LIVINGAGRO closing event in Lebanon highlights its contribution to Mediterranean agroforestry
On last August 8th, 2023, the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) hosted the final ceremony of the LIVINGAGRO project at LARI headquarters, in Tal Amara, Bekaa, Lebanon. With a strong participation exceeding 90 attendees (82 onsite and 10 online), the event highlighted the growing interest of Mediterranean agroforestry stakeholders in innovation and knowledge transfer-related issues with particular reference to multifunctional olive systems and grazed woodlands. Throughout the day, experts and high-level speakers from Lebanon, Italy, Jordan and Greece presented the implemented work and activities during the four years of project life addressing various issues and challenges with final beneficiaries, namely farmers, entrepreneurs, local administrators, researchers, private companies, policy makers and other stakeholders interested and involved in agroforestry.
The welcoming session
Dr. Michel Afram, the General Director and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) – Lebanon, welcomed all participants and in particular: the General Director of Fo.Re.S.T.A.S (Sardinia, Italy), Dr. Antonio Casula; the Director of the Technical Service at Fo.Re.S.T.A.S, Dr. Maurizio Malloci; the General Director of the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture, Eng. Louis Lahoud, represented by Eng. Roula Malo; the General Director of the Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture and Industry of Zahle and the Bekaa, Mr. Youssef Geha; the General Director of NARC (Al Balqaa, Jordan), Dr. Nizar Haddad, represented by Dr. Salam Ayoub; Dr. Panagiotis Kalaitzis representing CIHEAM-MAICH (Chania, Greece); the representatives of the public and private universities in Lebanon; all the LIVINGAGRO team and all LARI colleagues. Moreover, Mr. Afram stressed also the importance of agroforestry to face the climatic changes and the exceptional period of fires that all Mediterranean countries are facing.
Dr. Casula, General Director at the Regional Forest Agency for Land and Environment of Sardinia (Fo.Re.S.T.A.S), followed with a brief speech on behalf of the Legal representative Mr. Caria expressing his warm thanks to LARI for hosting the conference and welcoming all participants to the event. In addition, he brought the greetings of the regional Ministry of Environment who should have attended the meeting and was present in Lebanon until Saturday, but had to fly back to Sardinia due to the outbreak of forest wildfires all over Sardinia. On the topic he explained the role of Fo.Re.S.T.A.S in fire management and in maintenance of more than 200.000 hectares of land in Sardinia, mostly forests and other wooded lands, carrying out sustainable forest management practices and connected activities, such as wildlife and biodiversity management, trekking, tourism and recreation in forests, forest nurseries and reforestation activities. Finally, Dr. Casula highlighted that Fo.Re.S.T.A.S is participating, together with other forest management institutions across the world, to several EU-funded projects aiming at transferring technologies and innovations, among which also the LIVINGAGRO project focusing on agroforestry, a traditional land management practice in Sardinia and in the whole Mediterranean region.
After thanking again LARI and his staff and the whole LIVINGAGRO consortium for organizing the final conference, Dr. Malloci, Director of the Technical Service at Fo.Re.S.T.A.S and LIVINGAGRO Project Coordinator, briefly presented the LIVINGAGRO project involving six organizations from four different countries that share many features related to the Mediterranean culture and climate. He further explained the objectives of the project highlighting its cross-border dimension and its mission to bring together communities, institutions, private stakeholders and researchers to share knowledge and accelerate the uptake of innovations to increase the benefits of this type of land management in terms of environmental, economic and social impacts.
Finally, Prof. Lamis Chalak from the Lebanese University, an associated partner of the LIVINGAGRO project, reported about the contribution of her institution in the project, which were mainly related to field trials and cross-cutting issues activities.
All speakers wished to the participants a fruitful Final Conference encouraging them to consider that celebration not as a final arrival point, but rather as a starting point for the further development of the project whose bases is represented by the fruitful collaborations set up during the project life time among different agroforestry stakeholders.
The technical session – Review of the main project achievements resulting from the open innovation approach
During the technical session of the Conference, several experts and researchers from all partner institutions presented the main implemented activities and referring achieved results during the project lifespan.
Dr. Sara Maltoni, LIVINGAGRO Project Manager at the Regional Forest Agency for Land and Environment of Sardinia (Fo.Re.S.T.A.S), started her speech by expressing her and all the consortium’s condolences for the loss of a colleague and friend, Andrea Pisanelli from the Italian National Research Council (CNR), who worked with great passion in support to the partnership during the first project years and who regrettably passed away in May 2023. Moreover, Dr. Maltoni underlined the fruitful cooperation among the countries who took part in the LIVINGAGRO project and briefly presented the main achieved results, among which the creation of the two Living Laboratories for Multifunctional Olive Systems and Grazed Woodlands. She further emphasized the importance of agroforestry with reference to challenges such as climate change, affirming the role of the two Living Labs as an open innovation environment aiming at supporting farmers and creating interaction between stakeholders through ground-breaking technologies. In this regard, she invited all attendees to join the LIVINGAGRO ICT Platform available at the link https://livingagrolab.eu/ and to sign the 4Ps (public-private-people-partnership) agreements to take part to the cross-border Living Labs.
In his turn, Dr. El Riachy, the LIVINGAGRO Project Coordinator at LARI, described the approach of the project to establish the two Living Labs and the different phases of the project adopted to involve stakeholders such as the research and economic stakeholder analyses to assess the needs and major challenges of final beneficiaries, the performed field visits, the Business to Business Brokerage events (B2Bs) and other. He also invited farmers to reach out to experts through the ICT platform created for this purpose allowing users to find information about all initiatives and research conducted and to develop their knowledge through the free e-learning modules. Finally, he also invited the interested attendees to contact LARI for the signature of the 4Ps agreements.
Dr. Claudio Porqueddu’s online contribution on behalf of the Italian National Research Council (CNR ISPAAM) followed to present the main identified innovations related to grazed woodlands which were tested during the implementation of the project such as innovative tools for grazing management, restoration and valorization of landscapes, and, innovative legume-based seed mixtures that were experimented in Sardinia and Lebanon.
Dr. Panagiotis Kalaitzis from the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania (CIHEAM-MAICH) tackled the instruments used and initiatives organized during the project implementation to involve the highest number of stakeholders such as the field visits in the different countries, the experience of B2Bs, the business courses on innovative enterprise creation and the technology transfer workshops.
Dr. Salam Ayoub from the Jordan National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) focused his speech on the positive results of several field trials based on cover crops and on intercropping of legumes such as chickpeas, peas, vetch, etc. in olive orchards that were implemented during the project lifetime in several locations in Jordan.
Finally, two testimonies concluded the series of technical interventions of the Conference: Dr. Wadih Skaff from the Saint Joseph University-ESIA-M and Dr. Sami Al Khatib from the Lebanese International University (LIU) who presented their experience in the framework of some project activities to which they took part. While Dr. Skaff focused on implemented field trials in Lebanon highlighting the result of the co-publication published based on a collaboration between LARI, USJ-ESIAM and Bustan Al Zeitoun, Dr. Al Khatib emphasized the importance of the collaboration agreements signed between LARI and LIU and between LARI, LIU and Manara Dairy.
The LIVINGAGRO final conference was successfully concluded with a social lunch among all participants who expressed appreciation and gratitude with reference to attendance to the event representing an opportunity to enrich their knowledge on agroforestry and related innovations. As an annexed part of the final ceremony, on the following day the LIVINGAGRO partners had the chance to take part to a field visit organized by LARI to an ancient olive orchard in the central part of Lebanon where they met also the Mayor of the referring village as well as to an ancient cedar forest, the so-called “Cedars of God” located in the Kadisha Valley of Bsharre.