BEIRUT: Starting Monday, municipalities and villages across the country will be able to apply for a share of $27.1 million USAID has allocated for local development projects over the next five years.
A new program called BALADI: Building Alliance for Local Advancement, Development and Investment, allows municipalities, villages, groups of municipalities and municipal unions to come up with their own local development initiatives and apply for funding for them from the U.S. government.
Applications will be accepted each year for a 45-day period, and the inaugural year begins Monday and runs through April 3. The details of what proposals should entail and the criteria will be available Monday on the website www.baladi-lebanon.org.
Grants will not exceed $250,000 and will be delivered through goods and services rather than in cash. Grant recipients will be required to contribute 20 percent of the amount they receive, either in cash or in goods and services.
A U.S. diplomatic source said a large range of projects would be considered, with the exception of those that entail building major infrastructure, or that would require a costly review of environmental impact. Successful grant applications must have involved citizen participation and should be sustainable beyond the period that USAID supports.
Ten local nongovernmental organizations will help manage the program out of 12 offices across the country, and starting Monday USAID and its partners will begin a week and a half of outreach meetings with municipalities to explain the program and how to apply for grants, starting with workshops in the qadas of Chouf and Dinnieh.
BALADI also has two sister programs that will assist nongovernmental partners in identifying local needs and working with municipalities, as well as helping municipalities and other areas improve their capacity to make successful applications.
For the purposes of the project, Lebanon has been divided into three geographical territories which will each receive equal monetary backing.
Although all areas are eligible to apply, BALADI is focused at assisting poor urban and rural communities.
In addition to encouraging local development, the source said USAID hopes to encourage communities and municipalities to work together and reward “good ideas.”
USAID currently funds a variety of projects in Lebanon, including school renovations, microfinance loans, and reforestation efforts.
The U.S. Embassy in Beirut said in a statement earlier this week that Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly met with Interior Minister Marwan Charbel to discuss BALADI, which will run through September 2017.