Arbi Sarkissian, IBSAR's outreach coordinator told a group of volunteers
in AREC that more community initiatives were needed to insure that Lebanese
felt their duties as stakeholders in the preservation of the their natural
heritage, but acknowledged that the large turnout by AUB's student body
was an encouraging sign.
"Their aspirations are the first signs of hope and progress and are
part of our community outreach objectives, which we need to keep planting
and nourishing, helping it to grow in order to spread throughout the entire
region," he said.
According to Sarkissian, the March launch of the Seeds for Hope initiative
at AREC proved that there was potential for students and professionals
from different academic backgrounds to share in the global effort to preserve
Indeed, IBSAR utilized the idea of biodiversity as a metaphor to involve
other professions in promoting sustainable environmental initiatives -
utilizing skill sets not normally associated with environmentalism.
While taping irrigation piping together during the native trees nursery
launch in March, AUB professor in graphic design Lina Ghaibeh explained
that she got involved with the Seeds of Hope initiative after seeing an
IBSAR promotional flyer in the fall of 2007.
Sitting near a freshly plowed field as the sun began to warm things up
a bit, Ghaibeh recounted her idea to involve AUB graphic design students
in IBSAR's Seeds of Hope campaign.
"I met with IBSAR and loved the campaign's intent, but I didn't know
in what way exactly to involve students taking my animation-motion graphics
and stop motion graphics classes, so I got IBSAR to come in and present
the project and the idea of biodiversity to my students," Ghaibeh
Eventually, Ghaibeh's graphic design students developed 11 stop motion
and clay animation segments that incorporated very specific ideas for
biodiversity unique to Lebanon's native plant life - ideas that were refined
after follow-up meetings with IBSAR staff who wanted accuracy in the animation.
"I learned that to plant just any tree is not the point to biodiversity
efforts in Lebanon. There are specific trees species native to Lebanon
that need to be planted in specific areas where those species are supported
environmentally. And we incorporated this in our animation," Ghenwa
Souki, a 3rd year AUB graphic design student said.
Taking a break from packing seeds into newspaper pots, Nour Tabet, another
3rd year graphic design student said, it wasn't enough to give people
information in a "cool and accessible way."
"I think that it's a responsibility I have as a graphic designer
to get people involved. It's not just being aware of the process that
matters. It's got to be more," Tabet said.
Indeed, at the core of the Seeds of Hope, Trees for Tomorrow campaign
is the idea that "societies need to become guardians of biodiversity"
because "they are the ones that will benefit from having a wide variety
of species, both animal and plant, thriving as part of their natural (and
in some cases - cultural) heritage."
According to IBSAR's field coordinator and agricultural engineer, Khalid
Sleem, "We hope to cultivate 50,000 native trees (by 2010) from seeds
that had been collected from the wild and are currently being planted
at our native tree nursery in AREC."
Dean Hwalla, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences (FAFS)
commented on the event by indicating that, "IBSAR has helped highlight
the importance of AREC as a facility for AUB in the Beqaa, while allowing
many students and faculty members to contribute to community-based activities
while experiencing the beauty of the AREC campus."
"The Seeds of Hope program", she continues, "is an example
as to how AREC can help facilitate such projects by providing a platform
that promotes AUB's engagement in community service and activities. I
hope that the AUB community will make use of this potential asset."
In the end, the Seeds of Hope, Trees for Tomorrow campaign can be described
as a marathon rather than a sprint - organized into different phases in
order to involve small communities throughout Lebanon in the process.
IBSAR has taken to using the analogy of Noah's ark to describe the overall
campaign. In this case, the species to conserve are the trees and shrubs
of Lebanon, and the ark are the towns and villages of Lebanon enlisted
to resist what IBSAR describes as "the systematic impoverishment
of Lebanon's forests and natural areas," most of which is caused
by the effects of human development.
But this process is not to be seen as taking place in a societal vacuum.
In fact, over the last ten years Lebanon has seen a number of other reforestation
initiatives by governmental and non-governmental agencies such as the
United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO, and the Association
for Forest Development and Conservation.
"We want to be seen as a viable program with a specific focus on
preserving Lebanon's bio-diversity," Talhouk explained, adding, "and
IBSAR's program should be seen as a contributive rather than a competitive
program. We are just another valuable tree-planting initiative in Lebanon."