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Al Hima — Traditional Arab Sustainability Practice

"Al Hima, a traditional Arab practice that gradually dissipated in the early 20th century, involves sustainable use of natural resources by local communities in remote and rural areas. The recent resurgence of this ancient tradition in Lebanon and Jordan and efforts to promote it in several other countries in the Middle East will have positive implications for local communities, survival of the Bedouin culture and the environment throughout the region in the coming years. Additionally, the concept of Al Hima has the potential to emerge as a suitable model of sustainable development in other parts of the world.

"The Arabic phrase „Al Hima‟ means a protected area or a preserved place. Under Islamic law, it signifies a natural area such as grasslands and wetlands which are set aside permanently or seasonally for local communities to protect over exploitation, in the interest of preserving biodiversity and their own economic well being....

"The over use of land and water had almost destroyed the vast wetlands of village Kfar Zabad in southeast Lebanon. In 2004, the Society for the Protection of Nature Lebanon (SPNL), one of the oldest environmental NGOs in the country, made the first attempt to revive Al Hima by establishing 3 protected zones in the country. Inspired by the success in Lebanon, Qatar donated USD one million in 2008 to organizations promoting Al Hima across the Middle East. Jordan‟s Ministry of Environment has recently announced plans to establish Al Hima areas across the Kingdom, as a part of the green economy initiative of the government."

Implications from SFG:

"This revival of the traditional conservation model will help preserve local knowledge and customs of the nomadic herders. The decline of the Al Hima system forced the Bedouins or pastoral nomads in the Middle East to migrate to urban cities in search of a livelihood, and were eventually assimilated into urban culture which threatened their cultural existence. At present, only 3-6 percent of the total 4 million Bedouins live as pastoral nomads in the region. The revival of Al Hima will likely preserve the Bedouin traditions and cultural life in the years to come."

"Al Hima is relatively unknown outside the Arab world. However, it has the potential to be replicated in Muslim countries as a culturally accepted solution for preserving biodiversity and supporting local communities. Even the non-Muslim countries can take lessons from this ancient Islamic practice to create sustainable models of development."

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The Strategic Foresight Group, Middle-East Edition, May 2011, page 8-9: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG-ME_May2011.pdf#page=8

Al-Dimashqiya, Nouna. „The Vanishing Nomads.‟ Syria Today. January 2011. http://www.syria-today.com/index.php/life/13384-the-vanishing-nomads

„Jordan to launch Hima.‟ Petra Jordan News Agency. 5 October 2010. http://www.petra.gov.jo/Public_News/Nws_NewsDetails.aspx?lang=2&site_id=1&NewsID=8206&Type=P

Aburawa, Arwa. „Hima: The Middle East‟s Tradition of Environment Protection.‟ Green Prophet. 18 September 2010.

„The Concept of Hima: Protecting the Environment in Islamic Culture.‟ Yemen Times. 2 August 2010. http://www.yementimes.com/defaultdet.aspx?SUB_ID=34510

Verde. Tom. „A Tradition of Conservation.‟ Saudi Aramco World. November-December 2008. http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/200806/a.tradition.of.conservation.htm

Al- Hima: A Way of Life. International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). 2007.

Bedouin Culture. Bedawi.Com. 2007