Middle East
3 Nov 2019

Capacity Building in Nature Conservation for Civil-Society Organisations in Libya

Libyan conservationists meeting with members of CEPF’s Regional Implementation team and RSCN in Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan © Sharif Jbour
Libyan conservationists meeting with members of CEPF’s Regional Implementation team and RSCN in Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan © Sharif Jbour
By Dima Obeidat

Located in the north of Africa, Libya extends from the Mediterranean coast in the north to the dry savannas and Sahara desert in the south covering an array of natural and cultural resources. From national parks and protected areas, to wetlands and coastal areas, Libya is home to the rich and globally important biodiversity of the Mediterranean region.

This biodiversity gold mine encompasses valuable natural heritage and resources, yet very few have pushed the wheel to restart conservation actions in the country after the recent political unrest. Thus, a   healthy environment - against the threats of habitat loss, poaching, and many other challenges - depends now on civil society action.

Supported by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and coordinated by BirdLife International’s Regional Implementation Team for the Mediterranean Basin, four Libyan environmental civil society organisations were able to attend the Regional Forum for Protected Areas Leaders, a training program held by The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) in Jordan, where they met with experts and environmentalists from other organisations in the Arab world.

In an interview with the Forum attendees, Walid Mohammed from “My Environment” Association expressed his excitement to join the program. He noted, “This forum is a rare opportunity to exchange information and share experience with fellow Arab conservationists, who have vast experiences in community based conservation, ecotourism and visitor management; all of which are extremely important for creating sustainability in organisations”.

He revealed a persistent confidence in the capabilities of the Libyan civil society organisations and the positive impacts they generate on conservation, saying “Involving the community and turning it into a strength rather than a weakness is smart and that’s part of CEPF’s mission; to integrate community with nature”.

Jebel Akhdar ©Awatef Abiadh

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He continued: “We have to protect the environment in Libya by raising awareness regarding the importance of vegetation in Jebel Akhdar region for example; an area full of biodiversity and marine life, as it holds the highest plant density and species diversity within the country. Plants like the the Phoenicean juniper Juniperus phoenicea covers about 70% of this mountain, yet, it has been sharply deteriorated due to lack of conservation action.”

The Forum included environmental awareness programs during field visits to a number of nature reserves in Jordan, namely Ajloun Forest Reserve, Shomari Wildlife Reserve, Dana Biosphere Reserve, Aqaba Bird Observatory, Finan Ecolodge, Al Mojeb Biosphere Reserve and Jordan Wildlife Center, where training sessions were conducted on globally threatened flora species and the role of civil society in flora conservation.

Camping in Dana Biosphere Reserve as part of the Forum activities ©RSCN

Abdul Nasser Mohammed from the “Libyan Wildlife Trust” says, “One of the wonderful things that we experienced during our visit to these nature reserves was to learn about the importance of the trees we plant and understand our need for some specific species and not others.” He added, “Libya's flora includes a mix of plants that are used by the local community, as it provides for us medicine and food among other things, and it is extremely important to our natural resources.”

While Fawzi Issa from BADO Environmental Society for the Protection of Marine and Wildlife focused on the need to build the capacity of local environmental organisations, which can contribute to securing a better future for Libya and for the Mediterranean environment in general. He pointed out the lack of funding opportunities available to such organisations, as international funders tend to have certain restrictions on funding small organisations in Libya, so the role of CEPF is important  “conditions have prevented us from benefiting from international funding, but  CEPF  saw the need for providing this opportunity for us to see the experience of other local organisations in Jordan”.

During a discussion on the challenges obstructing effective management of protected areas, Abdulla Matouq from the Libyan Association of Friends of Artisanal Fishing was concerned about Libya’s reserves and the threats facing its biodiversity. “Libya is vast and rough, and we have many registered reserves in the country. However, we have serious issues with protected area management, mainly because of low awareness among decision-makers and the communities living in and around these areas.  That is why it is important to have a platform for sharing knowledge and information within the field of the environment.”

He continued: “for example, Farwa Island & lagoon provide a good habitat for many plant and animal species and it is considered the most important area in Libya for rare species of fish and many migratory birds, especially for breeding sea birds including: Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Little Tern Sterna albifrons and Yellow Legged Gull Larus michahelis. However, lack of adequate protection, poaching and exposure to oil pollution are creating a growing risk to these species and their environment.”

Abdullah concluded “We are confident that civil society in Libya can be active and effective if given the chance to contribute to the conservation of Libya’s biodiversity. For now, we are doing our best to build our capacity and learn from the Jordanian experience available in this Forum, so being here is a promising start!”

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. Additional small grant funding to the Balkans sub-region has been provided by the MAVA Foundation.

CEPF is more than just a funding provider
A dedicated Regional Implementation Team (RIT) (expert officers on the ground) guide funding to the most important areas and to even the smallest of organisations; building civil society capacities, improving conservation outcomes, strengthening networks and sharing best practices. In the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot, the RIT is entrusted to BirdLife International and its Partners LPO (BirdLife France), DOPPS (BirdLife Slovenia) and BPSSS (BirdLife Serbia).