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Research for Development
in the Dry Arab Region

The Cactus Flower

Shadi Hamadeh, Mona Haidar, Rami Zurayk.


Can dryland communities cope with the global changes sweeping the world today? Is their predicament limited to their difficulty of building livelihoods on precarious natural resources? Can development research and external interventions offer any sustainable and fruitful partnerships to this end? This book relates the story of a relationship between a poor rural community in arid Lebanon and a development research project and their common journey to embrace sustainable resource use. The book compiles ten years of knowledge and experience of a team of development researchers investigating sustainable rural livelihoods in the community of Arsaal, Lebanon. It describes the research experience and evaluates the innovative approaches that were developed, the successes and failures of the project, and the many lessons that were learned.

Uniquely, it focuses on obstacles in the context of sustainable development in the Middle East and North Africa region and proposes some innovative new directions, which have begun to generate considerable interest within the development research arena. In a very reader-friendly, storytelling style, the book highlights the special relationships that existed between the various stakeholders, especially between the researchers and members of the community, how these relationships developed and how they matured during the course of the research.

Contents of the book

Acronyms and Abbreviations

I The Land

    • Pastoralists at work
• The decline
• Flashback to agriculture
• The landscape today
• Where are the women?
  The Dryland Predicament
    • De-developing the drylands?
• Arabesque
• What is new?
  The Lebanese Backdrop
  Back to Arsaal
  The Cactus Dream

II The Seed

  The Characters of a Comedy in the Making
    • The Researcher
• The University
• The Funding Agency
• The Funding Officer
• The Local Community
• The Local NGO
  Play Synopsis (as told by the Researcher)
    • Act 1: The Birth
• Act 2: Strange Encounters
• Act 3: Where North Meets South
  Back to Cactus Dream World

III Germination

  In Context
    • Different women, different roles
    • The concept
  LUN Special Features
    • Conflict resolution
• Local agenda development
• Research capacity building
• Vehicle for development
• Power of attraction
• Flexibility
  The Dark Side of LUN
    • Participation is politics
• Hidden agendas
• Focus on research rather than development
  Participation, a Myth?
  Cactus Participation

IV Blooming and Fallen Leaves

  Natural Resource Stories
    • GIS-based methodology for soil degradation evaluation
• Participatory GIS in land use investigations
• Hydrospatial hierarchical method for siting water-harvesting reservoirs
  Improving Livelihoods
    • Small ruminants under pressure
• Ripened fruits
• Scenarios
• Follow-up agenda
• Delivery
• The cooperative
  Cactus Technology Transfer

V Unexpected Fruits

  Policy Influence
    • Capacity building for the community
• Evolving research and development capacity
• Ladies night: the empowerment of women
  A New Research Direction
    • Putting people at the centre of development
• Livelihood strategies
  Cacti Elections

VI The Harvest

  More on the Participatory Approach
  Participatory GIS for Natural Resource Management
  Local Appropriation
  Embedded Research
  Natural Resource Management Research in a World of Uncertainty
  Policy Influence
  Gender Issues
  More Harvest
  Cactus Nightmare

Shadi Hamadeh studied at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and at the New Mexico State University, USA. He is professor of animal sciences at AUB since 1988. His research interests have ranged from animal and environment interactions to the future of pastoralism. He is co-founder of several conservation groups in Lebanon and the region and is currently leading the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) at AUB focusing on rural sustainable livelihoods in dry lands of the Middle East and North Africa. One of his major challenges is to reconcile the chaos theory with the bitter realities of development research in the Arab World.

Rami Zurayk studied at AUB and at Oxford University. He is currently professor of soils and environmental sciences at AUB. He specialises in ecosystem management. After having held the post of country representative of the International Cooperation for Development in Yemen in the early 1990’s, he returned to AUB where he contributed to the initiation of ESDU. He has since been in charge of the implementation of a number of medium to large scale rural development projects, and has served as an international consultant in natural resources management. He firmly believes that development work should become self-funded and liberate itself from the agendas of donors. He has recently submitted a grant proposal to that effect.

Mona Haidar studied at AUB, the University of London and is currently putting the finishing touches to her doctoral thesis in rural development at the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon. She specialises in livelihood analysis and rural development. Mona is currently a research associate affiliated to ESDU and has served as a regional and international consultant involved in the design, monitoring and evaluation of interventions aimed at the promotion of sustainable livelihoods in the rural areas of the Middle East and North Africa region.

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