ESDU serves as a regional interdisciplinary research center, provides training, services and consultancies and hosts several large community-development projects. These projects respond to special needs or opportunities that fall outside the conventional research frameworks of individual disciplines. Our strategic plan for 2011-2014 encompasses three regional initiatives:
1. Urban Agriculture and Food Security
Since 2006 ESDU serves as one of the 7 centers which constitute the RUAF Foundation (Resource Centers on Urban Agriculture and Food Security). We have been active partners in RUAF’s Cities Farming for the Future program (2007-2008) as well as the Seed to Table program (2009-2011) during which we operated 2 project offices in Amman (Jordan) and Sana’a (Yemen) in addition to our regional base in Beirut. Click here to access our public website on Urban Agriculture in MENA which has ample details about our projects and programmes. ESDU also believes that one of the solutions to addressing the food security problem in MENA is to preserve the indigenous food traditions which are increasingly threatened by rampant globalization. Two ESDU-led initiatives have matured into self-funded initiatives that provide a hands-on interface on how we envisage Food Security in action:
The Healthy Basket Project which was initiated in 2001 to improve Lebanese farmers’ livelihood in rural areas, preserving the environment and protecting human health by adopting organic agriculture as a key strategy, through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) approach. Since 2007 the Healthy Basket operates as a self-sustaining responsible business venture. More information can be accessed here .
The Food Heritage Foundation Launched in 2007 as an outcome of two R&D projects on diet diversity and wild edible plants and which aims at establishing an exhaustive inventory of the Lebanese traditional Food Heritage while encouraging rural and urban women to preserve this heritage, transmit it from one generation to another, and transform it into an income generating activity. The Foundation operates as an independent entity while keeping close scientific linkages with ESDU.
2. Advancing Development Evaluation Theory and Practice in the MENA region
In 2006, we started collaborating with the evaluation unit of IDRC on the Arabization of Outcome Mapping. The project catalyzed considerable interest from the evaluation community across the region and culminated by the project "Mainstreaming Evaluation Theory and Practice in MENA". One of the major outputs of the project was the establishing the virtual MENA Evaluators platform which has been recognized by the IOCE (the International Organization for Cooperationin Evaluation ) as the representative of the MENA region within the global evaluation community. More information about the project’s activities and outputs can be found here.The project “Mainstreaming Evaluation Theory and Practice in the MENA region” extended from January 2011 until November 2014 with the major milestone, the organization of the closing workshop of the project (technically the 3rd EvalMENA General Assembly) in Amman – Jordan in April 2014. Click here for more. However, the project is still “alive” and continuing to grow and gain momentum, as it has been clearly observed during the 4th General Assembly of EvalMENA which was organized in Cairo - Egypt - Feb. 22 - 26, 2015. The MENA Region Celebrated EvalYear’2015" was the title of the 4th General Assembly of the MENA region and which mobilized alongside with IDRC and ESDU several other institutional partners such as The International Organization on Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE) and EvalPartners Initiative, the UNICEF Regional Office for MENA (MENARO), the International Initiative on Impact Evaluation (3IE) and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) which is part of the Islamic Development Bank. The link, which reflects: "the most comprehensive coverage of a conference I have ever seen and the greatest piece of news on evaluation I have ever come across" as per Ziad Moussa - Capacity Development & Outreach Officer at ESDU (and President of the International Organization on Cooperation in Evaluation- IOCE- for 2015-2016).
3. Communication for Development
ESDU was the only representative from the MENA region in the World Congress on Communication for Development which was organized by the World Bank and FAO in Rome in 2006. Since then, ESDU has been partnering with FAO and IFAD on various initiatives aiming at advancing ComDev in the MENA region, most notably through establishing a bilingual portal on ComDev in English and Arabic, capacity building initiatives for ComDev practitioners and the translation and contextualization of various ComDev resources. More info on ComDev activities of ESDU can be found here.