OSME is pleased to invite Assad to write this guest blog and tell us about SPNL and their Hima conservation and education programmes.
Assad Serhal has more than 25 years of experience in the development and management of protected areas in Lebanon.
He is one of the founders & former president of the Lebanese Environment Forum (LEF), an umbrella organization that encompasses more than 40 NGOs working in the environmental and developmental fields. He has served at the LEF, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, the manager of the Al Shouf Cedar Reserve, and initiated seventeen Himas (community-based protected areas) in Lebanon, 2004-2016.
He is a technical advisor to the Ministry of the Agriculture and the UNDP on sustainable hunting-related issues, and an expert in project development. He was a member of the BirdLife International Global Council, and presently is the chairman for Bird Life Middle East Partnership Committee.
He has coordinated the IUCN’s sailing to Barcelona on behalf of the organizations member countries in the Middle East and Central Asia. He helped found the Hima Fund, onto whose board he was elected. He is currently head of the programs and projects of SPNL, and is now the director-general. He also has published several books on wildlife: Wild Mammals of Lebanon, Birds of Prey of the Middle East, Game Birds of the Arab World, and others.
Society for the protection of Nature in Lebanon- SPNL is one of the oldest environmental NGOs and the national partner for Birdlife International in Lebanon. It recognizes the importance of birds as a chief key for the conservation of natural resources since they are considered as key signs indicating the healthiness of ecosystems. Thus, SPNL has widely contributed in bird conservation mainly by lessening biodiversity losses through raising awareness on environmental issues and promoting the protection of natural areas in Lebanon. Since its establishment in 1986, SPNL advocated the establishment of protected areas, and the first biodiversity project in Lebanon. After twenty years of experience working with nature reserve through government agencies, SPNL is now reviving Hima approach, a traditional protected area system for the sustainable use of natural resources in a way that realizes common benefits for people and nature. Through the established Hima site, SPNL establishes LCG groups as a major step in Hima formation, and empowers their active role in site conservation and management.
Souk El Hima is a new programme initiated by SPNL during fall of 2014, aiming to answer local communities’ need to have their products marketed and to raise awareness about the importance of the Hima site and species. All the traditional and cultural handmade products produced by the targeted local communities will be marketed through ‘Souk El Hima’. So far, three shops have been established at Anjar, Qoleileh, and Al Fekha Himas. The Souk El Hima arose as a marketplace for the local community items that conserve traditional and cultural skills at local communities, hold conservation messages, and serve the purpose of economic empowerment at local, national, and international levels.
Hima School known as “School with No Walls” aims to strengthen the capacities of children between the ages of eight to twelve and to provide environmental awareness about the Hima IBAs and KBA, species and ecosystems. In addition, interactive tools will be provided to teachers from all schools in the Hima sites to raise students’ capacities, introducing them to new methods to explore their Hima heritage and to appreciate its values and be dedicated to conserve it. Hence, children will be well prepared to join Homat Al Hima program at a later stage. So far, three Hima School programs have been established at Hima Anjar /Kfar-Zabad in Central Beqaa & Maabour El Abyad at Upper Akkar.
In 2006, Homat Al-Hima is newly initiated to recognize the youth individuals and groups acting as Hima guardians and Heroes.ima is an araH Homat Al Hima are motivated, well trained and equipped youth from local communities, aspiring to lead on activities and give exposure to the Himas. Moreover, they are ambitious to work for their communities including environmental, economic and social concerns, and to assure the conservation of the site and its key biodiversity, and the ecological and cultural services it provides. Indeed, youth have a crucial role in the conservation of IBAs and Hima sites in Lebanon and in the development of Homat Al Hima Mentoring Program. Thus, SPNL has decided to establish a center for Homat Al Hima in Keyfoun, Mount Lebanon, named as Mediterranean Homat Al Hima Center for youth capacity building aiming to raise awareness, promote the conservation of IBAs and Hima sites, empower youth, support leadership roles, strengthen capacity building, and upgrade livelihood.
 Local Conservation Groups