Landscape has the power to inspire, captivate, and mobilize people. While the developing concept of landscape may be difficult to grasp, in some parts of the world the idea of landscape is in a more advanced state than in Lebanon. Dr. Maria Gabriella Trovato, Assistant Professor in Landscape Design & Ecosystem Management at FAFS, believes that the EuropeAid research project she is currently working on SWaM Akkar: Supporting Sustainable Solid Waste Management in Jurd al-Kaytee, Akkar, provides a concrete approach to demonstrate the importance and validity of landscape as a tool in the planning process of Lebanese territories. The SWaM Akkar project focuses on planning and management of solid waste in North Lebanon.
Lebanon faces continuing challenges related to waste management: waste poses significant repercussions on health, production, and pollution for not only present but also future generations. Dr. Trovato explored linking landscape with waste management as a tool to address both the physical and technical components, and the intangible features of the landscape, those related to culture, society, and the values of the landscape. Trovato’s approach is based on the use of Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) and Landscape Capacity in the planning service provision systems, such as the solid waste management. Both are useful tools to help create links between human societies and their specific environment. Landscape character assessment (LCA) is the process of identifying and describing the unique combination of elements and features that make a given landscape distinctive. It provides a framework to identify and assess landscapes, understand their change, and develop landscape quality objectives in partnership with all stakeholders.
Land use and landscape planning decisions are informed increasingly by landscape character assessment (LCA) studies, the primary tool utilized by Trovato in her work to identify and describe variations in landscape character. LCA must be an effective tool for decision-making in the integrated sustainable waste management planning process, as solid waste directly and indirectly affects the landscape. Healthy landscapes are fundamental for the future. Thus, landscape is one of the key policies themes for environmental and territorial sustainability.
In an earlier European project, MEDSCAPES, with partners from the Eastern Mediterranean region, Dr. Trovato developed a methodology for landscape assessment specifically suited for the Eastern Med. Now, she is refining this methodology to adapt it to the Lebanese context. Her work has led to achieving scalability within Lebanon to a regional level of the Union of Municipalities.
A project milestone will be the community involvement in the mapping process through the workshop tool. It consists of a series of meetings with selected representatives from each municipality in order to involve people and institutions in landscape policies. Three public workshops will be organized for municipal representatives selected from each municipality involved in the project. During the workshop, participants will fill out a questionnaire prepared by the research team to collect info such as community knowledge and use of the landscape, identification of material and non-material landscape benefits, as well as characterization and evaluation of the landscape. Through the mapping exercise, the data will be inputted to maps of the area, and the final maps will offer the experts and locals better understanding of the landscape with important inputs and criteria towards taking action in relation to waste management.
These workshops aim at stimulating debate between different landscape agents, and therefore, result in a better-informed assessment with greater ownership of the results, thus the opportunity to develop partnerships, increase awareness, develop commitment to outcomes, build consensus, increase local awareness, and validate character areas.
The use of LCA in Trovato’s research extends the impact of her research beyond the context of Lebanon into broader landscape efforts. Trovato’s research extends the use of LCA, traditionally used in wind farms or built developments, to include waste management. With her collaborating team, Dr. Trovato will use the LCA set of techniques and procedures to classify, describe, and understand the physical and cultural evolution of the landscape, linking its characteristics to the ISWM’s sustainability aspects (technological, economic, environmental, sociocultural, institutional and legal). This allows for a better identification of potential sustainable solutions in solid waste pollution mitigation without affecting local natural and cultural heritage
The two-year project began in September 2018, in partnership with Italian NGOs COOPI (Lead partner), STUDIOAZUE, COSPE, ERICA, Lebanese NGO MADA, and the Union of Municipality of Jurd Al-Kaytee (Akkar).
Dr. Maria Gabriella Trovato (PhD, 2003, Università degli Studi Mediterranea (UNIRC) and University of Naples Federico II), is Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management (LDEM), the American University of Beirut. She has lectured internationally and served as a design critic in Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, and Canada. Maria Gabriella Trovato is a leading researcher in the MENA region in the Landscape Character Assessment methodology, a tool to integrate the regional ecological and cultural features in support of improved landscape strategies and planning. Trovato is co-founder and secretary of the Lebanese Landscape Association (LELA), affiliated with IFLA. She chairs the Landscape Architect Without Borders (LAWB) working groups of IFLA.