American University of Beirut

 Current Projects

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​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.

MEDSNAIL: Sustainable Networks for Agro-food Innovation ​Leading in the Mediterranean​

Mediterranean basin countries present a rich variety of agro-food products deeply rooted in local culture and biodiversity and representative of the Mediterranean diet. These territories also share common issues and challenges in the agro-food sector such as gradual loss of local varieties, rural poverty (mostly affecting women), limited investment capacity of rural entrepreneurs and lack of training on socio- environmental sustainability, business planning, and marketing strategies. 
MedSNAIL intends to tackle these issues by fostering the valorization and development of small-scale traditional agro-food value chains, combining enhancement of market potentialities and socio-environmental sustainability. Project activities will build on the well-established experience, principles and methods of SlowFood, an international grassroots organization promoting traditional food with a strong focus on biodiversity preservation.

This project is funded by the European Union under the ENI CBC MED Programme.

Aims of the project:

Fostering socially and environmentally sustainable development of agro-food SMEs by valorizing traditional Euro-Mediterranean products according to a “slow” approach and short-chain principles.

Specific objectives:
- Structuring and testing consultancy, support and training services to be provided to local actors (agro-food SMEs, public authorities) in order to raise awareness on the SLOW principles and define new pathways for a sustainable and durable development, beyond major economic trends
- Promoting clustering of traditional products/producers, through a common approach to selected products in the cooperation area, thus increasing their visibility and diffusion in domestic and Euro-Mediterranean markets and triggering rural development while preserving local heritage and identity

Expected results:

MedSNAIL Legacy:
This is a final document summarizing results achieved and lessons learnt, suitable for being used as a main output for updating the project methodology in view of its replicability and capitalization. Indeed it will be used during the capitalization seminars

New memberships of Terra Madre network: 
Selected MedSNAIL target groups (especially MSMEs) will be included in the broader program of Terra Madre, an international network of food-related stakeholders (food producers, chefs, academics, NGOs, representatives of local communities, etc.) working together to establish a system of good, clean and fair food from the grassroots level. The output is delivered with selected MSMEs’ participation in Terra Madre biannual event in Turin (IT) in 2020

Sustainable food value chain pilot projects:
Pilot projects will aim at valorizing and enhancing specific local food productions, improving the related value chain and encouraging the adoption of sustainable business models and marketing initiatives; therefore, they will be designed on the model of Slow Food Presidia, e.g. small networks of producers involved in the production of a specific food that respects the good-clean-&-fair criterion. At least half of them will realistically achieve Slow Food certification as Presidia

Marketing and promotion tools:
They will be developed starting from the second year of the project, once the action framework is already established. Tools to be implemented include: 6 farmers’ markets (of which at least 3 Slow Food Earth Markets), 6 narrative labels for as many target products, 1 Euro-Mediterranean Chef Alliance. Setting the tools will also require the involvement of a larger number of target groups, including also local authorities (i.e. municipalities for farmers’ markets), restaurateurs, chefs, etcSlow-hubs for quality 

Consultancy services to SMEs:
Slow-hubs launched in each partner region will be permanent networks/clusters of stakeholders to consolidate the food communities and guarantee a proactive participation even after the end of the project. Their coordinated action will contribute to create new initiatives and policies at the regional and cross–border level and reach the critical mass that is necessary for the start-up and capitalization of significant economic growth.


Project total budget: 2.028.807,74 €
ENI Contribution (90%): 1.825.926,97 €
Project duration: 36 months /meses​

CountryOfficial name of the organization in English
SpainAndalusian Federation of Towns and Provinces
Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity
LebanonAmerican University of Beirut
PalestineThe Rural Women's Development Society Economic, social and political Empowerment for rural women's (RWDS)
TunisiaUniversity of Sfax
Malta Gozo Regional Committee
JordanWomen for Cultural Development (Namaa)

CLIMAT Project and REEF Initiative

The Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU) at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences (FAFS) at AUB launched the Climate-Smart Livelihoods Initiatives and Market Access Tailoring (CLIMAT) project to improve the skills, capacities, and livelihood opportunities of vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugees in Northeast Baalbeck and West Beqaa.

CLIMAT is a one-year project implemented by ESDU in partnership with Cooperation Without Borders (CWB) and funded by the German Cooperation under the World Food Program's (WFP) “Enhancing the livelihoods of Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese host communities through Food for Training (FFT)." CLIMAT aims at building the capacities of women, youth, and farmers (individuals and agriculture cooperatives) on sustainable agricultural practices and climate-smart food processing. Beneficiaries are offered material support, and market linkages are created. CLIMAT tackles three value chains: small ruminant production (wool and carpet production, dairy processing, and herd/pasture management), alternative and climate-smart agricultural crop production, and agro-food processing.

Read more​...​

Regional Networking: KariaNet

​​KariaNet – Knowledge Access for Rural Inter-connected Areas Network -  (www.​, is a regional network for the management and sharing of knowledge, information and experience in agriculture and rural development, covering  10 countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region: Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen. 

KariaNet is a multi-stakeholder partnership between IFAD (​), IDRC (​), and IFAD-financed projects in the NENA region (Near East and North Africa). Activities are coordinated across the networks and throughout the MENA region through a small, regionally based, secretariat.

​​Community Kitchens

​​The Purpose of this project is: 1) To support an existing community kitchen in Khiara, West Bekaa lead by Syrian refugees and Lebanese women and providing food assistance to vulnerable families and try to link it to small farmers in the area. 2) To support the start-up of a community kitchen in Old Saida where Syrian & Palestinian refugees and Lebanese women would cook jointly to provide food assistance to vulnerable families.​ For more info: Community Kitchens.pdf.

Food Security and Ec​onomic Resilience 

Under the project “Reducing Vulnerability of Syrian Refugees and Lebanese in Lebanon” in collaboration with the Near East Foundation, ESDU will build the skills of around 170 Syrian refugees and Lebanese to support the development of home-based productive activities or small businesses related to agricultural productive activities and food processing. The areas of intervention are spread between (1) Minie and Berqayel (North Governorate); and (2) Taanayel (Bekaa Governorate).​​ For more info: Food Security and Economic Resilience.pdf

​​​​Food Tr​​​ail

The Environment and Sustainable Development Unit (ESDU), in collaboration with the Food Heritage Foundation and the Shouf Cedar Biosphere Reserve established “darb el karam”, a food tourism trail connecting 9 villages in West Bekaa and Higher Shouf. This project, funded by USAID in the framework of Lebanon Industry Value Chain Development project, is the first project of its kind in Lebanon and the region. For more info: darb el karam.pdf

The heritage trail is divided into five sections: the Goat Trail, the Wild Edible Plants Trail, the Tomato Trail, the Olive Trail​, and the H​arvest Trail​.

Visit the website​.

darbelkaram map.png

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