American University of Beirut

 ​​The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) highlighted the work of ESDU in the following article.

 About ESDU

Introducing the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU)

The Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) is a regional R&D center hosted at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the American University of Beirut since 2001.

ESDU has been promoting, through large community development projects. sustainable rural livelihoods all over Lebanon. The Unit focuses on participatory development and capacity building through knowledge management and sharing, appropriate technologies, and impact analysis with particular attention to smallholder farmers, women, and youth in the rural areas. ESDU has been engaged in various regional capacity building, rural livelihoods, and food security initiatives.

In 2013, ESDU established the Food Heritage Foundation (FHF), a non-profit organization, aiming at promoting Local Food Systems and conserving Lebanon's collective memory and indigenous knowledge through the preservation, documentation, and revival of Lebanon's traditional food heritage. ESDU has been working closely with FHF to ensure the sustainability of the impact of ESDU's projects.

ESDU has championed a multidisciplinary and participatory approach in the development, to help ensure that its research is grounded in the needs of local people. ESDU focuses on the community development and capacity building through: 

  • Sharing knowledge, skills and experiences
  • Encouraging sustainable technologies and practices
  • Promoting sustainable rural livelihoods
  • Supporting smallholder famers and producers
  • Empowering women and youth in rural areas across Lebanon 
  • Promoting the local food system.​
ESDU seeks to serve and empower marginalized and rural communities by delivering research, education, training and outreach programs designed to promote sustainable livelihoods.



ESDU seeks to serve and empower marginalized and rural communities by delivering research, education, training and outreach programs designed to promote sustainable livelihoods.


Attaining a network of self-generative eco-communities through a multi-faceted/multi-sectorial approach integrating climate smart agriculture, circular economy and local food systems.


  • Livelihoods At Work: Serving local communities through people-centered approach
  • Exploring Solutions And Defying Uncertainties: Promoting local food system and addressing challenges of small-scale farmers
  • ESDU For Vulnerable Communities: Enhancing resilience of vulnerable local communities and refugees, building their capacities on sustainable agriculture and food production
  • Keepers Of The Land: Recognizing the role of local communities (with a special focus on women) in preserving the land


  • ​In 2019, ESDU was selected by Food Tank as one of the initiatives Redefining Food and Agriculture across the Middle East.

  • In 2020, the CLIMAT project - funded by the German Cooperation through WFP and implemented by ESDU in partnership with Cooperation without Borders - was nominated winner of the Khalifa Date Palm Award for the category Pioneering Development and Productive Projects.

  • In 2020, ESDU's Ardi Ardak Initiative was featured by FAO as an Enabling Agricultural Innovation System (AIS) Actor for Covid-19 Response. (Learn more)

  • In 2021, ESDU's FHF was selected by the University of Guelph's Arrell Food Institute (AFI) as the winner of the "Arrell Global Food Innovation Award" for the Community Engagement Innovation category.


The International Development Research Center (IDRC) has been a privileged intellectual partner and its support acted as a major catalyst for establishing ESDU. Our list of institutional partners also includes:

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
  • Near East Foundation (NEF)
  • RUAF Foundation (Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food Security)
  • United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  • The World Food Programme (WFP)
  • Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)
  • Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB).
  • Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED).
  • Cooperazione Per Lo Sviluppo Dei Paesi Emergenti (COSPE)
  • Concern Worldwide (CWW)                                                                             ​

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