This summer has been a very exciting period for our Network. Just before the visit of the IMFN’s representative, two new territories formalize the willingness to join the Network by establishing a MF initiative. We are talking about Albania, with the Administrative Unit of Voskopoje, and Lebanon, with the Shouf Biosphere Reserve.
The story of the Voskopoja Model Forest initiative started within the Adriatic Model Forest project in 2012. That project was the occasion to explore the world of Model Forests and exchange experiences across the Mediterranean with a focus on the Balkan countries. From the beginning Prof. Dr. Hajri Haska, was the soul of the Albania MF’s initiative, he participated in numerous meetings and field visits back in those days and have continued to work in the direction that now finally led Albania to have an official MF initiative.
Here some words taken from the letter send by Prof. Dr. Hajri Haska to formalize the willingness to start the accreditation process: “Natural resources in the different areas in the world have their specifications, but in general them have more important things that join together; our duty is to know very well those things that unite, to know and development environment processes with main aim: sustainable management of forest resources, applying an effective way–WORKING TOGETHER, and create a Model Forest”.
When it comes to the Lebanon initiative, however, the willingness to have a Model Forest in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve is quite recent. After an initial meeting we had with SBR Director Nizar Hani at the 7th Mediterranean Forest Week in Antalya - Turkey, last year, thanks to the ASMED project and the Aterno Valley Model Forest, a team from the MMFN Secretariat had the opportunity to conduct a week-long training on the "Model Forest process" and its potential benefits to SBR staff, while also meeting with communities and other local authorities. So, the formalization that just took place was a direct result of the great involvement and enthusiasm of those days and the period that followed that saw a great deal of work by the SBR.
The Shouf Biosphere Reserve is the largest of Lebanon's natural reserves, with an area of 50,000 hectares, equivalent to 5% of the area of the country. It hosts three cedar forests, Maasser AI-Shout, Barour and Ain Zhalta - Bmohary, which account for a quarter of the remaining cedar forest in Lebanon, where some trees are estimated to be 2,000 years old. At the same time, it includes twenty-two villages, making a key point the collaboration with the local communities through a participatory approach, enhancing their well-being and economic interests.
“By joining the Model Forest Network”, we read in the letter of intent, “the Shouf Biosphere Reserve hopes to engage in collaborative initiatives that promote sustainable forestry practices, community involvement, and socio-economic development, with a special interest in knowledge-sharing and capacity-building opportunities offered by the network, to develop conservation efforts and contribute to the global understanding of sustainable forest management”.
Now it is on to a new challenge to make sure that the will expressed by the two new entities can lead them to become Model Forests as soon as possible and, most importantly, that local communities can benefit from the results from the new approach. The Mediterranean and International Secretariat will put all their efforts into making this happen!
We wish both initiatives well!