On April 28, 2016, and under the auspices of the Archbishop of the Maronite Eparchy of Tyre Bishop Chucrallah-Nabil El-Hage, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative, celebrated with local communities the planting of 5,400 native tree seedlings on a religious endowment reforestation site in Sarada owned by St. Georges parish – El Qlaiaa. The event was attended by Bishop El-Hage, Marjayoun Qaemaqam Wassim El Hayek, El- Qlaiaa and Sarada community members, neighboring municipalities, local associations, and scout groups.
The occasion highlighted the importance of reforesting lands owned by religious congregations, which represent approximately 40% of Lebanon’s land available for reforestation. Reforestation on land held by religious endowments will focus on planting native tree species that will generate income and create jobs for the local communities. This year, (LRI) initiated the planting of 10 hectares in Sarada with native tree seedlings including stone pine, laurel, carob, as well as other species. The Maronite Church is committed to ensuring the long-term care, regular maintenance, irrigation, and protection from grazing and fire.
During the event, Bishop El-Hage, Mr. El Hayek and USAID affirmed the importance of public-private partnerships in reforestation efforts between the private religious endowments providing the land and long-term maintenance, the local municipalities providing protection and available resources, and local NGOs and international donors providing financial and technical assistance. This partnership will help raise environmental awareness nationally and increase Lebanon’s green cover. Implemented by the United States Forest Service (USFS), this activity will feed into Lebanon’s 40 million tree program.