a Nature Park
Mada works on the protection and the valorization of natural resources of Upper Akkar, while promoting socio-economic development.
For almost 10 years, it worked on the establishment of a nature park. Learn more about the draft law prepared by Mada, as well as the official law that was published in the official journal on April 30th 2019.
In 2004, the Lebanese government designed a national master plan for Lebanon which included recommendations for the Upper Akkar‐ Donnieh‐ Hermel area to establish a nature park, in order to safeguard the extraordinary biodiversity and landscapes in the area. In 2005, following the governmental outlines, Mada initiated a set of activities aimed at paving the way for the establishment of a nature park over a pilot area of 220 km2 in Akkar and Donnieh. These included launching biodiversity assessments (flora and bird surveys), ecological monitoring, socioeconomic surveys, the creation of geographical information database about the area (land use map, soil map, existing protection decisions, vegetation map, cultural heritage map, etc), as well as implementing local economic and ecotourism initiatives.
Mada also initiated an education program that included an assessment of the educational services and the reasons for school dropout, training for teachers, support classes to students in foreign languages (French and English), as well as the promotion of extracurricular and environmental activities for children.
In 2006, the municipalities of Fneideq, Hrar, Michmich, Qobayat, located in the nature park pilot area, signed protocols of cooperation with Mada. These protocols specify the process towards a participatory map of potential land uses allocations that defines priorities for future land use and takes into account the nature park perspective. In full coordination with the concerned municipalities, the federations of Jord el Keitta and el Joumeh, and the municipality of Qobayat decided to focus the process on an area including Qamouaa and the surrounding villages, Akkar el Atiqa, Fnaideq and Qobayat. This area, covering 101 km2, would represent a pilot perimeter that might be extended to the other municipalities upon the approval of the nature park charter, once it is ready.
The process towards the designation of a protected area is complex and involves many stakeholders including municipalities, local inhabitants, governmental and non governmental agencies. It requires a solid scientific basis to articulate a robust vision of and strategic orientation for future activities. Accordingly, Mada has aimed to combine a scientific methodology, the networking with concerned stakeholders, as well as effectively implementing tangible action on the ground in order to support development and to build trust.
All scientific assessments and specifically the biodiversity assessments (flora and avifauna) were performed on the basis of extensive field surveys by national experts, closely backed up by a Scientific Steering Committee gathering national and international experts, academics and researchers in biodiversity conservation and sustainable management from various disciplines.
In 2008, under Mada’s supervision and support, the Federations of municipalities Al Joumeh and Jord el Keitta and the municipality of Qobayat, created specific committees to follow up the issue of the nature park: A park Steering committee (PSC) composed of representatives of these municipalities; as well as a Technical Committee (TPC) including technical persons mandated by them and in charge of drafting the preliminary charter of the nature park in cooperation with other national and local stakeholders.
Brief description of the park area
The Governorate of Akkar, with a total surface area of 798km 2 , is characterized by the presence of high mountains to the east and a relatively large coastal plain to the west, which makes it the second-largest agricultural plain in the country after the Bekaa Valley. Akkar is considered the most rural district of Lebanon, with 80% of residents living outside of cities and towns. Several studies have classified Akkar as one of the most deprived regions in Lebanon, with the highest overall poverty rate in the country. In 1998, Akkar was home to 12.5% of the poorest segment of the population in the country, with 63.3% of the families in this region living in poverty. Akkar has the lowest average income level and highest illiteracy rate per capita in Lebanon. The region is furthermore characterized by a dense population and a high aged dependency ratio.
Akkar suffers from serious groundwater pollution due to the mixing of drinking water sources with wastewater and contamination through open dumping of solid waste. In addition, the area suffers. from a lack of services of all kinds and displays a comparatively very low presence of governmental and non-governmental organizations in most villages. In the heart of the nature park pilot area lies the Upper Akkar territory. It extends through the mountainous areas of the Federations of el Joumeh and of Jord el Keitta and the municipality of Qobayat. The Upper Akkar territory is among the largest natural areas in Lebanon, and it is unique for its exceptional landscapes featuring continuous forest cover made up of different varieties of trees.
This forest area covers 20% to 44% of the concerned villages and lands. The Qamouaa region boasts many varieties of trees, including juniper, cedar, turkey oak, and pine. The densest turkey oak (Q. cerris) forest in Lebanon is located in Fnaideq. In addition, the territory is home to unspoiled views and picturesque villages like Qobayat, Beino and el Bire, as well as archaeological sites, such as the fortress of Akkar el Atiqa along with various Roman steles, tombs, and temples. It is home to the largest green reservoir in the country as well as important water
resources (in Qamouaa) that serve most Akkar villages. The Upper Akkar territory is one of the most deprived areas of Akkar. With an estimated population of 50,000 inhabitants, this region suffers from poverty, lack of job opportunities, poor basic infrastructure, and bad conditions in the education and health sectors.
The establishment of a nature park there offers potential for socio‐economic development and for the protection of natural resources through increased tourism. But before Akkar can reap the benefits of a nature park, there is a significant number of challenges to be met with the support of the public sector. Some of the obstacles are unclear land ownership, difficulties with conflict management, risk of urban expansion into forested areas, the weakness of legal protections, unsustainable activities such as quarrying and woodcutting, and improper land management. New perspectives for the nature park in May 2011, impacted by the Syrian conflict in Lebanon, Mada was prompted to modify its strategy.
The national park was no longer a priority in the short-term but remained a long-term objective. Rather than engaging in an emergency, Mada decided to act as a development agency committed to the North territory and included the new population of refugees in its activities.
However, the law for the creation of a nature park passed in 2019 and opened again the perspectives for future projects in this geographical area.
You can find below all the resources related to the nature park, including the draft of the law prepared by Mada, as well as the official law text that was published in the official journal on April 30th, 2019.