Lebanon CSP Transforming Lives – Ain Ebel
Southern Lebanese Town Witnesses Revitalization of Local Economic Opportunities USAID Intervention Revives Eco-Tourism and Livelihoods in Ain Ebel
Located in the scenic and mountainous region of Nabatieh, South Lebanon, the town of Ain Ebel has suffered significant economic hardship due to its remote location and proximity to Lebanon’s southern border. Despite a strong sense of local pride and attachment shared by the town’s residents, dwindling economic opportunities, especially among the youth, has forced many to move away in search of better futures. Moreover, Lebanon’s ongoing socio-economic crisis coupled with government-imposed lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic have further exacerbated Ain Ebel’s livelihoods challenges.
Although the town’s geographic location has long been a factor limiting local economic opportunities, the unique natural beauty of Nabatieh and the town’s intimate atmosphere had the potential to make it a popular attraction for national and international visitors.
With the objective of attracting more visitors and enhancing economic opportunities for local shopkeepers and residents, USAID’s Community Support Program (CSP) supported Ain Ebel to develop its tourism sector by establishing a cultural hiking trail and upgrading the town’s market square and festival grounds. At the same time, CSP trained the municipality and members of local NGO – Activists Working for Ain Ebel (AWFA) – on the trail’s maintenance, guest house management, the planning of markets and festival events, and storing and maintaining the furniture and equipment provided by CSP. “Our participation in USAID’s training sessions with the municipality to enhance tourism reinforced our sense of belonging to the village and strengthened our ability to sustainably improve local livelihoods”, stated Bashir Diab, President of AWFA. On October 30, 2021, over one hundred residents from Ain Ebel and neighboring villages attended the signing of an MOU between the municipality and Lebanon Mountain Trail Association, marking its official registration on Lebanon’s map of hiking trails, and further enhancing the town’s touristic visibility.
“We love our village and talk about it with passion,” declared Maroun Kreish, Ain Ebel trail guide, “Thanks to USAID’s assistance, we learned to promote it in an organized way, which is why tourists end up loving our village as we do.” Next to him, Samara Haddad, a visiting hiker who had just completed the trail, reaffirmed Maroun’s statement: “The trail is now well organized, and the people are knowledgeable about the history, making the hike even more enjoyable.”
Trail guides such as Maroun are not the only ones who have witnessed improved livelihoods in Ain Ebel. After completing the hiking trail, visitors are encouraged to enjoy local food, products, and events at the town’s upgraded market square and festival grounds. “We have many goods produced in Ain Ebel, but the spike in fuel prices made it impossible to transport our products,” explained Ghada El Khoury, resident of Ain Ebel. “The village’s revived market square is drawing visitors here, providing local producers with much-needed income, especially amidst this difficult context.”
Standing behind a kiosk displaying her wide range of local products, Inaam Diab still cannot believe the change brought on by the intervention: “This has really changed our lives as local producers. I earn the equivalent of six months’ income in a single day at the market!” she enthused.
A video showcasing CSP’s impact in Ain Ebel is available online, along with testimonies from local residents on how the project has impacted their community.
“This project offers a unique opportunity to sustainably improve livelihoods in Ain Ebel and place it on the touristic map of Lebanon. It is creating much-needed economic opportunities amidst these difficult times,”
Imad Lallous, Head of Ain Ebel Municipality