Strengthening the Range Department to Implement the National Programme for Rangeland Rehabilitation and Development
Recently, the Kingdom of Jordan has been hit by the "worst drought in decades" affecting hundreds of thousands of people. The drought was unprecedented, cereals and other food crops have been decimated and the livestock sector, especially sheep farmers, are facing financial ruin. As a result, the food security for about one-quarter of the countrys population of 4.75 million is now threatened. Some 180,000 drought-affected people are said to be "of particular concern" since a domestic cereal harvest of just 13,000 tons is enough to cover less than one percent of domestic need, instead of the usual 10 percent. Moreover, the livestock sector has been particularly hit hard, with domestic production of red meat and milk 40 percent below usual levels. Sheep and goat farmers are experiencing losses and will have to depend almost entirely on imported barley and straw for the coming year.
The drought has also had a most serious deleterious effect on the rangelands of the country. Particularly those grazed areas, lying between the 50 and 200 mm isohyets which occupy some 8 million hectares (95% of the total land area of Jordan, 81% are receiving less than 100 mm rainfall). These lands are for the most part are 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. Given the contribution of livestock to total agriculture GNP is around 50% and the heavy pressure of livestock, the absence of land tenure enforcement and the increasing cultivation have brought the rangeland to an alarming state of degradation and deterioration. The current drought has brought even greater pressure on this delicately balanced ecosystem. The potentials for recovery and improvement are conducive to the implementation of a large and holistic rangeland development programme in consultation with pastoral communities. The rangelands themselves, comprise approximately 90 percent of the nation's entire land area, and would normally contribute to about 30 to 40 percent of the total livestock feed of plant protein. Although extensive in area, these lands have a low productivity ratio per surface unit. To a large degree, these lands have been degraded as a result of misuse practices, such as arable cultivation of wide areas in this zone ostensibly for barley production, and this has led to widespread erosion and has accelerated the desertification process and degradation of this precious land resource.
There is now a wide consensus, that the point has been reached, where principal decisions must be made either to commit the necessary legal, institutional and financial investments to reverse the degradation process and this has been reflected in the broad agricultural policy objectives in this field which will be pursued by the Government in this subsector which will include:
In order to achieve these objectives the Government will:
Although the Government has a major responsibility for taking action to stop and reverse the desertification process, this can only be achieved and sustained with the active participation of the local population concerned - knowing that productivity of the rangelands could be increased four to five fold within a ten year period and productivity sustained by the application of known and proven rangeland improvement and management practices. The resource base is there. The technology exists to increase productivity. However, improvement plans and strategies and setting the information management capacity legal and institutional framework are still lacking, or have to be adjusted to the actual needs.
In addition, one of the main impediments to improved environmental management in Jordan is the lack of reliable and up-to-date information. Systematic collection and analysis of environmental and natural resources data over the large areas of terrain covered by the arid and semi arid terrain of the country is costly and time consuming and has often been, of necessity, a low priority. In certain cases, there is no substitute for the collection of environmental data by ground-based techniques. In many cases, however, remotely sensed data, in conjunction with other spatial and non spatial data, can be used to support the monitoring process and these aspects have been identified as a means to monitor certain aspects of the environment at low cost and in a way that complements or replaces field techniques.
Ongoing Initiatives in the sector
As a result of the above and exacerbated by the severe drought, the Government of Jordan has given top priority to the rangeland development and a National Programme for Rangeland Rehabilitation and Development (NPRRD) has been prepared. This deals with the long-term rehabilitation and development of the rangeland sector. The NPRRD included three phases. Phase One would correct the underlying structural causes of rangeland degradation through a strengthening of capacity to implement government policies for regulating destructive land use. Phase Two would involve Rangeland recovery through de-stocking, supported by political and legal action to convert the use of rangelands from a "right" to a "privilege" and authorized only under conditions of sustainable land husbandry. Phase Three would involve developing strategies and implementing range management programmes with full participation of pastoral communities.
An investment strategy, to run simultaneously with information gathering and administrative reform, was proposed. It includes an immediate start at pilot level implementation using a participatory approach. In 1998, the Ministry of Agriculture established a new Range Department reflecting the importance and attention given to this sector. This Department has specific responsibilities for all aspects of rangeland. In the immediate past, rangelands were the responsibility of the Forestry Department.
The implementation of the NPRRD (Phase One for a period of 5 years) started in 1998 and IFAD is financing an important part. However, as a result of the drought and the prevailing situation in the rangeland sector, this programme still requires technical assistance to strengthen the new established Range Department and in particular to establish the Pasture Resources Information Monitoring and Evaluation Unit (PRIME) for range resource assessment, monitoring and evaluation. This unit would have been most effective had it already been in place at the time of the current drought. It is imperative that in addition to IFAD contribution, an external support be provided urgently to assist Jordan in assessing the local and national level impact on its rangeland resources and help it to assess areas for rejuvenation of local grassland species. The IFAD contribution does not cover the support to the establishment of such a facility within the National Programme.
It is foreseen that existing institutional capacity will be used to generate the warehouses whilst the TCP will concentrate on the mechanisms for information management including access to and dissemination of information in spatial, tabular and documentary form.
The necessity for such a unit is paramount as studies of the arid and semi-arid environment of Jordan, particularly on countrywide scale, are severely limited by the paucity of quantitative data. The seasonal and annual variability of rainfall and the corresponding mobility of the animal and human population produce substantial spatial and temporal variability of the factors affecting the rangeland environment. This variability necessitates a long-term and spatially comprehensive monitoring approach. The irregular cycles of drought and recovery, together with the slow but continuing process of economic development within the region, also point to the need for a long-term programme of environmental monitoring.
Moreover, the need for monitoring natural resources goes beyond early warning of environmental degradation. Development in all countries in the region is closely dependent on their natural resources and regular monitoring should be an integral part of national resource management and planning. In addition, long-term monitoring can be used to assess the sustainability of development. Consistent with these principles is the evolving Environmental Information Strategy which is reviewing the interrelations of the involved institutions, nature of their activities, the types of information they produce, and the number of personnel. The proposed strategy has been drafted and takes into account the following elements:
It is recognized in Jordan that cultural and human factors need to be changed through intensive training in quality information service. The importance of a regional and international exchange of information in satisfying information needs and synergism to gain advanced knowledge concerning environmental information is a priority. The adoption and implementation of the Jordan Environment Act, in 1995, stipulated the establishment of the General Corporation for Environment Protection (GCEP) to play a leadership role in environment protection and sustainable development. The proposed strategy recommends that the GCEP reinforce its ultimate leadership role in protecting the environment. Moreover, to realize the strategy, an Environment Information Centre (ENVIC) is proposed for establishing a national focal point for environmental information. The TCP project will work closely with this centre to ensure portability of data and maintenance of data standards.
The overall objective of the project is to enhance the national capacity in the NPRRD to undertake comprehensive monitoring and assessment of rangeland conditions, with a view to contribute to the process of recovery from the current drought, through increased rangeland and livestock productivity, improved food security of pastoral communities, and reduced land degradation/desertification.
Specific objectives of the assistance include the following:
3. PROJECT OUTPUTS
The expected outputs will be:
The inception mission was fielded in 2001 and various national and international consultants carried out missions in 2001, equipment was ordered and a workshop held in November 2001. Further consultancy missions and field work were undertaken in 2002 with a key workshop on "Environmental Indicators" held in October 2002.
4. MAIN ACTIVITIES AND RESULTS
The activities of the project are divided into a number of main components:
Major achievements included: