A trail leading to a hidden waterfall; a small Roman ruin overgrown with weeds; a local bakery making delectable manakeesh; there are hundreds of little known natural and cultural treasures along the back roads of Lebanon’s rich and diverse countryside. But how to find them and make this knowledge accessible? A new app from AUB’s Nature Conservation Center (NCC) aims to do just that.
LDEM Professor Salma Talhouk, who is interested in contributing to the interdisciplinary initiatives at AUB, is the Principal investigator of this project under the umbrella of the NCC center. Five years ago the whole project started as a map on paper, and Lama Tawk, ecosystem management student, worked with Dr. Talhouk to develop the research aspect at the early phases of this project. Her thesis was about participatory mapping of natural and cultural heritage.
As part of its mission to help people become guardians of their nature, the NCC has partnered with Fondation Diane to create an exciting new mobile application that aims to locate the hidden gems of Lebanon in order to make them known to the broader public and ultimately help preserve them for future generations.
The Daskara app is being designed and built as a free digital platform that is intended to grow via crowdsourcing and serve as a repository of insider information on the plethora of natural and cultural sites in Lebanon. With their community-driven approach, the NCC has been partnering with local citizens throughout the country and has invited them to work collectively to improve the sustainability of their villages and encourage eco-tourism.
The plan is that local residents and experts will contribute to expanding the Daskara database; local experts will manage the content of contributors; and travelers will learn from and share with the local communities.
The app will connect explorers and tourists to diverse localities throughout the country, helping them discover authentic places and experiences. It will help people find nature and leisure activities, sports and recreation facilities, cultural places and landmarks, eco-friendly sites, food and lodging, and public and non-governmental services.
It will also serve as a tool for those in the region or part of the Lebanese diaspora who want to actively engage in nature conservation and heritage preservation. With the touch of a button, users will be able to donate their time or money to sustainable development projects in the hometowns and villages they hold dear.
Daskara grew out of a participatory research project begun in 2010 by NCC—called baldati bi’ati—that worked with 80 Lebanese citizen councils to produce maps of their towns reflecting local interests and knowledge and including cultural and natural landmarks. With recent backing from Fondation Diane and its green investment fund, Viridis, this project is undergoing a digital makeover to become the Daskara app.
Fondation Diane is an NGO with the vision of making Lebanon a pioneer in sustainable development by promoting the value of its natural resources. Through their Viridis investment fund, they identify green initiatives to support and saw great potential in the Daskara project of NCC.
Starting in Lebanon with an eye toward expanding globally, the app is expected to launch in spring 2018 and will be available on iOS and Android devices as well as online. As an interdisciplinary academic research center, the NCC also plans to utilize the data collected through Daskara for multidisciplinary research projects, such as investigating whether local participatory mapping of cultural ecosystem services helps build a sense of place; giving meaning and encouraging attachment to a place.
If you would like to contribute to building the Daskara database with your own local knowledge, get in touch with the NCC team at email@example.com or visit the Daskara website: www.daskaraapp.com
Written by: Jennifer Muller, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Salim Batlouni