However, the many economic and socio-political crises that have occurred in the region, plus difficult access, increased costs of production, and lack of marketing opportunities have forced many people to abandon their villages, negatively affecting agriculture terrace production and maintenance.

As a result of being abandoned, sections of the walls of the stone terraces had collapsed. The FLRM work, in collaboration with the MoA, aimed to restore the damaged terraces as well as their associated socio-economic and ecological functions. Selection of the pilot sites was based on the results of an assessment conducted in both the SBR area and the Kadisha valley — an assessment that determined where restoration would be feasible and would have a positive impact on the livelihoods of local communities. The restoration sites were also dispersed across several areas to help in promoting the value of stone terrace restoration and encourage farmers to follow the model presented by the project. 

In addition to restoration of stone walls in SBR, existing stone ponds that were no longer functional were cleaned and restored to support farmers in securing reliable water sources for irrigation. Wooden cottages that integrate well into the landscape were constructed on a few beneficiaries’ lands, to support farmers in staying on their lands as well as storing basic tools and equipment. 

All restored terraces were planted with a diverse set of trees, shrubs, and aromatic plants, chosen based on the site’s characteristics and on the interest of the landowners. Planting diversified species presented many benefits, such as:

  • provision of a wider range of marketable products;
  • resilience to adverse biotic and abiotic factors (e.g. if one crop was affected by diseases, another could still supply farmers with yields);
  • diversity of agricultural landscapes, which is more attractive and can harbor more local fauna and flora.

Implementation of the project in the SBR faced some challenges, including the commitment of landowners to the project activities and the availability of water for irrigation during the dry summer months. The most significant challenge stemmed from the fact the Kadisha valley is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, which complicated restoration work. Project partners were required to respect regulations and laws that govern such a designated site, with special procedures around any activity in the valley.

The FLRM project caught the attention of numerous farmers and landowners interested in the restoration of abandoned stone terraces. The project’s successful model even inspired some landowners, who had sufficient means to restore their own property.

For more information, contact [email protected]

Faten Adada - Elias Chnai (FAO)

Carla Jamous (MoA)