The old ways are the best—reviving traditional knowledge in West Asia

01 July 2011 | News story

An ancient conservation practice born in the Arabian desert more than 1,500 years ago is now being revived in the battle-scarred greenery of Lebanon to help meet the complex challenges of a modern economy.

The pre-Islamic system of environmental protection known as ‘hima’—Arabic for protected area—means that the local population rather than a distant authority decides how to manage ecosystems and how to reap their benefits.

Himas are areas set aside seasonally to allow regeneration of renewable natural resources and secure their sustainable use by the people living next to them. But time and political changes have led to their near disappearance. Now, led by IUCN Member the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, a region-wide effort is underway to revitalize himas and other such effective conservation traditions.

The tradition of Hima spoke a language that the conservation community, after many years of research and field experimentation, has finally arrived at today. For hundreds of years it promoted equitable sharing of resources, social inclusion, sustainable use and management of scarce resources, rights and ethics. It is testimony to the wisdom that the people of Arabia showed in managing their harsh and resource-scare environment.

A few years ago, IUCN’s Office for West Asia (ROWA) and its partners organised a workshop on the revival of Hima in the 21st century. The workshop prepared a roadmap to advance Hima through developing the knowledge, policies and implementation of this concept. The workshop produced a publication titled Al-Hima: A way of life in English, French and Arabic which is being used to spread knowledge and awareness.

Last year in Jordan, IUCN ROWA organized a follow up meeting on Hima to try to further revive the traditional knowledge that has been used to manage protected areas and to update the Hima publication.

The Jordan Ministry of Environment and IUCN are supporting environmental organisations and other partners in efforts to conserve the rich biodiversity that is still present in Jordan, but that is under severe pressure. IUCN has submitted a proposal to the ministry that seeks to strengthen local capacity to protect and manage biodiversity-rich areas outside the formal government-designated protected areas.

For more information contact:
Rania Faouri, Communications Officer Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA)
Rania.faouri@iucn.org


This image shows the courtship behavior of Indian Bull frogs (Holobatrachus tigerinus). During the monsoon, the breeding males become bright yellow in color, while females remain dull. The prominent blue vocal sacs of male produce strong nasal mating call.