BirdLife: The Magazine June 2017 - Page 50

PEOPLE CEPF exchange project, conservation organisa- tions from the Middle East are sharing their les- sons and expertise to help build Libyan NGOs, including also the Oxygen Society, who aim to bring fresh air into people’s lives in Alqarabolli by creating cultural activities relating to nature. The first exchange, in Jordan in May 2016, was hosted by Sweimeh Association Charity, a small local NGO on the shores of the Dead Sea that works with villagers to conserve the surround- ing natural habitat. “It was such a success”, said Thuraya Waheeba, Oxygen Society. “I learnt a lot about establishing NGOs, ecotourism and inte- grated socio-economic development.” WHY JORDAN? “In stark contrast to Libya,” says Sharif Jbour, CEPF Project Officer for the Middle East, “civil society in Jordan is mature, with a governmen- tal mandate to support not only large NGOs, but smaller-scale groups mostly formed by inter- ested members of local communities, operating in and around important natural sites. This model is unique in the region and beyond Arabia.” Add the fact there is no language barrier, and it was the perfect location. The Libyan NGOs also vis- ited nature reserves managed by Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN, BirdLife in Jordan), who have a 100% local-employment policy and natural handicraft workshops. “Jor- dan’s rich biodiversity is beautiful, and inspired some new ideas to suit our conditions in Libya”, says Abdalnaser Binnayil, LWT. JUNE 2017 • BIRDLIFE “Young people are now seeing Libya’s nature afresh”. Photo Awatef Abiadh 0 SIX YEARS AGO YOU WOULD NOT HAVE EXPECTED A LIBYAN ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATION TO BE IN EXISTENCE, LET ALONE EXPLORING ECOTOURISM AS A MEANS OF NATURE CONSERVATION Information for tourists on turtle conservation in beach hut erected by NGB. Photo Louis-Marie Préau 1 ECOTOURISM IN LIBYA? Despite a low level of species endemism (4% unique to the country) Libya certainly has some great natural assets. With nearly 200 km of Medi- terranean coast and a vast semi-arid region lead- ing to the Sahara Desert, there are coral reefs, ponds and mangroves; plus salt marshes and mud flats for migratory birds. “Ecotourism is a realistic opportunity for Libya once conditions allow,” says Abiadh. “Wherever people have free time, they enjoy spending it in nature. In Tunisia, we have ecotourism projects that are still receiving a lot of local visitors, and from abroad e.g. Algeria.” However, rather than a rosy picture of NGOs blossoming out of political turmoil and civil war in North Africa, of course the reality is a lot more complex, more problematic, with not all civil society mobility being positive (think: more weapons, terrorism). But for a nascent nature conservation movement, CEPF has laid the seeds, and the green shoots are sprouting. “Young people are now seeing Libya’s nature afresh”, says Abiadh. “The role of civil society organisations is crucial to conciliate local people with nature from the outset.” Maybe, just maybe, this will contribute to a more stable region. This work is through the investment of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in the Mediterra- nean. Find out more at 51