Hima: Sustainability as it was and will be again – local.

Hima – the West Asian, Arabic, Muslim way to sustainability is coming back as new focus is put on the old ways.

Local people in the rural and nomadic lands have for thousands of years had environmental planning and management practices that balanced the settlements growth and natural resources in accordance with nature, Islamic laws and local self-government. This was an important factor in the development of and the cultural and spiritual survival of local communities.

In the old days there was most times a common understanding of the need for this, all took part and participation was voluntary.

Changes due to increased use of technology have put this system in jeopardy as large scale systems have been introduced: large areas under cultivation, large herds, transport over long distances by trucks. The ownership is often transferred out of the areas.

But the old ways are possibly the best—reviving traditional knowledge in West Asia is now starting.

A himá (an inviolate zone) is an area set aside for the conservation of natural capital, fields, wildlife and forests.

A Muslim has an obligation to practice khalifa (”stewardship”) over nature, and each species of animals is said to be “its own nation”. Human beings are God’s representatives on earth, and if they are not charged with maintaining the world, they must not destroy it.

There are several types of hima: areas where grazing of domestic animals is prohibited or restricted, beekeeping reserves with restricted grazing, forest areas where cutting of trees is forbidden, resources or reserves managed for the welfare of a village, town or tribe.

As an example this ancient conservation practice from the Arabian desert and more than 1,500 years old is now being revived in Lebanon. The local population rather than a distant authority decides how to manage ecosystems and how to reap their benefits.

Himas are areas set aside seasonally to allow regeneration of renewable natural resources and secure their sustainable use by the people living next to them. Time and political changes have led to their near disappearance.

Now a region-wide effort is underway to revitalize himas and other conservation traditions. For hundreds of years hima promoted sharing of resources, social inclusion, sustainable use and management of scarce resources, rights and ethics. It is testimony to the wisdom that the people of Arabia showed in managing their harsh and resource-scarce environment.

IUCN’s Office for West Asia (ROWA) and its partners has prepared a roadmap to advance Hima through developing the knowledge, policies and implementation of this concept. The workshop produced a publication titled Al-Hima: A way of life.

Jordan is also taking part.

The old ways are sustainable – and they are coming back.

See link: IUCN Hima

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2 Responses to “Hima: Sustainability as it was and will be again – local.”

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