Originally published on December 22, 2017.
Lebanon’s landscape is characterized by dense and unique forest cover as a result of its location on the Eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, around 22% of this vegetated cover is classified as high to very high combustibility fuel. For this reason, identifying best forest fuel management practices for an effective forest management plan is critical.
In March of 2016 , the Farmer-to-Farmer Program in the Middle East and North Africa (F2F MENA) sent Chris Mallek, an expert in fire ecology, to Lebanon at the request of the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI). LRI, a partnership between USAID and the US Forest Service (USFS), provides technical assistance and institutional support on sustainable forestry practies and wildfire management in economically depressed and environmentally degraded regions within Lebanon. F2F Lebanon has been partnering with LRI to provide experts on short-term assignments to build practical, technical know-how. The program has fielded three forest management and fire prevention experts to Lebanon since 2015.
Mallek traveled to Lebanon to help LRI implement FIREWISE in five communities and evaluate its implementation in two small pilot communities. LRI’s community-based model is meant to build strong ties among communities and create sustainable reforestation with local and outside expertise. FIREWISE, being a community-based, participatory approach to fire prevention fits well with LRI’s participatory model. FIREWISE strives to empower local communities to work together for the prevention and reduction of wildfire risks. The approach depends on public meetings in which community-members agree on priorities and strategies toward fire prevention and safety.
While in country, Mallek conducted field visits to sites and met with local community representatives. He also participated in a workshop, where he trained at least one individual from each location on the fire prevention plan concept.
Using assessments conducted alongside community members, Mallek submitted a list of recommendations to LRI, including suggested measures to help prevent fires and the importance of safety procedures and protocols. LRI has relied on Mallek’s recommendations and adopted the fireshed approach in developing their Firewise plan. Mr. Mallek is still remotely in touch with the LRI team, and has already been invited to return for a another assignment.
F2F MENA is implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).