Young Bedouin shepherd riding a camel.
Both directly and indirectly the Palmyra project has helped to shift people's attitudes to biodiversity from indifference to awareness. At a local level, awareness has grown through formal training, through experiences and informal conversations during work, through involving local hunters and nomads in the work of the project and through the manifest results of the project, in the form of the reserve, the gazelles, the oryx and the education centre. At a national and international level the spectacular rediscovery of the N. Bald Ibis has created widespread awareness of the value and significance of the Syrian Arab Republic's natural heritage.
In all these ways, the Palmyra project has made and continues to make a difference to the future of biodiversity conservation and management in the country.
The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is extinct in the Syrian Arab Republic and listed as globally endangered in the IUCN.
Photo G. Serra
To reverse the trend of degradation a number of activities are possible:
1. To set up a National Drought Policy and Strategy which would provide the framework for drought preparedness, response and mitigation measures in order to minimize the impact of droughts and to facilitate post-drought recovery. (The authors have a very pertinent document on this subject prepared for the project by J. Sweet.)
2. To gradually replace food and fodder subsidies given to pastoralists with subsidies for a sustainable management of the rangelands (including replanting with native species such as Atriplex leucoclada and Salsola vermiculata, delayed grazing of rangelands with a large presence of annual species, rotational grazing, use of solar energy or gas instead of uprooting of plants for fuelwood etc.). As discussed recently, the shift would be from pastoralists to rangers of the steppe.
3. To promote diversification of income of pastoralists (e.g., management of the reserves by people living in buffer zones so that they can become tourist guides, combine wildlife and livestock grazing, and sell local products such as medicinal plants, Bedouin bread, truffles from the steppe).
4. To reduce the number of grazing animals to adapt to the production potential of the steppe while enhancing the qualities of milk, meat and wool produced only on the rangeland (not supplemented as they are now). To this end, the project is hoping to initiate organic certification of communal rangelands, to certify meat produced on organic grasslands.
Typical design of Bedouin textiles.
Photo M. Marzot
Chamaleo chamaleo is disappearing from Al Badia because of habitat destruction, i.e. overcutting of Pistacha atlantica trees.
Photo G. Serra