|Case Study Report of the FAO - World Bank Global Farming Systems Study
For full study report see the World Bank website
A. Background and Justification
Al-Badia (steppe zone) of Syria and Jordan receives less than 200 mm/annum of rainfall and is normally considered unsuitable for dryland farming. Steppe area is characterised by high evaporation rates due to hot summers and strong winds. Cold winters allow a short growing season. Soils are generally calcareous and gypsiferous, shallow, rocky and extremely poor in organic matter. The top soil is commonly covered by a crust that limits infiltration, burying of seed and subsequent germination and emergence. Chronic water deficit and low soil fertility limit forage production and livestock production activities.
Its area is estimated to be around 10.2 million ha in Syria, that is 55% of the countrys area in nine provinces, with 35% falling in Homs Province Al-Badia is the main grazing land in the country supporting most of the national sheep herd (14.67 million head), goats (0.95 million head) and all camels (3000 head). It provides 20 - 40% of sheep feed requirement. This estimate reflects a sharp decline in contribution from earlier figures (1993).
In Jordan the steppe area covers some 8 million hectares (95% of the total land area). These lands are for the most part also overstocked by predominantly small ruminants (approximately 3.7 million sheep and goats, 51 000 cattle and 64 000 camels). The stocking rate is at least three times as much as the carrying capacity.
A small proportion of the population lives on the steppe, but the majority of Bedouin population living from livestock production in the steppe is under threat because of recurrent droughts and degradation of grazing resources for their animals. The big question therefore of food insecurity and poverty will only be solved if a balance will be reached in household income distribution between wealthier and poorer strata of the population.
Al-Badia rangelands are deteriorating due to:
The vegetation cover is increasingly dominated by unpalatable perennials. In recent years some poisonous plants have increased and become a local problem. The misuse and deterioration of vegetation cover has subjected soils to both wind and water erosion.
The grazing period in Al-Badia varies according to amount and distribution of rainfall but in general it is during January - May of each year. During the period November - end of January animals are physically present in Al-Badia, but they depend on supplementary feed as grazing is scarce.
Under both Syrian and Jordan law, all land in Al-Badia is considered as state-owned which implies accessibility and right of use for all, but traditional rights of use also exist. Overlapping systems of resource management have frequently led to resource degradation. Thus, conservation and development of rangeland resources of Al-Badia are considered as major contributions towards the socio-economic development of the Bedouin inhabitants. Likewise conservation and development of these resources is essential for combating desertification and maintaining the ecological balance.
Both countries have set as major political priorities the need to make the countries more self-reliant in food; to prevent rangeland degradation and reverse the desertification process; to enhance environmental quality; to improve the economic and social welfare of the people inhabiting and drawing their livelihood from the steppe; to increase value added efficiency in the use of available resources in a sustainable manner; and to improve rules and regulations governing land tenure in Jordan (Agricultural Law 20/1973 ) and in Syria (Legislative act No. 140 from 1970 ) .
The challenge ahead is to reverse the degradation of natural resources resulting from loss of vegetation cover, erosion, salinity, overgrazing of the rangelands; to improve agricultural services such as extension support to farmers with emphasis on promoting low cost technologies, water saving devices and resource conservation; and to provide equal social and economical opportunities and increasing incomes of farmers and their families.
Institutional and infrastructural policies in support of agricultural policies are to strengthen interaction between public and private sector; to associate individuals and groups in all facets and at various levels to shape and implement agricultural policies; to invest in the future development of human resources.
Protected areas. In order to preserve biodiversity, establish reserves and set models for the correct use of fragile resources, Jordan established several Protected areas where wildlife and vegetation have been rehabilitated, improved, monitored and studied. The areas serve as a continuos source of information and demonstration for the population.
In Syria protected areas have been rehabilitated with drought resistant vegetation and a first wildlife reserve was established in Al Badia in 1991.
Wildlife used to be abundant and a common feature of the Al-Badia environment. Gazelles historically formed flocks of various sizes, from a few individuals to hundreds, roaming the different habitats. However, indiscriminate and uncontrolled hunting has exterminated these animals. Many interesting vertebrate species are still found but require protection and saving of habitats. Therefore Al-Talila Wildlife Reserve was established by the Government to rehabilitate habitats, protect wild animals and to generate additional income for local communities through tourism. The project was expected to initiate investigations and observations that would improve knowledge and skills of national staff to conserve and manage wildlife and their habitats so that they will be able to expand this initiative and establish similar reserves in other parts of Al-Badia.
As indicated earlier, the Government promulgated acts/laws to develop and protect Al-Badia resources. These laws prohibited cultivation in Al-Badia. However, the legislation proved to be insufficient to control utilisation of grazing lands, protection of wildlife and reserves; and to ensure their sustainable use. Therefore an Italian funded FAO/Ministry of Agriculture and Water project was designed and started in 1996.
Project Relevance and Objectives (1996-2000)
The project identified the major causes of degradation of the Al-Badia region: overgrazing, large herd sizes, barley cultivation in marginal areas. It further recognised that Government policy of subsidising feed was both economically unsustainable and led to over-exploitation of land resources. Within these broad parameters, a project aimed at restoring the productive capacity of the region was executed that could serve as a development model for the rest of the rangelands.
The project was established over an area of 110,000 km2. The land is communal land owned by the Government and assigned to three cooperatives, but traditional users rights and recurrent drought that allow free entrance to the pastures, determine a severe overuse of the resource and make difficult any form of useful control and management of the rangelands.
A wildlife reserve was also established with the technical and financial support of the project
The projects objectives were:
Its stated immediate objectives were:
During the main phase of the project, which started in February, 1996, the project: rehabilitated 10,000 ha of cooperative land using a cheap seeding technique and native seed; wild animals were introduced from Jordan and Saudi Arabia and local personnel trained in many different veterinary, managerial and administrative fields related to the maintenance of the reserve and rangeland management and rehabilitation techniques.
Developments in the project area and results achieved included the following:
New follow-up project (2000-2003)
Since long duration of projects in arid and semi-arid environments is essential because changes are slow and recurrent drought may affect results and call for continuous readjustments of activities, a second phase of a three year project started in Jan. 2000.
The project is concentrated on preparing the local governmental institutions and communities for taking over the responsibilities of range rehabilitation in the Syrian steppe and for the management of Talila wildlife reserve. Communities will play the principal role in decision making and implementing of activities related to reseeding of native species and management of the rangelands. An ecomuseum will be constructed in Talila reserve and communication materials for both range and wildlife activities will be produced as extension tools for mobile and semi-mobile communities.
Impact on the population and rangelands:
Impact on the wildlife reserve
Lessons learned related to Bedouin population:
Lessons learned related to the steppe environment:
Lessons learned related to wildlife and protected areas:
Need for Follow up
In order to consolidate projects results in Syria and to extend them and consolidate the use of Al Badia steppe in Jordan a follow up is necessary. There are three objectives:
The construction of additional protected areas (and/or wildlife reserve)
Following we give a short example of extension of the Talilah wildlife reserve with the creation of the Sabkhat-al-Moh Salt Flat reserve. The area covers 15,000 ha north-west of Talilah and is visited by a large number of migratory birds ( Grus grus, Ciconia ciconia), plovers, sandpipers. The area is an important wetland; it is a unique ecosystem, which provides a resting place for a large number of waterfowl. It lies along the north-south migratory flyway between Africa and Asia and thus has international significance. With its large number of micro-organism the ecosystem contributes to maintain diversity in an arid ecosystem where generally biodiversity is low. The ecosystem is threatened due to excessive use of water by surrounding farms and by poor, ladles people harvesting salt.
Recommended actions would be:
The creation of buffer zones around the protected areas in order to allow Bedouins living in the buffer zones to benefit from the protected areas, and to manage the area under their responsibility according to sustainable principles.
Protected areas for maintenance and production of plants, feed and wildlife must be created to preserve ecosystems and their biodiversity, but must mainly be created to improve living conditions of poor people living on the resource.
To do so it is proposed to create buffer zones surrounding protected areas, rehabilitated zones, and wildlife reserves, where Bedouins continue their traditional activities (mainly livestock production) respecting and enhancing production potential of the steppe. To do so Bedouins will have to accept some basic principles (as for example reduction of total number and selection of their animals), use of the steppe within the framework of range management plans (including establishment of feed reserves, deferred grazing, short period protection of vegetation and so on). But they will be supported by the project and the government in order to change their role from simple users into "angels"(or rangers) of the steppe.
Continuous assistance to facilitate dialogue between Bedouins- government and other institutions. Project should in particular deal with assisting in drought management strategies, land users rights issues, income diversification opportunities.
Both Syria and Jordan are involved in the preparation of drought strategy plans, and are also aware that actual users rights of the steppe are very complex and today they reflect private interests rather than maintenance of the resource. The two issues are priority issues to be addressed to maintain production and productivity of the steppe and to ensure that steppe population can continue living and maintain and increase its living conditions.
Annex 1. Data on Livestock Production.
The impact of drought on the socio-economic conditions of the Bedouin
Table 1 : The overall average feed cost and the average cost per head per household
It can be concluded from table 1 that the cost per head increased while the average herd size decreased.
Table 2 : The average cost of labour per household (feed cost excluded)
It can be concluded from the two tables (1 & 2) that the total cost per head increased for the 99/2000 survey compared with previous years of study, while the average size of the herd per household decreased by 50% compared with the 98/99 survey. This was due to the selling of animals by Bedouins in order to buy feed for their herds.
Table 3 : Average milk production per head per year
It can be concluded from table 3 that the average annual milk production per head has decreased for the 99/2000 survey compared with the 96/97 and 97/98 surveys:
Table 4: The price of ewes
It can be concluded from table 4 that the price of one ewe has dropped to about half in the 99/2000 survey compared with the previous years particularly the year 97/98.
Table 5: Mortality rate among ewes and lambs
It can be concluded from table 5 that the mortality rate among ewes almost doubled for the survey 99/2000 compared with previous years of study. This was caused by drought and infectious diseases. There was some fluctuation of the mortality rate among lambs
Annex 2. Forage Dry Matter Production and Species Composition
Table 1. Dry matter production (kg/ha) from annuals in five monitoring exclosures in the spring of 1997 (air dry basis ).
Table 2. Dry matter production (kg/ha) from annuals in five monitoring exclosures in the spring of 1998 (air dry basis ).
Table 3. Dry matter production (kg/ha) from annuals in five monitoring exclosures in the spring of 1999 and 2000 (air dry basis ).
This was recorded as 0 kg/ha.
Table 4. Dry matter production (kg/ha) from perennials in five monitoring exclosure in the spring of 1997 (air dry basis).
Table 5. Dry matter production (kg/ha) from perennials in five monitoring exclosure in the spring of 1998 (air dry basis .
Table 6. Dry matter production (kg/ha) from the perennials in five monitoring exclosures in the summer of 1999 (air dry basis).
Table 7. Dry matter production (kg/ha) from the perennials in five monitoring exclosures in the summer of 2000 (air dry basis).