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From Tunisia to Lebanon, the three pilot projects to reinforce the Socio-Ecological RESilience in Mediterranean coastal areas

After a careful study and preparation phase, the ENSERES project, of which the MEDSEA Foundation is a partner, begins to operate concretely in the two pilot sites of Sfax and Tire. Thanks to the funding provided by the ENI CBC MED project, several actions have been selected that will allow local civil society organizations to promote the management and sustainable development of the SPAMI (Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance) of these two splendid natural areas of Tunisia and Lebanon. The Sfax municipality complex and the Tyre Nature Reserve are home to numerous plant and animal species and, despite the strong impact of human activities, are an important source of ecosystem services. Sub-contributions represent the first step for an integrated management of these protected environmental areas, capable of balancing the needs of the environment and economic development.

In Tunisia, ACG, the Association for the Community of Generations, was awarded one of the loans. The project has been renamed "Kneiss Shining", and aims to create a sustainable path that, through the well-being of mind and body, enhances the beauty and economy of this natural paradise. All the places and activities that already characterize the area will be put into a system: the cycling circuit, the paths dedicated to fishing, the scientific path, the fields that host sustainable agriculture. Visitors, who will also be able to cross the route on brand new bicycles, will be guided by a series of signs indicating the most beautiful and significant places from an environmental point of view. It will be easier to meet those who experience the extraordinary nature of the Kneiss Islands on a daily basis, walk slowly around the places and learn about the activities that characterize the area, especially fishing and agriculture. To support the novelty of the project there will also be a video and a parallel QR code path together with an Android application that will reveal the secrets and opportunities of the place to eco-tourists.

In the Kneiss Islands women are at the center of the "FAIKA" project, developed by AFDIL, the Association of Women for the Development of Islands and Coasts. FAIKA was created to respond to the closure, by the Tunisian government, of the traditional clams fishing. Here, for centuries, women had, thanks to the traditional "fishing on foot", found a way to contribute to the family income and at the same time carve out a space for emancipation. In response to the blockade, the women turned their attention to another species, the solen marginatus, known locally as the "knife". However, the fishing activity is not subject to any type of control, and harvesting presents the same risks as that of clams. Furthermore, poor knowledge of the product makes women prone to intermediary traders who end up taking advantage of their hard work. Starting from an analysis of the stocks that revealed an important presence of Solen marginatus in the stretch of coast of Khawela and on the island of Bassila, AFDIL will contribute to building an alternative and sustainable fishing model together with local fishermen.

In Lebanon, the most interesting project is the one that aims to preserve and relaunch the ancient springs of Ras al-Ain. Ras al-Ain is a spring that has been supplying water to the center of Tire for millennia through its fountains, wells and over six kilometers of aqueduct. Discovered in Phoenician times, spring water was then channeled and made more usable by the Romans. An engineering work of extraordinary avant-garde, a precious archaeological heritage that time and neglect have ended up wearing down. Knowledge of the site's environmental and artistic value has been lost, and this in turn has allowed some private individuals to threaten the site with the possibility of new construction. The ACE project envisages the collection of all scientific material concerning Ras al-Ain, an activity that will be accompanied by field surveys and meetings with all local stakeholders. A geological and hydrogeological study will then allow a better knowledge of the territory and the definition of a clear cartography. The entire study will then be used for the preparation of communication materials that will support an awareness campaign aimed at the local population, stakeholders and all visitors. Information panels will be created, with scientific and educational content, placed in strategic points of the site. A strategy will also be proposed that can enhance artesian water resources, promote the protection of fresh waters and combat pollution and climate change.

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