News / Middle East

American Aid Helps Lebanon Replant Its Cedar Forests

American Aid Helps Lebanon Replant Its Cedar Forestsi
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December 28, 2012
Lebanon’s once mighty cedar forests survive today only as pockets of scraggly trees on mountain sides. VOA's James Brooke reports there now is a project to replant the ancient cedar forests. Lebanon’s government has set an ambitious goal of increasing the country’s forest cover by 50 percent by the year 2020.
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— The fragrant cedar forests of Lebanon were first recorded in the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh, about 4,500 years ago.
 
But Lebanon’s once mighty cedar forests survive today only as pockets of scraggly trees on mountain sides.

Now, there's a project to replant the ancient cedar forests. Lebanon’s government has set an ambitious goal of increasing the country’s forest cover by 50 percent by the year 2020.

Going green

Hisham Salman runs Lebanon's Association for Forests, Development and Conservation. He said the government’s “Green Lebanon” slogan wins support across religious and sectarian lines in this fractured land.

“People who are living in the cities, they like this idea that Lebanon is a green country,” he said in an interview at a nursery in the Shouf Mountains. “They want to see it again green, so they like this idea - the planting of trees,” said Salman.

  • A sign by the entrance to the cedar and conifer nursery. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Cedar seedlings grow at a USAID-funded nursery maintained by Lebanon's Association for Forests, Development and Conservation. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Cedar seedlings grow at a USAID-funded nursery maintained by Lebanon's Association for Forests, Development and Conservation. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Cedar seedings that grow in longer, American-designed pots develop longer root systems and have a better survival rate. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Sanjoub the Squirrel teaches Lebanese children and villagers about protecting cedar forests from wildfires and goats. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • By twisting open a ripe cedar cone, a nursery worker exposes seeds ready for germination. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • In the craggy, inaccessible heights of what is now the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve, cedars have survived through the centuries, largely out of reach of man. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • At high altitudes, cedars grow slowly and take pyramid shapes. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • Cedar cones grow upward from a green carpet of flat boughs. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • High atop the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve at 2,000 meters altitude, some ancient cedars are over 1,000 years old (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • The high altitude landscapes of the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve provide the southernmost extension of growing areas for the Cedars of Lebanon. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • The high altitude landscapes of the Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve provide the southernmost extension of growing areas for the Cedars of Lebanon. (V. Undritz for VOA)
  • In ancient times, the tower cedars of Lebanon were cut and floated down mountain rivers to the Mediterranean for shipbuilding and temple construction. (V. Undritz for VOA)

The cedar is Lebanon’s national symbol, the center piece of the nation’s flag and shield.

The ancient Egyptians used cedar oil to mummify the dead.

The Phoenicians used cedar planks for their merchant ships. The Hebrews used cedar beams to build King Solomon’s temple.

The Bible mentions the cedars of Lebanon 75 times, including in Psalm 92: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree. They will grow like a cedar of Lebanon."

In 2005, mass rallies against Syria’s military occupation came to be known as “The Cedar Revolution.”

Fighting fires

On the conservation side, Lebanon created Sanjoub the Squirrel, a mascot who teaches children and villagers about preventing forest fires.

Salman said climate change is creating a longer season of wildfires.

“We notice that climate change is affecting the forest because, before, the fire season started in June-July,” Salman said. “Now in the last 20 years, the fires are starting in March. We have big fires in March and April. This, we think, is the global warming,” said Salman.

Prioritizing planting

Trees stabilize hillsides and protect mountain springs. Now, the goal is to plant one million trees a year. With American techniques, a USAID-funded program has doubled and tripled survival rates for saplings of cedar and other conifers.

Heath Cosgrove directs environmental projects for USAID Lebanon. "Here in Lebanon," he said, "USAID has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, with a $12-million, 4-year project to reforest Lebanon, to restore it’s natural beauty, to help support the introduction of the national symbol, the cedar tree, which is represented on the Lebanese flag."

Up here in the Shouf mountains east of Beirut, some ancient trees were saplings 2,000 years ago, during the life of Jesus. Now, new seedlings are part of a plan to replant the legendary cedars of Lebanon.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: dyana z furmansky from: usa
December 31, 2012 11:31 AM
The deforestation in the Levant was one of the major influences on the work of George Perkins Marsh, while a US legate to Turkey appointed
by President Lincoln that led to his seminal book climate change. MAN AND NATURE was published in 1864, and is considered the fountainhead of the conservation movement.


by: musawi melake from: -
December 30, 2012 2:35 PM
In reality , this means that the agency is replanting it's spies to work for the interests of US, for wherever this agency works its wellknown this these people create haoc in the area.


by: William from: ARGENTINA
December 29, 2012 8:59 PM
What a amazing news about replanting of cedars in Lebanon!!
Thanks very much, USAID, for monetary and technical support!. News shows that not only the sense of national sign of lebanese national symbol, but also,the constitution of a worlds oxigen lung and wild heritage. i propose on the planting voluntary of trees, may be do by arab or christian people whom lost relatives in the war in Lebanon., Thus, the new cedars be atraction for birds and soil animals for the trees plantation would to be benefictable doublement. Thanks USAID, and Lebaneses in the Gobernments respectives again, William from Argentina

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