Overview of land tenure issues in the country

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Overview of land tenure issues in the country Powered By Docstoc
                                 Country Case Study
                     Hamadeh Shady PhD; Ghosn Sabine; Rachid Grace
                               Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences
                                     American University of Beirut

    1. Overview of land tenure issues in Lebanon

Land tenure is the system of rights and institutions that govern access to and use of land (Adams
M. 2001). It can be further defined as the terms and conditions under which land is held, used
and transacted and is one of the principal factors determining the way in which resources are
managed and used and the manner in which benefits are distributed.

Land ownership is often built on freehold or leasehold entitlements to the land and offers
exclusive rights to the owner, which guarantee land tenure security. Land rights in freehold
include the ability to sell the land, rent it to others and to use it as collateral for a mortgage.

Historical Background

 Islamic Government Era
The beginning of land tenure system in Lebanon, as in most Arab countries, can be traced back
to the land tenure system under the Islamic Government Era where the first Islamic government
divided lands into:
    1. Waqf land: which is land bestowed for religious purposes
    2. Hima Lands: which are communal lands used for public purposes (rangelands, roads,
         rivers, forests, springs)
    3. Agricultural lands: which include Mulk Lands, Miri Lands as well as Mawat Lands
    4. Houses: which are also considered Mulk Lands
In this era, the rules of land usufruct in the Eastern Arab world were set and became later the
fundamental base of all tenure systems especially under the Ottoman Empire Rule (Said,

 The Ottoman Empire Rule
In fact, the administration of land tenure under the Ottoman period resides in the Ottoman Law
of Lands of 1858. This law distinguished five different categories of lands:
    1. Mulk Land (private property): which is land is held in „absolute free hold ownership‟
         where the rights of absolute ownership and of usufruct of land belong to the individual
    2. Miri land: which is land where absolute ownership rights belong to the State but usufruct
         rights belong to the individual. It is one form of inheritable „lease-ownership‟ where the
         State leases land to the individual.
    3. Waqf land
    4. Matruka land: it represents land left for public purposes.
     5. Mawat land (barren land): it represents „dead land or unreclaimed land‟ (Warriner D.
         1948) where the rights of ownership belong to the government. But this right can be
         transferred to whoever was able to revitalize the land and invest in it through plantation.
Yet, it is clear that this classification by ownership had little importance as compared to the more
important distinction by use where then, for instance, the Mulk and Miri lands would be
considered the same. This is because, in Miri lands, the lease was not real since the landlords
would let their lands to small sharecroppers, yet these tenants did not hold the land under Miri
title nor sharecropping was legally covered by any of the legal categories. Moreover, custom was
the only regulator of these tenancy agreements and the share changed with population pressures
(Sadr S. 1972; Said A. 1995; Baalbaki A. 2001).

 Moreover, in general, the emergence of Mulk Land during the Ottoman period was through a
number of ways, and was completely besieged by big landlords. These include the rejuvenation
of Mawat land, the colonization of land especially fertile land by people who first cultivate it,
and the ownership of land granted as gift to landlords from the Ottoman governors. Once land is
owned, it can be sold and inherited (Said A.1995).

   French Mandatory Power
Later, and Under the French Mandatory Power, the land tenure in Lebanon was governed by a
new law the „Law of Land Ownership‟ of 1930 in addition to a number of decrees and decisions
enacted since 1920. This Land Code aimed to establish „a new system of land registration‟ to
organize the „use of land and the better cultivation of landed property‟ (Sadr S. 1972). According
to this law, lands were still divided into the same four categories: Private, Miri, Matruka, and
Mawat yet the law failed to mention Waqf lands (Decision 3339/1970; Said A. 1995).

The government worked on land registration to secure tenancy. Yet, this New Code was not
responsive to the needs of the local tenants and thus carried with it major drawbacks. It has failed
„to restrain the power of landlords‟; and more importantly, in face of the growing market
economy, has failed to secure the tenant from surrounding risks. Tenants had to borrow and then
many had to sell their lands to repay their debts. Thus, most tenants lost their land and became
sharecroppers again (Sadr S. 1972; Decision 3339/1970).

Land reforms, land redistribution and major policy changes:

It is essential to mention that the Ottoman Code was in part enacted due to the pressures of
farmers on the government to protect their rights and lands from the dominance of big landlords
and feudalists. Under the Ottoman Land Code, and particularly under the Miri land, the tenancy
agreements ran for only one year and with no lease, thus, there was no provision for security of
tenure. Moreover, back then, the 1858 Law aimed at increasing the government‟s revenues by
allowing it to sell and register private usufruct rights over Miri Lands which became individual
rights protected by the law. This gave rich urban people the opportunity to own and control rural
lands especially that poor rural farmers were avoiding land registration because of unaffordable
taxes. Hence, rich people registered as private ownership these Miri Lands and Mawat Lands that
were revitalized by poor farmers but not claimed by them because of ignorance and avoidance
(Baalbaki A. 2001).

With regard to Matruka land, it was left for the public to share its benefiting rights by consensus
and in an equitable way. Benefiting rights of Matruka Lands include the right to graze, to collect
firewood, and excavate building stones. Yet, these rights were later abandoned because they led
on the long run to the emergence of unproductive lands. To preserve lands and finance the
Ottoman treasury, the Ottomans rendered to register the agricultural usufruct right of individuals
over these Matruka Lands but maintaining the ownership right to the government. On the village
level, the municipalities‟ councils were in charge of protecting the Ottoman‟s government
ownership right of the Matruka Land yet the absence of active municipality councils led to the
larceny of more Matruka Lands by revitalization (Baalbaki A. 2001; AlShab K. 2002).

In this context, it is necessary to distinguish between land tenure practices that prevailed in
Mount Lebanon which was administered as a mutasarifiya as opposed to those prevailing in the
Bekaa valley which followed the Ottoman Syrian administration. For instance, the Ottoman
government was trying hard to hold its rights of ownership of public lands (Matruka and Mawat
lands) in the Bekaa valley. On the other hand, the privatization process was spreading in the
mutasarifya of Mount Lebanon where Matruka land was considered as Mawat land in order to
facilitate its private ownership through the concept of revitalization. As a result, public lands
became controlled by a minority who could afford revitalization of these lands (Baalbaki A.

Moreover, it is essential to mention that granting ownership rights of Mawat Lands through its
revitalization differed between the mutassarifiya and the part of Bekaa that follows the Ottoman
Syrian administration. Under the latter, Mawat Lands must be planted with trees as a condition
for acquiring private ownership over them; while in the mutassarifiya, revitalization of Mawat
Lands through any plantation is suffice to acquire these rights. Besides, the Bekaa part under the
Ottoman Syrian administration enjoyed more facilitation regarding the registration of lands than
the mutassarifiya (Baalbaki A. 2001).

So at the time when the French Mandatory Power came, there were still no settled titles to lands
and thus their primary reform action was to establish legal titles. To the French Mandatory
Power, the Ottoman Land Code seemed contradictory and induced confusion. Consequently, the
French rejected it and had an interstate commission of jurist in attempt to compile a new land
code. This Code, attempted to organize the ownership, utilization, and operation of the land yet,
as its predecessor, was an exported law not applicable to the local situation. For instance,
although it „by theory‟ provided tenure security by acknowledging ownership through
registration but the loss of land experienced by some tenants proved the opposite on a longer
term (Sadr S. 1972).

The truth is that both Land Codes were poorly administered and didn‟t secure tenancy.
Moreover, both lacked proper provisions for land and water laws and both were non responsive
to the locals‟ customs and needs.
As a result, these land tenure systems had a negative effect on the landlord-tenant relationship as
well as on the lands; because the tenants have always lacked or lost the incentives to contribute
to the vigor of their lands, thus soil depletion and land degradation prevailed.

Nevertheless, in the recent history of Lebanon, a series of important events have had significant
effects on the lands, their owners, the tenants working on them, and their livelihoods (Table 1).
In addition, it has sometimes caused periods of land abandonment, degradation, and chaotic

Table 1. Main milestones in land tenure in Lebanon

Year          Milestone                                     Effect
              Islamic Government Era                        Put basis of all later land tenure systems
1850s         Farmers Movements                             Enactment of Ottoman Law of Land in 1858
1930          Enactment of Land Ownership Law               Still adopted today
1939          WW II                                         Migration;
1950s         Replacement of rain-fed crops with stone-     Administration and management of land tenure systems
              fruits production and the dissolution of      was chaotic esp. before the establishment of municipality
              traditional collective agro-pastoral system   councils
1960s         Municipalities establishment                  Organized, to an extent, the use of Public Lands
1975          Lebanese Wars                                 Migration, land abandonment and degradation, land
1982          Lebanese-Israeli War                          Migration; forest fires; land degradation and illegal
1983-84       Syrian Troops                                 Illegal land settlers on Private and Mashah Lands
1998          Municipality elections                        Creation of decentralized administration
2000s         Enactment of number of laws                    1- Create Natural reserves
                                                             2- Protection by decrees of some public lands
                                                             3- Organization of quarries operations

Land Tenure Systems Today

The present land tenure system in Lebanon emerged from the previous Land Codes, in particular,
from the French Law of 1930, which remained the principal reference although many
modifications were incorporated into it. The government tried to initiate a new cadastral system
to register ownership of land for all those who had proof of ownership. Yet, since many lands
were left unclaimed, the government assigned a period for tenants to raise claims for ownership.
As tenants did so, it only registered ownership for those who could prove their claim. And since
some lands remained unclaimed, they are still not registered. On the other hand, some of the left
Miri Lands became government property (Decision 3339/1970; Sadr S. 1972).

Under the present Land Code, lands are categorized into two major categories: Private and
Public/Mashah Lands which includes Waqf lands and Miri, Matruka, and Mawat lands
respectively. It is essential to distinguish here between two types of Mashah Lands: Al-Jamhouri
Lands with benefiting rights to the villagers and Al-Jomhouri Lands which belong to the

In terms of ownership individuals own private lands while public and Waqf lands are collectively
owned by the municipality/ Republic and the religious bodies. Yet, under both, the community
may be granted private rights for use. For instance, the community private rights under collective
management resembles rights given to the pastoralist community in a village to graze the Public

land which is managed by the municipality; and the community rights under individual
management resembles granting an extended family the right to use land owned by an individual.
In regard to the prevailing tenure arrangements, they resemble previous arrangements and consist

  1) Owner-operator: where the owner operates the land, so he provides all productive resources
      and then receives all production outputs.
  2) Renting: where a tenant rents land and operates it. He pays the cash rent and pays for all
      productive resources and receives all production outputs. The rent is determined by
      agreement between the landlord and tenant or as specified by common law.
  3) Sharecropping: where the landlord and tenant share the costs and returns of the „farming
      businesses‟. The share is determined by agreement or as specified by common law.
  4) Mixed: is not a tenure arrangement by itself but it represents the case for many tenants who
      hold more than one type of lease to increase their benefits.
Usually, owner-operator dominates the use on private lands while renting and sharecropping
organize uses of both private as well as public lands. In this system, tenure arrangements were
made according to the Law of Contracts. Thus, the rights of the landlord and the tenant must be
either as defined by custom or as the two parties agree (Sadr S. 1972).

But again this system is not devoid of problems. For instance, the government was not able to
land survey all lands. In addition, although the government enacted several relevant decrees and
decisions, the ambiguity of the legal texts as well as the absence of capable administrative
structures to follow up and monitor its proper implementation have allowed individuals and
groups to haphazardly exploit lands and claim their ownership: Matruka Lands and Al-Jamhouri
Mashah lands in particular. This situation increased the overlap between use rights and user
group rights over these lands causing conflicts that carried negative implications on both the
natural resources as well as on the users‟ livelihood. Moreover, in the near past, Lebanon has
faced a handful of unfortunate events that have produced ad hoc, unplanned, local regulatory
arrangements not covered by the law that prevails in usual conditions which later became sparks
of conflict.

   2. The legal and institutional framework for land tenure

The Legal framework governing Land tenure in Lebanon is well established where a number of
laws and decrees are enacted to organize the system. As well, a number of governmental
institutions have been granted responsibility in this issue. The most comprehensive law is „Law
of Land Ownership‟ enacted by Decision 3339 in 1930. This law defines land categories, land
ownership and usufruct, and specifies the different benefiting rights of user groups.

In a more specific discussion and in response to the fact that many Lebanese lands are still not
surveyed, the two land categories (surveyed and not surveyed) are governed by different legal
instruments. For the surveyed lands, Decision 188 of 1926 established the „Cadastral Registry‟ to
be their legal responsible institution and specified the scope and scale of its mission. According
to this Law, every piece of land that is surveyed should be registered in this registry and must
follow its rules. While, lands that are not yet surveyed are governed by Decision 186 of 1926 that
established the „Cadastral Judge‟ to be their legal responsible institution. The primary mission of

the „Cadastral Judge‟ is to land survey all Lebanese lands and transform their administration to
the „Cadastral Registry‟. Decision 188 specifies the process, procedures, and expenses of land
surveying. It is essential here to mention that the „Cadastral Judge‟ as well as the „Cadastral
Registry‟ follows the Ministry of Finance rather than the Ministry of Justice.

Also, the Lebanese laws differentiate, in terms of obligations and rights, between the two major
categories of lands: Public and Private. For instance, most Public properties follow the Ministry
of Interior as they are administered by the local municipalities. Yet, municipalities do not have
authority over all Public Lands (Mashah) in terms of trade. Some lands can not be sold unless the
municipality obtains a license through a ministerial decree.

Regarding Private Lands, the Ministry of Finance controls the operations related to Private lands
including transfer of property (baraet zemma) and taxations

   3. Critical intersections

Land rights and water rights
In Lebanon, and specifically in rural arid villages, water is an issue of high concern; especially
that these villagers‟ livelihoods are based on agro-pastoralism. For instance, pastoral production
needs a carefully structured system of drinking water sources for both humans and animals and
water scarcity should be taken into consideration in order to regulate water access in agricultural
production (Mehta L. et al, 2001).

Water rights, as sanctioned by the Ottoman code and the civil codes based on Islamic theory,
became rather confused over time (Warriner, 1948). For instance, the Ottomans tried protecting
all natural resources.
First, they prohibited its private ownership and considered it a common property if it is in Private
or Miri Lands and a Mashah if it is in Mashah or Mawat Lands. Second, they defined a diameter
around it that specifies it as protected land not entitled for plantation, registration, ownership or
trade. Yet, if the water source is a dug well in Mawat Lands, then by law, it becomes the
property of its digger, whether the government or individuals (Said A. 1995).

Nevertheless, the practical use of water from all water resources was managed and monitored by
the community. For instance, a water committee would be elected or selected from the villagers
whose role is to estimate needs (domestic and agricultural) and define allowed quantities then
monitor their implementation. Moreover, a „Natour el Mayy‟ would be selected to man the
resource and check that no family is taking more water than allocated to it. Basically this was the
scheme of management before water networks were channeled starting 1950s.

It is essential to mention that land is separated from its waters, and thus, in this context, water
rights became an individual property and was not necessarily „annexed‟ to the land where it
could be sold without water rights and vice versa.

Land and gender

Because women‟s land rights are crucial to their sustained livelihoods, their lack of land rights
threatens their living conditions, economic empowerment, physical security and their struggle
for equity and equality within a patriarchal society (ESCWA, 2003).
 In Lebanon, the laws are in general gender neutral yet the concrete situation especially in rural
areas proves the opposite. Women, without rights to land, suffer economic and physical
insecurity and are deprived from a reliable source of food and access to other inputs, especially
credit, necessary for carrying out productive activities. Limited access to credit and to extension
services further erodes women's capacity to maintain control over their lands underlining
Lebanon‟s obligation to protect their rights for the benefit of the whole society.

Major barriers to women acquiring land rights can be classified as socioeconomic which include
high female illiteracy rates and ignorance of land rights; in addition to the lack of resources to
claim these rights. Moreover, women suffer from the lack of capital and of collateral emphasized
by society that has led women to their oppression where they tend to accept that men are better
leaders than they are. This leads to the limited participation of women in decision-making and
management bodies in all issues, particularly land tenure.

Other legal barriers include:
National Land laws, although are non-discriminatory, yet do not have clauses that promote the
land rights of women. Moreover, their major drawback is that they are not harmonized with other
laws in the system. An equally important issue is that women‟s inheritances, in particular, and
land tenure and gender issues, in general, are governed by religious tribunals, thus making
Lebanese women unequal not only to men but also vis-à-vis each other. For instance, since 1959,
non-Muslim women are entitled to the same inheritance as male heirs, while to this day, most
Muslim women receive only half of that (Khouri G. unknown year). As well, there are some
religious communities that deprive women, who marry men from outside the family, to inherit
land because as she get married her property will become his (Said A. 1995).

Opportunities to improve the position of women in owning and controlling land:
Lebanese women have made great strides in improving their status under the leadership of
feminists such as forming the Committee for the Political Rights of Women, the Lebanese
Women's Council, and the Lebanese Association of Women Lawyers. Their efforts culminated
in Lebanon's ratification in 1996 of the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination against Women.

Another important note is that Lebanese women's absence from the decision-making sphere is
inconsistent with their advancement in education and employment that have been the result of
various UNDP, AUB, NGOs, and government based training courses, awareness campaigns,
community empowerment workshops, and capacity building sessions (Khouri G. unkown year).
Nevertheless, law reform giving legal recognition to women's rights to land remains the first step
necessary to promote gender parity in land and property rights.

   4. Entry points for intervention

Main trends in land tenure systems today:

Indeed, the emergence and protection by law of private lands have increased tenure security. Yet,
as generations grow these private lands are being fragmented and divided among heirs resulting
in smaller fragmented land parcels not efficient for investment. This fact has resulted in
abandonment of most of these lands thus negatively affecting their ecosystems. Moreover,
conflicts over exploitation of public lands remain a major drawback of the current land tenure
system especially that they are embedded in the social and political framework of the country.
Another issue to consider is the on and off alienation efforts where many lands are still not
alienated hindering their use opportunities and tax collection.

Moreover, a major trend nowadays is the municipalities‟ attempts to gain more authority on
Public Lands that grants them the right to exploit and sell these lands. For instance,
municipalities are currently requesting the government for the right to exploit Public/ Mashah
Lands. Yet, it has been leaked, that many municipalities have already illegally sold their Mashah
Lands (Ain Dara) whether to locals and even more serious to foreigners (Hamana).

In terms of contractual agreements, tenure arrangements were made according to the Law of
Contracts and the parties agree among each other on the rent, share, and period of the contract.
On other terms, and especially in rural areas where resources are scarce, villagers motivated by
subsistence, are forcing the government to accept their illegal practices (whether exploiting Al-
Jamhouri Lands, other Mashah Lands, or encroaching these lands) as necessary for living which
can be considered an emerging legal pluralism.

The main land tenure security problems experienced in Lebanon
 1. Land tenure insecurity: Land tenure is insecure for most rural inhabitants especially the
     poor, and mainly the farmers, because of the monopoly of the landlords and the corrupt
     administrative practices of traditional chiefs and government officials.
 2. Unclear or overlapping land rights: whether due to legal ambiguity or de facto practices
 3. Land encroachment and illegal settlers: farmers experienced tenure insecurity because of
     land encroachment and invasion by illegal settlers. Affected farmers cannot prevent
     invasions without legal protection.
 4. The existence of not surveyed lands

The following interventions are proposed to improve on the status quo on land tenure; at the
essence of which is the completion of land surveys:

A. Legal Interventions:
  Enactment of a Rural Code that organizes agricultural lands‟ exploitation relationships and
     obliges tenants to respect the land rotation practices.
  Enactment of legal texts that organize rangelands‟ management and release it from the
     customary control of tribes that doesn‟t specify responsibilities over its protection and
     grazing capacities and timings
  Development of laws that address land tenure security needs of the minority groups
     (Contracts should made in writing; and the term of the lease contracts should be extended
     to include more than one growing season; also, tenants should be privileged with the right
     of contract renewal).

    Speeding up the process of converting land policies to land laws and translate laws and
     policies into programs that are implemented on the ground.

B. Political /Institutional Interventions
  Develop transparent and accountable representative rural land institutions to coordinate
     with governmental institutions in this regard.
  Give power to the decentralized land administration structures to monitor and enforce
     sustainable land use.

C. Support Action
  Provide a total package. Security of tenure is insufficient on its own. It is therefore
     important to create an enabling framework that includes improving access to land, and
     provision of water rights, technology, markets, inputs, training and extension services.
  Design and implement training programs and disseminate to the public all new land
     policies or laws that improve land tenure security.
     (Baalbaki A. 2001)

     5. Good Practice

 1. Background

Location of the experience: Environmental and geographic setting
Arsaal is a large highland village spread over a wide marginal area (42,000 ha) on the western
slopes of the Anti-Lebanon mountains. The village located in the semi-arid North Eastern part of
the Bekaa valley receives an average rainfall depth of 300mm per year.
The area of Arsaal is geologically homogenous (C4- C5 hard limestone) but physiographically
complex. Three general areas may be visually distinguished: the highlands (Jurd) at the base of
which lie the valleys (Wadis), followed by the wide eastern plain. The natural landscape is
desiccated and treeless except in the Wadis were sediments, rainfall, and snowmelt concentrate,
giving life to a number of wild tree species such as pears and almonds. Elsewhere on the
highlands, agriculture may be practice in small depressions and at the footslopes. The Eastern
plain (Sharqi Zone) is dry and scorched with sparse native vegetation. The general
characteristics of these zones are the following:

 -   The high Jurd (elevation: 1950- 2400m) includes the summit zone that forms the Lebanese-
     Syrian borders. The area is remote and rarely visited except by few farmers and shepherds.
     Due to its cool climate, this was the traditional chick pea planting area, as terminal drought,
     a major problem in the Bekaa may be avoided.
 -   The Middle Jurd (elevation 1550 – 1950m) is characterized by mild slopes and the
     existence of a few relatively large cuvettes of level lands. This is traditionally the grazing
     land in Arsaal, but has become the prime land for orchard development.
 -   The Lower Jurd (elevation 1300- 1500m) lacks the agricultural and ecological potential of
     the other highland zones. The lands are steep and dissected by gullies, leaving a shallow
     and severely eroded soil. The landscape is barren with outstanding rocks. Some shallow
     unlined rain water catchment wells, locally called “the roman wells” are scattered in this
     area as well in the Sharqi area.

 -   The Wadis are an oasis of greenery in Arsaal. Whenever possible, lands have been
     reclaimed and farmed, although structural soil conservation measures are generally absent
     or inadequate. The main crops are grapes and figs with the occasional presence of some
     cherries and apricots in the highest parts. Due to the limited rainfall, water erosion is not as
     intense as one would predict on these steep lands. Regular damages are however caused by
     flash floods (seil).
 -   The Eastern plain (Sharqi), with its „yellow desert‟ soils and its vegetation dominated by
     Artemiasa Herba-alpa is the entrance to the Syrian Badia.

Arsaal soils are Aridisols, Entisols, Rendolls, and Alfisols with Lithic and Fluventic subgroups
on C4-C5 hard limestone bedrock. They are rich in calcium carbonate and available potassium,
but the high pH reduces the availability of macronutrients. Nitrogen and phosphorous are
deficient except in routinely fertilized fields. The level of organic matter is generally low, and a
weak structure reduces aggregate stability and soil permeability. This enhances runoff and sheet
erosion on gentle slopes, gully and rill erosion on steeper slopes and wind erosion on the eastern
plain. The mountain soils are generally shallow and lack conservation measures, while deeper
soils in depressions favor good root penetration and retain moisture. Even in deep soils route
development can be impeded by a cemented gravel layer.

Arsaal is the largest village in the Baalbeck Caza in terms of population where it counts 32,000
inhabitants, of whom half are under 20 years old. The village is isolated due to its geographical
position away from the main road network. The closest major market to Arsaal is Homs in Syria.

Resources and Livelihoods

In view of its natural resources constraints, Arsaal, known historically to be a resting ground for
transhumant Bedouins, developed into an agropastoral system worth more than 80,000 heads of
sheep and goats during the first half of the century. Cereals and pulses were cultivated for local
consumption and to provide feed items to the animals in Winter. The vast communal lands were
managed collectively for animal grazing purposes (Baalbaki 1997, unpublished).

A number of rapid social, political, and economic changes have taken place over the past 50
years (population increase, land tenure changes, market oriented economy). These changes
coincided with the introduction and successful production of rainfed fruit trees in the Jurd areas.
All these factors led to the decline of the once stable agropastoral system. Recent studies
indicated that the Jurd lands which used to be cultivated with cereals and pulses and provided
grazing lands for the Arsaali flocks are being massively and exclusively converted to stone fruit
orchards (Hamadeh, 2003). In a span of 40 years, an estimated 2 million trees were planted. This
shift towards the production of stone fruits has proved to be profitable (Talhouk, 1996) although
profitability is limited by transportation and marketing problems.

Approximately 75 % of the Arsaalis labor is in agriculture, from which almost 3375 households
earn their main income. Family farming is common due to the large average family size of about
6 persons, combined with a very limited agricultural labor market. However, the economic
importance of agro-pastoralism has declined below that of fruit production, military service, and
labor in quarries, break-cutting facilities and construction sites. In addition, seasonal agricultural

wage labor, shop keeping, business, trafficking and borders trading with Syria have become
major economic activities for some Arsaalis (Baalbaki, 1996). Women work in agriculture and
domestic food processing but are largely excluded from market labor.

The current flocks of sheep and goats partially sustain 165 families in Arsaal, who regard them
as cash stock that can be liquidated in times of need. The fruit trees production, now exceeding
2,000,000 trees provide income to about 80% of the Arsaali households.
The majority of Arsaali farmers operate on small scale farms: 59% of the farmers own 5 ha or
less, 26% own between 5 – 10 ha, and 15% own more than 10 ha. However, in terms of the area
that is actually cultivated, 85 % of the farmers have 5 ha or less, 13% have 5-10 ha, and only 2%
of farmers own more than 10 ha of cultivated land. Possible barriers to increase cultivation
include unsuitable lands, shortage of cash, and lack of financing facilities.

 However, the quarrying sector is developing fast. In 1996, there were 42 quarries and 40 break-
cutting establishments that provided jobs for 800 Arsaali laborers. Nowadays, the number
increase to 60 quarries. The Lebanese cabinet is considering a proposal to permit increased
quarries and break-cutting in Arsaal which if happened will have an irreversible impact on the
agricultural activities as well as livelihoods in general in Arsaal. About 60% of farmers use a
second job to earn off-farm income. The average annual on-farm income is about $2041, while
most money is provide by the second job with average off-farm income of $3366. Agricultural
income is becoming supplementary, as farmers change as part time farming, from the fulltime
work of the 1940s and 1950s. On other terms, migration in Arsaal is limited to Beirut with very
little immigration to overseas (Hamadeh S. et al, 1999).

Tenure regimes

The Land survey and land division of Arsaal lands began in 1947 and were concluded in 1965.
The tenure system includes:
   1. Matruka Lands (Mashah): divided into Jomhouri representing about ¼ of the Mashah
       total area; and Jomhouri with benefiting rights to Arsaal village representing the
       remaining ¾ of the Mashah area. Matruka lands represent about 40% of the total area of
   2. Private lands: divided into the agricultural Miri lands covering about 60% of the total
       area of Arsaal and Private ownerships including houses and their yards totaling 3% of the
       area of Arsaal (ElSheb K. 2002).

 2. Description of the Experience

The Tenure Problem
The decline of the traditional agro-pastoral system was triggered by official land surveys
undertaken in 1945, along with the introduction and successful production of fruit trees in the
1950‟s. Both factors led farmers to expropriate communal land previously managed for grazing
purposes and plant it with stone fruit trees. The trend escalated during the war due to the
breakdown of local authorities and the reverse migration from cities. The same period witnessed
the development of rock extraction and quarrying activities, an intensification of smuggling
across the Syrian-Lebanese border and the enrolment of young Arsaali in local militias and later

on in the national army and security forces. All of these rapid changes prevented the
development of a sound land management strategy. This state of socio-economic and political
disorientation was further exacerbated by the absence of national policies for rural development.

The breakdown of the traditional resource management practices that occurred in 1965 led to
thedismantle and complete paralysis of the local municipality and was perpetuated during the
decades of civil unrest. Prior to 1965, the communal land (Matruka) was managed through a
collective tribal council that insured the common interest of the whole community and was
compatible with the prevailing agropastoral system. After 1965, the4 collective management
system collapsed and gave way to conflictual administration that led to the expropriation (main
mise) of sizable plots (around 1000 ha) either for tree planting, quarrying or building purposes.

The overall picture reflected a society in transition from an agro-pastoral system to a more
diversified livelihood integrating rain-fed fruit production, quarrying and related activities and
off-farm jobs in addition to the traditional sheep and goat and cereal/pulses production.
Traditional management strategies based on community consensus had given way to conflict
over land use among animal herders, fruit growers and quarry owners displaying increasing
socio-political influence from the latter group. The conflict was highly entangled in the
traditional family web of the village. In spite of the ramifications that these conflicts introduced
within families and clans, the latter traditional structures showed a good degree of resilience. In
summary, the Arsaali society was in a prolonged state of disequilibria, crisis and crisis
management ( Hamadeh S. et al, unpublished).

The conflicting status of the Matruka Lands led to (ElSheb K. 2002):
   1. Open access to uncontrolled grazing that led to the loss of a big part of its flora and to a
       decrease in its grazing capacity
   2. Sliding and erosion of soils in the north and north east areas especially that these areas
       are vulnerable to flash floods because of its light soil and steep nature. This has led to
       devastating damages to the Matruka and agricultural lands
   3. The conflict and competition among quarries‟ owners to rule more Matruka Lands
   4. Damages to the agricultural lands and part of the fruit trees from the quarries‟ activities
       which put the quarries‟ owners and farmers in a continuous conflict

The Problems and barriers preventing the development of a sound land management strategy in
Arsaal are (ElSheb K. 2002; Hamadeh S. et al, unpublished):

A) The Legal Barriers consisting of either conflicting laws or legal controversies over
law interpretations. The land surveying and verification of rights activities of the Matruka Lands
made Arsaal an exception to the North Bekaa villages where Matruka lands were divided into
municipality property and Matruka Lands (morfaka), and administration and benefiting rights of
families and tribes were verified such as in Hermel Village; whereas in Arsaal, the Matruka lands
were divided into Al-Jamhouri Land and Al-Jamhouri Land with benefiting rights to the
With the enactment of the Law 47/1971 that entailed the modification of Article 7 of Law
275/1926 which transferred the administration and ownership of Matruka lands (morfaka) to
municipalities and village committees, references in the administration disagreed on the

validation of the Law 47/1971 on the Al Jamhouri Lands with benefiting rights to the villagers as
is the case in the principal part of the Arsaali Matruka Lands. This conflict hindered the
possibility for the municipality to administer these lands.
The Law 3339/1926 and the French Mandatory Power representative‟s Decision of 1927 related
to this law clarifies that benefiting rights include “grazing, collecting firewood, and excavating
of building stones”.

B) Persisting Local Conflicts
The year of 1998 saw the election of the first municipal council in 35 years and the community
acquired an administrative body which faced the challenge of managing several forms of land
use and their conflicting requirements. The election, however, was largely thought of and
conducted in terms of familial alignments with an emerging political majority weighing in favour
of the quarrying sector, thus leading to the formation of a Municipal Council that knew little
about local administration and lacked the perception required to develop local resources.
Municipal candidates elected to the council were not subject to screening on any criteria
involving experience and personal skills in the field of local development. A quick look at the
Council action plan reveals it deals with basic infrastructure. Issues pertaining to the
management of natural resources are absent. The only natural resource issue it addresses is the
presence of the quarries in communal land.

Herders who collectively own 8% of the total ruminant population in Lebanon were unable to
constitute a pressure group amongst other sectors of the Arsaal economy. This drawback is due
to the fact that owners of the largest flocks (500 to 1500 heads) spend prolonged periods of time
outside the boundaries of the town, hence depending very little on local pastures. As for owners
of smaller and medium sized flocks (the vast majority of flock owners fall within this category),
revenue from animal husbandry ranks second. These depend entirely on hand feeding and
grazing in the outskirts of the village.

As for the owners of orchards, their fate was similar to that of a large number of Lebanese in
rural communities who fail to recognize the Municipal Council‟s limitations as organization
dealing with production issues, but only as one providing basic public services and issuing
construction permits. This classical understanding of the role of municipal councils did not
develop much.       Consequently, the council was never perceived as a potential local
administration, which can play an active role in a variety of issues. In contrast, the owners of
quarries and sawmills were able to join forces in creating a strong lobby in Arsaal. The efficacy
of this union was demonstrated during the municipal elections by their level of participation; out
of 42 candidates who joined the campaign, 11 were quarry and sawmill owners, 5 of whom were
elected to the municipal council.

Tenure related activity

A Lebanese case study, conducted in 1991-1993 within the context of a regional project initiated
by ICARDA, focused on changes in resource management systems in Arsaal. The study revealed
a massive conversion from a traditional cereal/livestock based economy to a rainfed stone fruit
production system. A follow up study funded by the International Development Research Center
aimed at analyzing components of changes, trends and sustainability in the emerging production

system, and at improving prospects for sustainable community development. The land-use
system in Arsaal including socio-economic components was characterized, and its resource base
was assessed, with an emphasis on soil and water conservation strategies. Local beneficiaries
were involved during different stages of the project and strengthening of local capacities was
sought through the establishment of a local users‟ network (LUN).


LUN constituted the vehicle for addressing the pressing needs of the community in natural
resource management and provided an environment in which conflict resolution could take place
as the needs of both parties could be voiced and compromises explored.

LUN was able to adjust to the evolution of the political scene in the village and quickly moved to
include the newly elected municipality at the centre of its activities. The municipality was even
influenced by the LUN to rearrange its priorities and direct resources towards pressing
community needs.

Conflict Resolution

Early meetings held to discuss the conflict issues among the parties revealed a reluctance to
engage in dialogue. After a few stalling sessions, our communication unit suggested using visual
images to facilitate the dialogue initiation process. Initially, the representatives of the conflicting
parties who refused to discuss the conflict were interviewed and filmed separately. Then the
video was projected in the presence of all parties followed by a discussion which was also
documented on film. The final step was to project the new video to a larger audience, implicating
more people from the whole village, until a positive dialogue started emerging from the
audience. The moment of consensus was also filmed and formulated by a local facilitator into a
set of specific recommendations for follow up.

The conflicting parties agreed to refer to the local authorities (municipality and Mukhtars) and
entrust them to develop and recommend different scenarios for land use management in the
village. Participants agreed on a list of recommendations and follow-up actions. A follow-up
mixed committee (scientists, government, and farmers) was then formed to work on the
implementation of these recommendations such as lobbying the Ministry of Agriculture for the
establishment of an extension office in Arsaal.
  3. Results and Lessons Learnt


Under the umbrella of the LUN, a specialized platform for natural resource management was
initiated. The objective of the platform is to bring actors currently active in natural resource
management together in joint research and development activities. The platform facilitated the
development of a jointly agreed local development agenda. All user groups in the community
approved the agenda: the municipality, NGO's, cooperatives and sectorial representatives.
Donors and policy makers also agreed to coordinate their efforts through the natural resource
management platform to deal with issues in the agenda and several interventions are now being

implemented. Moreover, a municipal delegation met with the Prime Minister to urge the
government to help in clarifying the legal discrepancy of the users‟ rights issue; yet, the answer
was disappointing as the issue was delayed.

A participatory land management process was initiated and resulted in supporting decision
making about land use planning and land zoning for grazing and quarrying activities in the
village. A range management and rehabilitation program was started and included the
establishment of a nursery for forage shrub production, range protection, rehabilitation
agreements with the municipality and intercropping vetch under the fruit trees in orchards.
Rainwater and snowmelt harvesting techniques were developed and introduced and are currently
being tested in several locations.

Also, the project facilitated the establishment of a new institutional framework for herders to
come together and put forth their arguments of land use. Hence, the Herders‟ Cooperative was
established to translate research findings into economic development and socio-political
empowerment; where herders, traditional users of Arsaali lands for grazing, are organized to
defend their land tenure rights and discuss the issue with the municipality. In addition, as
livestock herders form a marginal group in the society, their organization in cooperatives gave
them the framework to communicate with decision makers and the ability to express their needs
and work on satisfying them.
Today, 3 years after the livestock cooperative was founded, it has become independent from the
project, and extremely active in development issues. For instance, it is participating in nation-
wide initiatives such as the elaboration of National Action Program for Combating

Lessons Learned, Policy Implications, and Elements of Key Importance

The project has been, to an extent, successful in initiating a conflict resolution process among the
Arsaali land user groups. Yet, the conflict has not been completely eliminated. In fact, a major
lesson learnt from this experience, which is at the same time the reason why this intervention
succeeded partially is that land tenure issues are, normally, governed, protected, and solved by
legal instruments. Thus, external powers and factors and not local user groups and institutions
are involved in the formulation of land tenure systems. And since legal instruments are discussed
and enacted on the governmental level, a national intervention alone is adequate to control and
resolve such conflicts resulting over discrepancies in law interpretations.

Thus the existing legal controversies as well as discrepancies in the interpretation of group rights
over Mashah Land use has been a major hindrance to the resolution of conflicts over land use in
Arsaal. This underlines that in the absence of national policies; only government intervention is
the adequate solution because any local action will be limited due to local conflict. Local action
in Arsaal was basically a grass root initiative yet due to the absence of a local authority for a long
time and later due to its political affiliation has given dominance to powerful users‟ group, who
reflect the national political power balances. This resulted in quarry owners dominating land
uses, further marginalizing the rights and needs of other user groups, supported by a national
master plan that shifts all quarrying activities to Bekaa valley including Arsaal.

Nevertheless, and because in Arsaal issues tend to be ultimately solved by traditional custom,
Arsaalis over time have turned into livelihood diversification as an adapting strategy. This has
resulted in a state of de facto legal pluralism at the local level..


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