Beirut March 31, 2017 – The Building Alliance for Local Advancement, Development, and Investment (BALADI) program, funded by the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by René Moawad Foundation (RMF), celebrated the launch of field activities under the rural development project in Batloun. The project, developed by the municipality and community of Batloun and neighboring areas, will promote eco-tourism and help ensure sound, sustainable management of forests. A USAID grant of $175,000 will be used to establish a 20 kilometer hiking trail and a tourism information office, to provide training for tourism guides, for pruning and for wood briquetting equipment. The project will create jobs and generate income from tourism for 200 local residents and to transform pruned vegetation into heating logs. In addition, the project will help around 2,000 residents from Batloun and four surrounding villages (Botmeh, Barouk, Khreibet El Chouf, and Maaser El Chouf) benefit from the reduced costs for heating their homes by utilizing the briquet logs.
The launch ceremony, held at the premises of the Batloun Municipality, was attended by USAID Lebanon Mission Director Dr. Anne Patterson; RMF Executive Director Mr. Michel Moawad; the Mayor of Batloun Municipality Mr. Marwan Kais; representatives from Barouk, Maaser El Shouf, Botmeh, and Khreibeh El Shouf municipalities; representatives from the Agricultural Cooperative of Batloun and Maaser El Chouf; representatives from Al Shouf Cedar Society; and other community members. The event also marked the distribution of pruning tool kits to ten local entities participating in the activities, and concluded with the cornerstone placement of the project’s rural tourism information office.
In her remarks, Dr. Patterson highlighted the importance of the collaboration between the municipality and the community to implement development projects that improve livelihoods and serve the community. “This project is a testimony to the power of partnership between municipalities and communities to face growing challenges and keep moving forward.”
The five-year $26 million USAID BALADI project is currently implementing 54 activities which engage 137 municipalities for socio-economic development throughout Lebanon. These supported activities meet the needs of communities in several sectors including: electricity generation through solar power, irrigation, access to potable water, income generation through rural tourism, agro-processing, entrepreneurship, and skills training, equipment for public schools and community health clinics, and community social and sports centers.