Vision: “A biosphere reserve where protection of human health, wealth and the environment are overarching goals: where boundaries are delineated, land-use regulations enforced, climate change alleviated, ecosystem services maximized, biodiversity conserved and natural resources protected.”

Declared a nature reserve in 1996, less than 10 years later it was gazetted a biosphere reserve with the name Shouf Biosphere Reserve (SBR), in July 2005. With an area of approximately 50,000 hectares—or 5% of the total area of Lebanon—SBR includes, in addition to Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, 22 surrounding villages and Ammiq Wetland, a Ramsar site and one of the last remaining wetlands in the Middle East.

Shouf Biosphere Reserve is under the authority of the Lebanese Ministry of Environment (MOE), which manages it through the Appointed Protected Area Committee (APAC). Among its members are Al-Shouf Cedar Society (ACS), mayors of the larger villages and independent environment experts. It is home to 1,054 identified plant species distributed over 111 families and is also one of the last remaining areas in Lebanon where the large mammals that once roamed the region can still be found. It has 31 reptile species and 250 recorded bird species. All these contributed to its acknowledgement as a Ramsar site and Important Bird Area. Moreover, SBR led the first reintroduction operation in Lebanon of the Nubian Ibex, a grazing mammal (wild goat) listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, whose presence is vital for the restoration of wildlife corridors at high altitudes. The locals living in the surrounding villages preserve Lebanese culture, are well connected to the reserve and carry out ecotourism activities.

Photo credit: ACS

Photo credit: ACS

The Forest and Landscape Restoration (FLR) approach has been adopted by Shouf Biosphere Reserve as a comprehensive ongoing process aimed at recovering the landscape affected by ecological, socioeconomic and cultural modifications. These modifications, combined with extreme weather conditions, are causing irreversible shifts towards undesirable conditions, all affecting human well-being. The FLR approach is based on eight principles whereby it focuses on the entire landscape, addresses the root causes of its degradation, engages all concerned actors and supports participatory governance, restores multiple functions for multiple benefits, invests in capacity building and knowledge generation, considers a wide range of implementation with a cost benefit view, maintains and enhances natural ecosystems within the landscape and manages adaptively for long term resilience.

With the aim of sharing know-how, best practices and lessons learned with practitioners and other protected areas in Lebanon and in the region, Shouf Biosphere Reserve published “Forest and Landscape Restoration Guidelines: Shouf Biosphere Reserve”, a compilation of six fruitful years of work in the reserve that guides us through the management of the landscape based on the eight globally-adopted principles.

By Lina Sarkis, Al-Shouf Cedar Society (ACS)

Eating an Organic Mediterranean Diet Helps Fight Disease

For years nutritionists have extolled the virtues of a Mediterranean diet, now environmental NGOs like WWF are calling for us to improve our health and the environment by following the Med. The #MedFoodHeroes campaign from 15-27 June coordinated by @RootedEveryday celebrates the rich cuisine the Mediterranean has to offer and the benefits to people and planet when we buy from small sustainable producers.

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Renato Álvarez

Renato Álvarez was born into a “neo-rural” family who were trailblazers of organic farming in Andalusia. They were also members of the first social movements and associations dedicated to the production and organic food. Since he was little he was involved in agriculture until he decided to study Environmental Sciences at the Pablo de Olavide University (Seville).

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Fábio Bernadino

Fábio Bernardino is a Chef, the CEO of Travel & Flavours, a teacher, gastronomic consultant, trainer and event organizer; a young Chef whose excellence opened the doors to major Portuguese hotels and restaurants, like the Pestana Hotéis & Resorts group or the Heritage Lisboa Hotels, where he left his mark of professionalism and rigour. With a great passion for cooking, and especially for pastry, he started his career at the age of 14, when he attended the Professional Cooking and Pastry Course of the Lisbon Hotel and Tourism School.

Meet #MedFoodHero Ambassador: Alfredo Sendim

Alfredo Cunhal Sendim was born in Porto and spent his childhood between Lisbon (the city), Montemor-o-Novo (the countryside) and Ferragudo (the sea). Studied veterinary and zoo technical. In 1990 he moved to the Monte of Herdade do Freixo do Meio, a territory where, step by step, he has been developing a structural project in the agricultural and social field.

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Sahar Elhallak

Nine years ago, Sahar left her home in California and landed in Morocco in a quest to find herself. While she started a new life in Marrakech, she found some challenges to find restaurants that catered to vegetarians like herself. Since she always enjoyed hosting dinner parties and food-related fundraising events, she started cooking for friends which grew into welcoming people into her beautifully restored hundred-year-old house, for unique culinary experiences.

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Najat Kaanache

Born to Moroccan parents in a small town near San Sebastian in Spain, Najat Kaanache has been cooking at home since childhood. Now based between the US, Mexico and Morocco. She now creates magic in the kitchen as the owner and chef of the beautiful restaurant Nur in the ancient medina of Fez, named World’s Best Moroccan Restaurant in 2017, 2018 and 2019. She also opened CÚS (a Moroccan bistro in the heart of Mexico City) and Nacho Mama (a funky Mexican cantina in the medina of Fez).

Meet #MedFoodHeroes Ambassador: Driss Mellal

Driss Mellal was born in a small town in the south of Morocco, near the beautiful Dades valley. His love for cooking started at the age of 20, when he was in art school in southern France. He missed Moroccan food and flavours and so started cooking and experimenting himself. After graduating from art school, he didn’t work in the arts as planned, but instead went to culinary school. “I finally got to combine my art background with new cooking skills, and it became the start of a new life for me,” Driss says.

Sheep to Combat Climate Change

Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza collaborated with the city council of Madrid to organise the annual Fiesta de la Trashumancia Madrid 2019 (Transhumance Festival)—which saw 1800 sheep and 200 goats pass through the centre of Spain’s capital city. The event, now in its 26th year, was successful in creating awareness on the importance of maintaining this ancestral practice of which Spain is a global example and that is a very valuable tool in the fight against climate change and rural depopulation, among other benefits.