14 March 2011 - Carbon Sequestration in Desertified Rangelands of Hossein Abad Project
Carbon Sequestration in Desertified Rangelands of Hossein Abad Project
UNDP practice area:
This project is under the Energy and Environment mandate of the UNDP but it also has a large element of poverty alleviation, capacity development and gender empowerment. As such it is also in line with Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1, MDG3, MDG7 and MDG8.
Project completed or ongoing:
A womens' Village Development Group in the village of Nazdasht, one of the villages supported by the Carbon Sequestration Project.
From a global standpoint, the over‐riding objective of this pilot project is to sequester atmospheric carbon. The project aims to demonstrate that desertified rangelands can be cost‐effectively reclaimed by and for the benefit of the local people. Furthermore the project assumes that there is significant potential, in these areas, to sequestrate carbon in plants and soil for the overall global benefit. On a national level, the project is in line with the development priorities of the government of Iran in aiming to improve the productivity of the semi‐arid areas and to combat desertification. Locally, the rehabilitation of the project site (Hossein Abad) in Southern Khorasan helps to improve the socioeconomic status of the local communities, and thus eradicate both abject poverty and subsequently enhance the project site’s Human Development Index. The strategy behind the activities in the project is to empower the local community to take active part in the decision making process that manages the land while promoting institutional change that allows and encourages these individuals to participate. In order to ensure the sustainability of the project, emphasis has also been put on ownership and capacity building within the community.
The area under Phase One encompassed 30 villages and with the implementation of Phase Two, an additional 15 villages have been added to the Project. Many of the households who inhabit this area were once nomadic herders. Although they have now settled in villages, herding sheep and goat continues to form a large part of local income. In addition to this, many women and some men in the area are also engaged in carpet weaving.
The rangelands of the area are heavily degraded mainly due to over-gazing and unsustainable land-use practices. The area also experiences what is known as “the 120 day winds”, a period of seasonal winds that last from approximately April until July. These winds can reach up to 120kmph and cause considerable erosion and vegetation damage. In the years prior to the commencement of the Project, with the degradation of the minor shrubs in the area, the rate of this erosion has increased. The area has also suffered from recurring droughts since 1997. This increased scarcity of water has meant that large scale agricultural production has become difficult and in some cases unsustainable.
Actual rehabilitation of the degraded rangelands started in 2005 along with the establishment of the Village Development Groups. Through the full participation of the local communities, these groups helped in maintaining plant nurseries, selecting and replanting patches of land and finally protecting the replanted areas.
Mobilization of Local Communities
The project mobilises local communities by helping them to organise themselves in Village Development Groups (VGDs). These VGDs were specially formed to empower not only the communities in general, but also women in particular. By appointing a president and a secretary for each VDG, the local communities were able to fully participate and monitor the activities of the VDGs. The decision making process of each VGD has been based on regular participation of its members. In addition a forum of presidents and secretaries representing all VGDs were established to undertake higher level decisions that were to affect the entire area. In order to give these organisations the necessary legal coverage and identity an umbrella cooperative was also established with the assistance of the project.
Development of Micro‐Credit Funds
There is a direct link between poverty and desertification, thus combating desertification should help in working against poverty. One strategy applied by the project is the establishment of a microcredit mechanism for VDG members. The Micro‐credit Fund has been financed both by the project and by the small savings made from VDG members. Every fortnight during the VDG meetings, the villagers offer their own savings into the Micro‐credit Fund, which is money that will at a later point in time be re‐loaned to them. By selecting a Board of Directors representing the local communities, the targeted area has full ownership over the Micro Credit Fund. The participatory approach of the project allowed for a sound collaboration among a host of international, national and local partners. The steering committee of the project therefore includes representatives from various ministries representing various sectors of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of Environment, the Budget and Planning Authorities in the country as well as the national GEF focal point.
- Dryland Rehabilitation – In order to rehabilitate the local dryland, while also working to engage the local community, the project contracted with local VDGs to have seedlings grown and planted in the area. This work was done as part of the microfinance funds given to the VDGs, which then used the loans to grow and sell the seedlings. They were then contracted to plant the seedlings in agreed areas. In this way, both the villages and the environment benefitted from the projects activities. This also had an added benefit of a reduced cost for the project would have had if third parties been contracted to conduct this work. Approximately 180 hectares of land located around three agricultural wells have now been planted with shrubs with the assistance of the project, Ministry of Jihad Agriculture, and people from the villages.
- Gender Empowerment – During the second phase of the project new villages were added to the project area. Accordingly new VDGs were set up and training activities needed to be conducted. In order to help consolidate the knowledge and experience gained during Phase 1, the project asked the women already trained in the project to train the new project beneficiaries. This allowed for a closer relationship between project members. Further, as the existing members were aware of the likely problems the new members would face, training was made more efficient and effective.
- Microfinance Model in Hossein-Abad - By the end of 2010, a total number of 54 VDGs have been formed including nine female VDGs, 17 male VDGs and 28 mixed gender VDGS. There is a total of 1694 members comprised of 679 women ( 41%) and 1015 men ( 59%), covering 35 villages.
- Knowledge Sharing and National Adoption – In the last year the Project’s experiences have been shared with other projects in Iran, including:
- Bozghoosh and Khalifeloo villages – both Small Grants Programme projects in East Azarbaijan Province.
- Kasrab Village has also been selected by the Imam Ali Charity Organisation to assist in the transfer of knowledge to this organisation.
- The Director General of Rural Development Affairs is also working closely with the project to have its experiences and knowledge implemented in other parts of the country.
- A womens’ self-help group from Yazd Province have are now working to have the achievements of the project replicated there.
- The most notable achievement in this area however is in the fact that the Office of the President has approved the allocation of 420 million IRR for the replication of the project activities and to assist in watershed management in the Nazdasht Basin. This achievement came about after a visit from the President to the region and was given reports of the project’s activities.
- Replication and extension - The project, in its second phase, is planning to establish a Participatory Natural Resource Managment Centre in South Khorasan. Using the existing FRWO facilities in the districts of Birjand and Qaayen, the Centre, once up and running will provide training to government staff and community members from other parts of Iran as well as participants from neighbouring countries. Discussions are underway to use technical expertise of UNESCO for the establishment of the Centre.
- Excellent and constructive cooperation with the national team led by the Forests, Rangelands and Watershed Management Organization (FRWMO) under the Ministry of Agriculture Jihad
- Ensuring the active participation of the local community to create a sense of ownership in the project and collective spirit.
- Gaining the trust and confidence of the local community.
- Encouraging women to be engaged in the project activities and working to empower them and increase their self-confidence.
- Awareness raising and engagement of local offices of other government agencies and institutions.
- During the first phase of the project, the micro-credit fund established a mechanism to provide loans to the people and enable them to start a business in the respective villages. However, by expanding the loans and repayments, the existing mechanism could not respond properly. Therefore, during the second phase, the micro-credit fund mechanism was revised by a national consultant and the procedures were redefined. The main objective of this was to ensure that the lending and repayment mechanisms were easier and maintain the motivation of borrowers.
- For higher impact the results and achievement of the project need to be propagated across the country through the national decision making forums. By replicating the project experiences in areas with similar situations, the outcome could affect the country’s ability to counter the global climate change, while simultaneously improving the livelihoods of the rural and marginalised communities as well as halting desertification.
Donor: UNDP, Government of Iran
National Implementing Partner: Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Management Organisation (FRWO) of Ministry of Jihad Agriculture
Project Webpage: http://www.undp.org.ir/index.php/component/content/article/402
For more information contact:
UNDP Programme Associate
Tel: (9821) 2286 0691-4
Fax: (9821) 2286 9547