Sin El Fil, September 17, 2015 – The Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI), a program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the United States Forest Service (USFS), launched the “Firewise – Lebanon” program in an event held at the Beirut Symposium in the presence of ministries, NGOs, academic institutions and local municipalities. “FIREWISE-Lebanon” is a collaborative process, inspired by “FIREWISE-USA,” that empowers communities to work together in order to prevent and reduce wildfire risks and associated negative economic, social, and ecological impacts on local communities.
During the event, entitled “Be Firewise,” Dr. George Mitri, Associate Professor, Director of the Biodiversity Program of the Institute of Environment at the University of Balamad, gave a presentation on the project’s objectives and key outcomes. Dr. Mitri highlighted the importance of this pioneer project that offers a cooperative approach to fire prevention in line with the National Strategy for Forest Fire Management in Lebanon. The program was piloted in 2014 in Kaftoun in partnership with the University of Balamand and was successfully replicated at the Bkessine and Bentael sites. These sites were chosen based on a set of criteria such as high fire risk, and social, economic, and ecological value. The selected communities developed action plans that covered both social and technical activities such as installing signage, holding theatrical plays to raise awareness on wildfire prevention, conducting firefighting trainings, creating fire breaks by pruning trees, and clearing vegetation in high fire risk areas. The program also helped to establish environmental committees in each community that are entrusted to follow up on the progress of action plans.
Through this public launch, LRI intends to identify five new partner NGOs and municipalities that are willing to implement the Firewise program with LRI’s support. The selected NGOs and municipalities will attend a workshop organized by the National Fire Protection Association in February 2016.