Welcome to the Forest Flyer, a quarterly news update from the United States Forest Service International Programs Africa & Middle East Team. To view previous issues of this newsletter, please click here. For more information about our programs, contact Kathleen Sheridan, Assistant Director, at kathleen.sheridan@usda.gov.
In This Issue
Small Festival in Rural Lebanon Gets a Boost from Enterprising Youth

Cairo Youth Take on Urban Farming

Documenting Boundaries to Save Trees
Ugandan youth take on organizational challenge ten decades in the making
Twenty-two-year-old Soulaima Naji recently learned what it takes to run a small festival in rural Lebanon. She and her fellow Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) members partnered with the Municipality of Ehmej, 60 kilometers northeast of Beirut, Lebanon, to help them host their yearly Mouneh festival in support of small businesses and women.
“At the Mouneh Festival, we gained a lot of practical experience, especially when dealing with people from different ages and different backgrounds. We also learned from the local officials the importance of prioritizing and facilitating small projects and the importance of empowering locals for the best of the community and the whole country, despite the challenges we have been facing”
--Soulaima Naji
Soulaima and her peers helped the town leadership prepare for the festival by cleaning roads, pruning trees and setting up stands. On the day of the event, they welcomed every festival goer that entered the grounds and maintained a booth to inform people about the YCC project. They also led art and conservation-based projects for the children in attendance.
“The Mouneh festival requires a lot of preparation, facilitation and logistics. The YCC joined their efforts with the municipality and are considered the key facilitators of this event … We are very thankful for the program that brought them here and us together”
--the Mayor of Ehmej, Nazih Abi Semaan

The U.S. Forest Service worked closely with longstanding partner the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI) to adapt its domestic Youth Conservation Corps model to Lebanon and is thrilled to work with LRI to pilot the program with a group of 29 Lebanese youth ages 18-25. High unemployment among Lebanon’s highly educated youth population, compounded by the nation’s current economic crisis, provides an opportunity to engage young Lebanese in natural resource management activities that directly improve their communities, while also building employable skills and leadership potential through an intensive, residential program. 
Soulaima and the rest of the YCC cohort will graduate later this month and will go on to join the workforce, attend university, and pursue careers in natural resources. The YCC has received great attention across Lebanon, and the Forest Service and LRI look forward to resuming the program with a second cohort later this year.
Read more about the U.S. Forest Service-supported Lebanon YCC program on their Facebook and Instagram pages.
Above, Soulaima Naji prepares table decorations for the Mouneh festival in Ehmej, Lebanon.
A dense neighborhood in the heart of Cairo is dotted with fruit and vegetable planters and new saplings thanks to a collaborative effort between local and international organizations and the community members they serve. At the heart of the initiative is Megawra, “the Built Environment Collective” that links cultural heritage with social and environmental responsibility.
The U.S. Forest Service recently joined Megawra and Urban Greens Egypt to support an urban farming initiative with Cairo youth. Thirteen teenage participants learned about the benefits of urban farming through a demonstrative training, and then got their hands dirty with a practical workshop on planting practices. They planted tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant and cabbage and learned the specialized techniques necessary to help plants thrive in a city landscape. The teenage participants left the workshop eager to return for harvest time and to plant again using the compost they made. 
Urban agriculture and greening are increasing in popularity globally as urbanization increases, resulting in increases in population and decreases in agricultural land. Urban farming can help mitigate the heat island effect of dense cities and rising temperatures due to climate change. Planting locally reduces the high cost and high carbon footprint of global food production and helps create ownership and viability for local communities.
Egypt is one of the many countries globally, but one of the few in the Middle East and North Africa region, represented in the USFS Beyond Trees network, a global initiative comprising of conservation and stewardship organizations working to improve lives, with a focus on communities in urban areas.

More information on Beyond Trees can be found here: BEYOND TREES – Sharing Resources Globally.
Egyptian youth plant saplings provided by Urban Greens Egypt.
Egyptian youth show-off the compost they made during the workshop.
Ugandan Youth Take on an Organizational Challenge Ten Decades in the Making 
The U.S. Forest Service recently onboarded 11 interns to help meet long-standing archiving and forest boundary work needs within Uganda’s National Forest Authority (NFA). NFA is tasked with sustainably managing Uganda's forest reserves, which account for 40 percent of Uganda's forest cover. 

The Forest Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development have partnered with NFA to help stem forest loss from long-term management challenges including agricultural encroachment and illegal wood harvesting. Key initiatives being taken are boundary demarcation, improved management and information systems and a community forest management model that enables community forest user groups to co-manage the forest reserves. The interns, who grew up alongside the forests they are trying to save, are helping NFA to document forest boundaries and to mark them.
Newly onboarded Forest Service interns pore over paper maps of forest boundaries that need to be digitized and organized.
In the past 25 years, Uganda has lost approximately 60% of its standing forests.
"The illegal loss of public forest land has been made possible in part because of the limited availability of historical documents and survey information which goes as far back as the early 1900s,” said Forest Service Intern Michael Jumba. “We are now trying to locate and organize the historical documents needed.”

Michael and his colleagues are helping to catalog, re-organize and digitize the boundary maps and archival records for Uganda’s 506 Central Forest reserves. The effort will enable NFA to better secure and safeguard the forest reserves.

“We started with documenting and cataloging lots of maps -- cadastral maps, boundary plans, aerial photos, land-use maps and field books. In all about 13,000 items!” said Brenda Mpatasalirwa. 

The interns report that they are grateful for the opportunity and work experience. NFA is grateful for the help. We should all be grateful for the trees they are trying to save. 

Learn more about NFA's efforts to stem forest loss in Uganda, Watch.